Amid a fast-changing global marketplace, the University of North Texas seeks to become a hub for retail expertise and educating the future professionals within the industry.
A new degree in consumer experience management — the first of its kind in the U.S. — will be another edge for the Denton university, which already has degrees in retailing, digital retailing, merchandising, and home furnishings merchandising.
“With the rapid evolution of online and the consumer’s new ‘always-on’ mobile mindset, the power shifted away from the retailer’s buying organization and into the hands of the consumer, who now have boundary-less choices.”
UNT decided to introduce the degree in response to the vast changes the industry has undergone in recent years giving consumers more control.
Linda Mihalick, senior director of the Global Digital Retailing Research Center at UNT, told Dallas Innovates that the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 marked a huge turning point. The invention enabled consumers to be instantly connected to each other and businesses.
“With the rapid evolution of online and the consumer’s new ‘always-on’ mobile mindset, the power shifted away from the retailer’s buying organization and into the hands of the consumer, who now have boundary-less choices,” Mihalick said. “Additionally, while sameness was previously acceptable, this same consumer has evolved and wants personalization, customization, unique products, and experiences.”
PREPARING STUDENTS TO REACH DIGITALLY-CONNECTED CONSUMERS
There’s already a high demand for professionals with a deep understanding of consumer behavior, and one can only expect that this will increase as consumers continue to dictate their buying experience, said Mihalick, who also serves as a digital retailing lecturer and program coordinator.
“We are preparing students for jobs that are in demand now and in the future,” she said.
“We are preparing students for jobs that are in demand now and in the future.”
This skill need goes beyond the retail industry, she said. Professionals in the hospitality, travel, food service, transportation, housing, and sports also need to be in tune with consumers.
“What will define where the consumer chooses to spend their money in the very near future will greatly be dependent upon their positive perception of their experience,” she said.
STANDING OUT AS A LEADER IN CONSUMER EXPERIENCE EDUCATION
Ohio State, Rutgers, and Arizona State universities do offer certificates or executive education programs in consumer experience management, but no other universities have launched a comprehensive degree program like UNT.
It’s not the only time UNT served as a degree innovator. It’s the first, and to date, only university to offer a digital retailing major, Mihalick said.
It started offering consumer experience management as a minor in 2016 and has now upped it to a major program with three current students enrolled.
“There is a huge opportunity for graduates who can be ahead of the trends.”
“Students who obtain the CEXM degree will be given the knowledge and analytical skills to manage current customer expectations, behavior, and engagement to lead their company, online and in the physical environments, in business growth,” Mihalick said.
Along with UNT’s typical core requirements, a bachelor’s degree in consumer experience management requires courses in consumer experience foundations and applications, merchandising, management, and digital retailing. Graduates will be qualified for careers as brand managers, consumer analysts, experience design managers, among other roles.
“There is a huge opportunity for graduates who can be ahead of the trends,” said Judith Forney, dean of UNT’s College of Merchandising, Hospitality, and Tourism, in a release.
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