Education needs to evolve so that technology can too

The way that people live has shifted dramatically over the past 20 years, but perhaps not more so than in 2020. The pandemic has changed the way that people shop, with retailers required to move online and become competitive or face certain failure. For professionals who are trying to keep pace with the development of eCommerce, there are now master’s level courses that are helping people to understand eCommerce so that they might better predict its future.

At Hong Kong’s Polytechnic University (PolyU) a Masters of ECommerce program was launched in 2000. In the past 20 years, the program has had to develop as fast as the advances in connected technology itself. Hong Kong consumers have been embracing online shopping, perhaps not as fast as their neighbours in China and Taiwan, but the shape of retail on the island has changed.

Payments

As consumers have come to trust and accept online payment systems, so too has eCommerce grown. The improvements to secure online shopping in past years have included not only more advanced gateways and API for business owners but a more internationally cohesive approach to payments processing which is focused on reduced fraud risks and strict anti-money laundering measures.

Two of the biggest international eCommerce retailers dominate the marketplace, and none more so than Amazon during 2020. The site reportedly generated US$75.5 billion in revenue in the first quarter of this year. The reason being that 89% of Amazon customers say that they will continue to use the site because they trust the retailer.

This is obviously of great interest to those in the retail industry who are working hard to analyse the business and understand consumer motivations. ECommerce has created a new modality of education because of its enormous success and the desire of others to emulate such profitable models.

Development

For eCommerce, there are many challenges to developing robots and sustainable business. It is the work of those who are studying eCommerce as a modality to fit the pieces together so that we can have a better understanding of those challenges, such as:

  • Site development
  • Customer journey
  • Effective marketing
  • Online security
  • Logistics
  • Banking
  • Manufacturing

“The main challenge is finding skilled technologists [who] not only understand the process flow but are also able to contribute to the enhancement of the client interactions in online and offline operations,” PolyU Department of Computing Professor George Baciu said in an interview in 2017. “Another challenge is maintaining the robust security protocols that are employed in eCommerce transactions and in the safeguarding of customers’ credentials.”

According to Baciu, the university’s eCommerce programme is the first in Hong Kong to include business, accounting, logistics and computing as part of its higher learning program.

It is this combined knowledge of business, account and computing that allows eRetailers to find online success.

However, the education systems that most people in the workforce today grew up in did not teach these modalities as core units that should be combined as standard practice. While business students would learn accounting and perhaps logistics, they might know very little about computing. And it is this knowledge that takes a site from accessible to exceptional.

Not only do eCommerce merchants need to understand the motivations for shoppers, not that must also understand how a website engages an audience and motivates sales from an entirely technical point of view. Much like research that went into understanding how best to layout a supermarket floor to motivate sales, now eCommerce merchants must do the same online to maximise their potential.

While an obvious part of sales is branding and trust, there is far more to understanding why a cart is abandoned. With research and broader learning parameters, it is likely that such knowledge will soon become common knowledge and better checkouts, more secure sites and easier purchasing processes will become normalised for online shoppers.

The Future

As the next generation enters into higher studies and the workforce, they will bring with them a more innate understanding of computing, new ideas about interactions and workflows on websites and an appreciation for the power of big data and AI.

One of the most discussed topics in the past few years has been the value of big data and its security. Within eCommerce, this valuable information is gathered, sold and used, often without the knowledge or consent of users who are too ready to ‘click’ for access to sites than they are to understand data tracking and cookies.

However, as technology advances and young people growing up with it learn more about its power, it is likely that huge changes will be made to how the online systems work, and perhaps exploit, users.

The education systems of most countries now include coding as a core subject. With this will come a deeper understanding of consumer vulnerability online, data collection and storage threats and the power of machine learning to advance eCommerce.

It is expected that future generations will learn how to:

  • identify, explain, and use big data infrastructure
  • solve integration, computing and storage problems
  • perform various analytic tasks using management and computing techniques
  • derive knowledge and strategies from analytics and apply them to privacy protection and policymaking

The shift towards an understanding of the online world that has been created is going to be vital as blockchain is developed and smart technology pervades everyday life. Many people who are born today will not understand how a world without the internet is at all possible, and perhaps in 20 years, it will not be possible to live without the internet and smart devices as people adopt ever-more ‘advanced’ technologies.

Demand for those with expertise in online technology is only likely to grow. Big data and machine learning are set to transform sectors such as:

  • Medical Industry
  • Insurance
  • Security (online fraud detection)
  • Banking
  • Manufacturing
  • Logistics

These changes present opportunities. As more work is automated or made efficient by technology, people are able to enjoy more time focusing on their lives, such as pleasures like travel, cooking, socialising or developing skills. The efficiency that technological development brings comes at a cost – the development of our educational standards and practices to include a fundamental understanding of technology at a young age.

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