Seidman Offers PostGrad Certificate

    GRAND RAPIDS — In the business world, the growth of e-commerce continues to accelerate.

    In 2003, online sales are predicted to top $110 billion. That’s up from less than $10 billion in 1998, with more than 40 million households shopping online.

    With numbers like these from Forecaster Research, educating the future work force in these disciplines has become essential.

    Companies wanting to improve their e-commerce practices can now turn to the Seidman School of Business at Grand Valley State University, which has an e-commerce certification in marketing program for graduate-level students.

    The program focuses on how to develop e-commerce marketing strategy, how to implement the strategy, how to interface with buyers and sellers online, how to develop a Web site, and how to conduct research on the Internet.

    “We are really trying to provide team leaders that cross the line between marketing and e-commerce and have a good balance,” said Paul Lane, chair of GVSU’s marketing department.

    “What it is, is a cross-over place.

    “If they have someone that is very good in technology, they will learn from the marketing aspect, understand the marketing aspect and why they need the marketing aspect — and vice-versa with the marketing students.

    “So the two really blend together and the other professors and I plan sessions together and work together, and it works well because the interaction of the two fields plays well together.”

    Lane works jointly with two doctoral-level professors — Nancy Levenburg and Simha Magal — to teach the certification classes.

    He said students are from diverse education-level backgrounds.

    “For people who have MBAs and want to refresh their resume, this is a perfect program — six months and away they go. There are four grad classes and you get MBA credit,” said Lane.

    “So we have people outside the MBA taking it and we have people inside the MBA. If you already have an MBA, you may want to have a chance to come up and update it and have a lot of fun doing it.”

    Students work in teams of three to five people with area companies to analyze, develop and implement e-commerce marketing activities within that company. Lane added that what is unique about the program is that each class works with a different company.

    And classes do not just include marketing students.

    Lane said classes are combined marketing and e-commerce students, each taking time to learn the other side of the game, while learning about online marketing and learning the technical aspects of online display.

    Lane explained that the classes do most of ther work online and meet every other Friday from noon to five.

    Lane said the program has been popular with graduate students for a number of reasons.

    “They get to work in the real world, on real Web sites in real time. They work with cross-disciplinary faculty, and they develop professional relationships,” said Lane.

    “Students last year came from as near as across the Grand River and as far away as China and Indonesia. They see it as a unique program to develop the skills necessary to be a team leader in e-commerce. They are enhancing their career potential with an e-commerce certificate.”

    He said students engage in research on the technological environment and consumer trends, as well as a competitive analysis. After surveying the site’s customer base and conducting a Web site usability analysis, the students write a new marketing plan.

    Students deal with all aspects of marketing a company online including topics such as how to get the company to come up first in a search, how much or how little information to put online, and how to make the Web page accessible to everyone, no matter what the speed of the connection.

    With all of that in place, the students give the firm a redesigned proposal for the Web site.

    Companies participating in the program receive an Internet strategy report, an e-commerce action plan, an e-tail/retail plan and a customer-designed Web site, presented to the company by the end of the term.

    The retail division of Wolverine World Wide Inc. was a client of the Grand Valley e-commerce program for two years in a row and is coming back for a third year. The students were assigned one of the company’s Web sites ( to study, make recommendations and ultimately re-design.

    “This project was very valuable to us, said Bobbi Lindeman, vice president and general merchandise manager of Hush Puppies Retail.

    “It was the first attempt to survey our Web consumer. We implemented several ideas gained from the survey immediately to make our site more user-friendly. We added a search function, images for every color offered and began including shipping costs on the home page. We continue to carry out their suggestions as budget allows.

    “Grand Valley has given us the necessary information to maintain sales growth that exceeds our expectations. This project has been one of the several rewarding experiences gained through the relationship between WWW and Grand Valley.”

    GVSU has also worked with Turnstone — a division of Steelcase — and Holland Power and Light, as well as numerous other companies.

    “They have come with different challenges every time,” said Lane. “There is a lot, as you grow up as a company and go online … or as you begin to get information out there and do marketing online. You begin to refine as to who is the customer and what they really want online.”

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