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What’s the big iDEA?!

When it comes to staying up to date with the latest developments in the digital world, it can be somewhat of a daunting task. Seemingly every day, new technology emerges that can potentially shift the way businesses operate and the environments they operate in. Aiming to stay ahead of the curve, Karen Sheppard, Managing Director of People First Mobility, discusses why she has been investing her spare time and effort to keep up to date with the latest online developments and why other mobility retailers should consider doing the same.

Getting on board with online

To say the rise of internet has altered the retail landscape for almost every single sector would be no understatement. Search engines, smartphones, ecommerce, social media and digital advertising are just some of the recent online developments that has resulted in an increasing number of consumers turning to the internet as the first port of call for their information, entertainment, and importantly, products.

Arguably, the mobility industry has seen a slower trend of consumers turning online first, largely due to an older, less-digitally savvy demographic of shopper, however, research highlights that this may no longer be the case.

According to a recent report by Accord Marketing, a marketing agency specialising in the mature market, results show that over-50s customers that have previously been deemed as ‘non-digital natives’ now engage with online as a key step in their buying process.

From 1,465 people surveyed, with the majority over the age of 60, 70 percent of respondents said they investigated a product online before making a purchase, with 22 percent going directly to a brand’s website and 18 percent visiting a price comparison website. Consequently, when it comes to buying, 31 percent confirmed buying from an online retailer.

As more digitally-confident consumers enter the market over time and with the children of elderly parents more inclined to turn to Google for solutions than the Yellow Pages – which as of January 2019, has been discontinued in print – retailers in the mobility industry disregard the online world at their peril.

For many SMEs that are unfamiliar with the ever-changing online world, working on online areas of the business can prove too expensive to be viable, be it employing a dedicated marketer or hiring a consultant to manage the various facets of digital.

Karen Sheppard however has decided to invest time and energy into developing her own understanding, developing the skills to allow her to better manage this side of her retail business.

Acquiring and building the skills

Understanding the importance of keeping up to date with the digital domain, she has been busy completing the free iDEA program designed to teach and enhance her online skills.

“I am able to reach out to more customers in a much more professional manner and it gives me an edge over my competitors” Karen Sheppard

Having recently completed both Bronze and Silver tiers of the program, as well as being awarded both the iDEA Bronze Champion decoration and the Special Achievement Silver Award Star, Karen says the modules cover vital areas of the virtual arena.

“The iDEA badges cover everything from social media and websites, to GDPR, social selling, and advertising. They are interesting to do and as well as brushing up on knowledge that you already know, there is still so much to learn,” she emphasised.

In addition, modules including coding, cloud computing, design, ecommerce, customer relationship management, gif making, and others essential to modern retailers looking to eager finding success in the market.

Discussing working through the course, she told THIIS: “I can honestly say I have enjoyed all of the badges and looking back through them, I am finding it difficult to say which bits were most interesting, as they were all so unique in their own way. So many different challenges.

“There were no badges that I did not enjoy doing. Admittedly there were a few that took me a few days to do as they were challenging and I had to keep coming back to have another go to be able to complete them. This just added to the fun, excitement and challenge of managing to complete them. The coding badges were probably the hardest for me to achieve.”

Applying the knowledge

Keen to put her newly acquired digital acumen to practice, the Skegness-based managing director has already started implementing changes into the way she works online.

“I have used knowledge from a few badges already,” she explained.

“I have used social media badges to change how I am going to approach my customers through the use of social media. Social selling and advertising have again given me different perspectives on how to approach these areas of my business.”

Additionally, Karen says the Web Designer and Making Websites modules helped her better understand what makes a good, streamlined design, allowing her to communicate her requirements when working on her upcoming website redesign.

“I would strongly recommend the iDEA award to anyone who wants to invest their time into learning more about the digital world, finding ways to improve and enhance the digital part of their business.” Karen Sheppard

“The advantages of these are that I am able to reach out to more customers in a much more professional manner and it gives me an edge over my competitors,” she continued.

“Completing all these skills sets will also benefit People First Mobility by allowing us to not stand still and put different skills into place to continue to grow and adapt to the changing world of business.”

By gaining a better understanding of digital technologies, retail leaders can better respond to and implement the changes needed to remain ahead of the game in a fast-moving online environment.

Karen Sheppard with her iDEA award image

A personal triumph

As well as a shrewd business decision to invest in her personal digital development, Karen highlighted how empowering the experience has been personally.

“Being in business is always about learning and adapting, both in personal skills and workplace skills and the digital world is becoming more and more used in the business world, so to have something that increased my knowledge in that area is fantastic,” said Karen.

“I am always looking at ways to learn and keep the brain active. I am a mature learner and think that to keep your brain active helps to keep you proactive in business.

“Also, I am a cancer survivor and two years ago I had to have ten months of treatment including eight rounds of chemotherapy, which is quite harsh on the body and can give you something called ‘chemo brain’, which makes you more forgetful and have memory fog. One of the best cures for this at the moment is to keep your brain active.”’

In particular, the mobility retailer discussed fitting in completing the award whilst also meeting the needs of running her business.

“To find the time to complete the badges has needed time management skills and dedication,” she noted.

“The iDEA award also appealed to me because of its flexibility, as it can be done at home, at work, on the train, anywhere, and at any time and any pace and on many different devices.  Being able to stop and start any badge at any time allows you to fit them in around other commitments.”

A call to others

With plans to complete the Gold tier when released, Karen is now encouraging her peers in the mobility world to also consider investing time developing their online credentials.

“I think mobility retailers should increase their digital knowledge as the digital world is fast advancing and to stay on top of the knowledge is a way to be a step ahead of your competitors,” she finished.

“I would strongly recommend the iDEA award to anyone who wants to invest their time into learning more about the digital world, finding ways to improve and enhance the digital part of their business.

“The world is evolving very fast in the digital age and there are many of the badges that can help in all different kinds of job roles and situations.  The badges are easy to understand, can be done at your own pace and at your own time.  When each module is completed there is also the sense of accomplishment. Just be warned that once you start you may find it very addictive.”


What is iDEA?

The Duke of York Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award’s (iDEA) is a free international program helping participants develop digital, enterprise and employability skills through completing online modules and challenges.

How does iDEA work?

Participants complete individual online modules called digital badges in three different award levels, ranging from Bronze, Silver and Gold.

The Bronze Award is the entry-level category for beginners, introducing partakers to a number of digital areas, whilst the Silver Award is for those who have mastered the Bronze topics and want to build on the skills acquired.

In the Bronze Award, each module completed awards the participants with a bronze badge. Those who complete 50 modules being awarded an iDEA Badge Champion.

Aspiring to be the digital and enterprise equivalent of The Duke of Edinburgh Award, the program launched its Bronze Award in 2017, its Silver Award in 2018 and plans to launch its Gold Award soon.

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