If you've ever marveled at the Target app's ability to read your mind and offer you the perfect product at the perfect moment, you've already been contemplating omnichannel strategy. "Virtually everything we do as consumers is omnichannel," said Kim Sovell, an adjunct professor of marketing at Opus College of Business and a member of the University of St. Thomas omnichannel task force. Omnichannel is about ensuring that an organization's physical presence melds seamlessly with its digital presence, fully embracing innovation in emerging technologies.
Starting this fall, the University of St. Thomas Opus College of Business will be offering a Graduate Certificate in Omnichannel Strategy. "I'm excited about our new certificate program because one, there isn't any other program quite like this, and two, we have permission from the dean of the Opus College of Business to try new things,” said Sovell. "We're developing the courses in omnichannel as we're developing the certificate itself,” said Sovell. “I'm so excited about that ability to pivot and teach something new when it becomes prevalent. So, if it happens to be augmented reality, virtual reality or artificial intelligence, then that's what we'll do."
For Sovell, the program and course offerings must be as malleable as the field itself. The field of omnichannel is young and fluid. Businesses are constantly developing disruptive technologies and practices to meet ever-evolving consumer habits and expectations. "If you fall short on the user experience right now, you're going to lose customers because all shopping habits have changed,” she said. “Shopping habits and consumer expectations have always changed, but they've changed dramatically over the last 16 months. Omnichannel is about meeting consumers at those expectations and then getting ahead of those expectations to understand what the consumer will want next." For Target, this might mean a smooth transition between your online, mobile and in-store experiences, or suggestions for products based on where you're standing in a given aisle or for how long. For M Health Fairview, it might mean ensuring that your MyChart app looks and feels like the experience in their clinics. In the future, omnichannel strategy could help enable doctors to perform surgeries remotely in a virtual reality environment.
For years the world has continued a march toward a digital economy, but the COVID-19 pandemic has abruptly converted that march into a sprint. Craig Herkert is an executive fellow at the Opus College of Business and an adjunct professor of omnichannel strategy. As the former CEO of both Walmart Americas and Supervalu, Herkert is uniquely positioned to help develop the new omnichannel program.
For Herkert, the seamless integration of digital and physical has always been a key to success, but since COVID, it has become an existential imperative for any organization. "Give me a field where omnichannel and digital aren't going to have an impact, and I'll tell you you're wrong," said Herkert. "Every CEO ought to be scared out of her wits right now about some start-up, either here or in China or India or somewhere else, someone who's going to come in and totally rock their world and take their business away because they're thinking about omnichannel in a way that existing businesses are not," Herkert said.
The new certificate program has been developed in conjunction with senior leaders and prospective students from industry-leading organizations including Mayo Clinic, Optum, Northern Tool + Equipment, Salesforce, Thomson Reuters, Target, Best Buy, SPS Commerce, Evereve, Mall of America, J.W. Hulme, U.S. Bank, and JP Morgan Chase.
This fall, students will be offered three complementary courses to include Modern Business Mindset, Omnichannel Execution, and Emerging Technology in Business. In the spring semester, students will have a choice of several electives culminating in a capstone course. As academic director of the Business in a Digital World initiative, Dr. Lisa Abendroth is responsible for ensuring that graduates are prepared for roles in a constantly evolving technological landscape. For Abendroth, the strength of the program lies in its ability for students to follow industry-specific tracts. “Where the initial courses in the certificate develop broad knowledge and skills related to omnichannel strategy, the capstone allows students to focus on a specific industry vertical, such as health care or retail, where they can deepen their knowledge and apply their skills to a real-world challenge faced by a firm in that industry,” Abendroth said. “As an added bonus, each team will have an industry mentor, in addition to an instructor, to further tie the experience to the real world.”
For more information about the Graduate Certificate in Omnichannel Strategy, visit the Opus website.