How to Find Retail Insights and Inspiration Online

Massive open online courses offer a compelling and accessible way to capture new business information, education, and inspiration


If you’ve never
heard of MOOCs—shorthand for massive open online courses—don’t let the funny name distract you from their potential business impact.

These internet-enabled learning opportunities crafted for the masses represent an efficient, economical, and engaging way for jewelry retailers to strengthen business fundamentals, gain new insights, and, ultimately, drive store performance. Here’s a smattering of what you’ll gain by embracing MOOCs.

1. Learn from Ivy League–caliber instructors

For a nominal fee, jewelry retailers can take MOOCs on small business–related topics including marketing, finance, customer service, and business strategy from instructors housed at elite universities such as Stanford, Harvard, and the University of Pennsylvania or from real-world practitioners familiar with the challenges faced by independent businesses.

On academia-connected edX (edx.org), the University of British Columbia offers retail-relevant courses such as “Introduction to Marketing” and “Family Business—Strategy Essentials.” Coursera (coursera.org), another MOOC provider leaning on its ties to higher ed, features offerings like a six-course specialization on social media marketing from Northwestern University and “Successful Negotiation: Essential Strategies and Skills” from esteemed University of Michigan business professor George Siedel.

Peer-to-peer platforms like Udemy (udemy.com) and Alison (alison.com), meanwhile, host courses on topics such as digital marketing, customer service training, and time management from fellow entrepreneurs, educational organizations, and business coaches.

2. Gain relevant experience to grow the business

Mimicking the traditional classroom environment, albeit with a 21st-century spin, MOOCs often include video lectures, suggested readings, online discussions, and, in some cases, a capstone project designed to translate learning into action.

“Most online learning platforms include a forum for class participants to interact with the instructor and fellow students, fostering sharing of ideas and problem solving from those who share similar goals and struggles,” says Jessica Barst, a Udemy instructor and professional jewelry designer who has worked with Nordstrom, Macy’s, Zales, and other brands.

It’s the near real-time nature of these discussions, Barst continues, that can help business owners adapt to rapid changes in areas such as technology and social media. “I personally find the community aspect the most compelling reason to seek out online courses and can say that participating in conversations relevant to my business has helped me learn and grow.”

3. Bring new knowledge and skills into your business

An antidote to sticking with the status quo, MOOCs can arm retailers with proven strategies and cutting-edge insights to activate a fresh, forward-thinking mind-set and fuel results. From any internet-connected device at any time of day, retailers as well as their staffs can actively address skills gaps and apply promising theory to real-world instances.

“Overall, small business owners and employees can leverage online courses since they are accommodating of schedules and affordable,” says Alice Randall, edX senior manager of communications. “Since small businesses may not have the budget or man power for large corporate training programs, online courses are also a great way for employees to learn new skills or refresh old skills.”

4. Leverage other online learning resources

MOOCs, however, are far from the only online resource for jewelry retailers eager to counter an increasingly competitive marketplace with new information, insights, and inspiration.

On YouTube, for instance, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s channel (youtube.com/user/sba) features videos and webinars on practical topics such as business plans and SBA loans. And the Google Small Business channel (youtube.com/user/googlebusiness) delivers a Google AdWords education video series as well as content related to topics like customer loyalty, digital marketing, and work-life balance.

TED Talks (ted.com/talks), meanwhile, boasts an array of thought-provoking programs on motivation, leadership, and transformation that can spark creative ideas and strategies. Former Google engineer Matt Cutts, for example, makes the spirited case for forming a productive new habit by trying something new over 30 days, while UPS executive Regina Hartley dives into human resources quandaries in her program, “Why the Best Hire Might Not Have the Perfect Résumé.”

Did you know?

In 2016, more than 700 universities offered 6,850 courses on leading MOOC providers such as Coursera, edX, Udacity, and FutureLearn.

(Source: Class Central)

(Illustration by Cozy Tomato)

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