The following is a transcript of our interview with Bruce Bauer, who coordinates the UALR E-Commerce Program.
Things are much more global and more competitive than they were even three years ago. What should our students be thinking about as they pursue their academic development at UALR?
Bruce: The world is at a very different place today. While the internet first took off in the 90’s with dial-up, today’s world is much more interconnected. In 2010 alone, there were over 5 billion cell phones in use worldwide and over 30 billion pieces of content shared on Facebook each month. Over half of the adult population in the US now has a smartphone. Without a doubt, the internet has become the natural place for people to access information.
What this is means is that, in addition to understanding the long-standing tenants of business, we need to recognize the role and possibilities of using the internet to better market and sell goods and services. The internet has created more opportunities, but it has also created more competition. Having a good business strategy for the internet can help you standout from that competition.
Let me add that regardless of whether you end up working in a for profit, non-profit, or even governmental organization, all of these organizations are managed by a group of people (management), who offer some time of product (marketing) that was created to address some type of need and is affected by people’s decision-making (economics) and have a budget (accounting and finance). So when a student thinks about developing, they can best prepare by learning about how business works.
We have many students that are trying identify a major that will be of interest. Some of them select a major based on an area interest/or a field, discipline, while others base their selection on competency development. Which of these do you think is more important?
Bruce: I suggest to my students that they use their degree to develop competencies they need, but to also learn about what they are interested. You carry your interests for life and makes learning much easier. You rarely get bored of what you are passionate about.
What is unique about the E-Commerce degree is that you have the option to tailor up to 15 hours (or 5 three hour courses) in an area that is if interest to you. All the while, you will still be developing business and IT competencies.
Are there any trends, respective to E-Commerce that our students should be aware of?
Bruce: There are two trends that have significantly impacted existing business models. One is social networking and the other is mobile technologies.
When I say social networking, I am not just talking about getting on Facebook and Twitter, but about the dynamic process that is now used to form relationships with our customers. Forming a relationship with a customer is important. For a business to form a two-way relationship with a customer so they want to try a product. It is not static, it is blogging, mass market emailing, and forming groups with a common interest that visit sites for information. Potential customers are more interested in what other customers say about a product than the information that is put out by the business.
Though the use of GPS in smartphones, marketing to customers based on their location is becoming the norm. Internet technologies can help you do this more quickly and more efficiently, but it is the E-Commerce student that will be able to recognize the business need and apply the appropriate IT technology.
How would my coursework look if I were to pursue E-Commerce?
Bruce: The E-Commerce program is unique since it offers a strong hybrid of business, IT, and project management courses under a single major. Let me add that this also includes 15 hours of courses in an area that interests you!
This program is offered through our Engineering & IT College to also provide access to our experts in the College.
So, what kind of jobs can a student get as an E-Commerce Graduate?
Bruce: You are not going to see a job request for an “E-Commerce Degree” . What you will see are job descriptions that seek a more generic attributes of what you can do (i.e. based on your skills). These jobs titles will vary but the skills you learn from this program will prepare you for careers that include, but are not limited to, web development, marketing campaign management, content development, and social media development.
If you are looking to be an entrepreneur and also want to develop some business and IT competencies, this provides you with the tools to enhance your business.
I have been in the Little Rock area for over 30 years and have worked on software development and also was even an entrepreneur for some time. What I found through my experience was that, while IT used to be heavily focused on software development, many of these tools are more readily available through the internet. So I found myself working with many companies that needed a skill set that involved managing and implementing systems in the workplace. Someone has to configure it, be the expert, run it, leverage it, and make sure it is actually addresses business needs.
Who can I contact if I have questions?
Please contact me (Bruce Bauer) at (501) 860-6003 or via email at email@example.com. Detailed program information can also be found at the UALR website.