‘Education and e-commerce: a gaping hole’

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Blog Wijnand Jongen, Vice-President, Chair member of the Executive Committee Ecommerce Europe and director of Thuiswinkel.org, The Netherlands. Bleary-eyed at the start of the second day of the Global E-commerce Summit 2013 in Barcelona. Yesterday I had the honour of kicking-off at the Summit for the 400+ visitors, with statistics on Europe, thereby comparing trends and statistics with other parts of the world, including the U.S. This morning it was the turn of my colleague, Vicky Cantrell, director of Shop.org, who spoke on the digital division of the National Retail Federation(NRF), the world’s larges retail association.

The retail industry in the U.S. is also undergoing large changes, but unlike here in Europe, they are unhindered by a financial recession and lack of consumer confidence. In the U.S. 3.6 million retailers are active, who jointly provide 42 million jobs. A noticeable aspect is that 95% of all retailers carry out their retailing from a single location. What’s more, 77% of all retailers have fewer than 10 employees.

Biggest problem for U.S. retail? How to get hold of well-educated people! A problem that many online entrepreneurs will recognise. Where to get hold of well-educated talented people with sufficient analytical ability for innovation? Are universities, polytechnics and higher vocational institutions prepared for all the new functions that are coming into existence? Macy’s recently appointed a Chief Omnichannel Officer. I doubt whether a training course for Omnichannel Managers exists yet in the Netherlands. There isn’t even a training course for e-commerce managers/employees yet. For the moment, higher and intermediate professional training courses only train retailing employees, and have clearly missed the boat in the field of e-commerce and digital affairs.

As a result many retailers are doing their best to find new talent. Even for the more traditional positions such as finance and organisation. Many companies aren’t even able to answer such questions as: ‘Where does the turnover come from – the shop, online, mobile, tablet, etc?’ Then you often hear people saying that it doesn’t seem to matter where the turnover comes from. Turnover is turnover, wherever it comes from, whatever its source. Isn’t it? Many retailers don’t even take the trouble to localise the source of turnovers. Understandable enough when it’s due to inability, but incomprehensible from the point of view of business analytics. Most businesses lack the talent, the skills, the tools and the ability to make this type of – indispensable – analyses.

The same applies to the way in which an omnichannel enterprise can be organised. Does it make sense to integrate new e-commerce departments into an existing organisation? Isn’t it time to start thinking about new organisation models? Isn’t it time for a completely new organisation perspective?! These are questions that emphasize the necessity of having a new, analytically strong, financial and organisation-oriented talent and ones where the branch – Thuiswinkel.org in the Netherlands, Ecommerce Europe in Europe – can assume responsibility and make a contribution.

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