From September 2021, students in SKEMA Business School’s Global BBA, a four-year undergraduate programme, will be able to start their studies at the Lille campus, in addition to Sophia Antipolis (France), Raleigh (USA), Suzhou (China), Belo Horizonte (Brazil) and Stellenbosch-Cape Town (South Africa) campuses.
To accompany the opening of the programme in Lille, Global BBA students will now be able to choose a new specialisation which features strongly in the Hauts-de-France business landscape: e-commerce.
We took this opportunity to speak to an expert in the field who teaches at SKEMA’s Lille campus: Jean-François Detout, a professor at SKEMA Business School specialising in e-commerce.
Why is it important to teach e-commerce in a programme like the BBA?
We are currently witnessing a revolution: B2C e-commerce has grown ten-fold in France in just 15 years. Out of the top 15 French companies, 10 didn’t exist 20 years ago. Amazon’s market capitalisation now exceeds $1,000bn, and its turnover is close to the GDP of Denmark, the 60th global economy. At the Chinese giant Alibaba, sales have increased by a factor of 8.5 since 2014. At L’Oréal, e-commerce growth doubled during the first COVID-19 lockdown. The revolution is moving faster now than at any time since e-commerce began. And this revolution is sweeping along with it other areas such as technology, AI, database management and consumer rights. So it is all the more important for business school students to understand the revolution and its impacts on related sectors.
What added value could BBA graduates who have specialised in e-commerce and strategy offer to businesses in Hauts-de-France?
Yan Grasselli, who runs the SKEMA Global BBA programme, and I have focused the course on several important themes: understanding the ecosystem (the basics), setting up an efficient and effective business intelligence system – because in e-commerce, a few weeks’ delay can wipe millions of euros off of the bottom line – and lastly, defining the e-commerce of the future, which Google refers to as “One Channel”. What this means is a seamless, omnichannel, vocal world with no boundaries between online and offline. Our managers need to have their feet on the ground in an “unstable world” known by the acronym VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. We therefore need to make our students comfortable with a customer/user-centric vision of business, in addition to the mass-marketing product-centric approach used in the past. Businesses are keen to recruit employees with training in these new approaches.
Which sectors are currently showing the highest demand for employees with e-commerce skills in Hauts-de-France?
I would have to say all of them. Our region, which previously specialised in superstores and distance selling, has adapted successfully. E-commerce’s biggest impact has been on business models, which previously all followed the standard bricks-and-mortar retail structure. How do I transform my IT infrastructure? What do I do about my franchisee network? How do I manage my logistics? How do I deliver to a customer within 24 hours? How do I manage returns? How do I manage competition between my bricks-and-mortar stores and my online platform? I can think of three companies that have successfully made this transformation: La Redoute, Decathlon and Leroy Merlin.
What careers are open to graduates of this specialisation?
Let us look at Amazon again: many people think it makes most of its profit through its marketplace, but, that’s not the case. It makes most of its profit from AWS, its cloud subsidiary. Basically, it is the ultra-sophisticated IT infrastructure which Amazon “rents” that enables you to watch Netflix, browse decathlon.fr or do any number of other things online. There is also the GAIA-X project, which is working on building a reliable, secure data infrastructure for Europe. So, there are positions for on-site experts in many different areas, working as e-commerce managers, product managers, UX designers or traffic managers, and also back-office roles in data management/activation, CRM management, IT, the cloud, and above all, AI, because a large number of tasks now need to be automated via machine learning.