Online merchandising courses are offered as part of 2- and 4-year degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Degree programs include the Bachelor of Science in Merchandising and Consumer Science and the Master of Science in Merchandising. Programs focused on fashion and apparel merchandising are also commonly available online. Students who complete an online associate's or bachelor's degree in merchandising may find employment as product promoters and stylists, retail buyers, sales assistants or manufacturer representatives, among other positions. Master's degree programs often include courses in global or international merchandising, preparing graduates to manage and coordinate inventory on a much larger scale.
Types of Online Merchandising Courses
The following are some commonly offered online merchandising degree courses.
- Merchandising Fundamentals Online Course: Taken near the beginning of an undergraduate merchandising degree program, the online fundamentals class introduces students to the procurement, pricing and promotion of goods, all with an eye on profit. Mathematics and statistics are an important part of the curriculum, since merchandisers must be able to compute the optimal markup for a product. Students typically complete math exercises in which they price sample products. Often, students also practice using Microsoft Excel on their home computers to plan and track simulated inventories and expenses.
- Visual Merchandising Online Course: The online visual merchandising class examines the types of in-store displays and advertising that attract consumers to a product. Students study the use of colors, lighting, graphics, fonts, window displays, signs and mannequins. The online course relies heavily on materials like digital photographs, sketches and diagrams to help students understand these visual concepts.
- E-marketing Online Course: Building on the visual merchandising course, this online class translates the study to a Web environment. Students learn to apply visual merchandising strategies to the promotion of a product on a website instead of in a store. This class may be offered near the end of an undergraduate program or within a graduate program; at the graduate level, students may be required to complete more in-depth studies in Web design. One of the assignments in a master's-level e-marketing class may involve the creation of a functional, appealing website for a specific product.
- Promotional Strategies Online Course: A common upper-level course offering, the promotional strategies class explores topics such as public relations, salesmanship, publicity tools, persuasion and target markets. The curriculum may also introduce issues of social and environmental responsibility that influence the merchandising of goods. Online students might participate in message board discussions about cultural awareness, eco-friendly packaging choices and ethical practices. Responsibility in promotion and advertising is also discussed. Students learn to develop merchandising plans that are appropriate for the targeted consumers, whether the targets are children or adults.
- Consumer Behavior Online Course: Courses in consumer behavior are usually intended for graduate students in merchandising. Students strive to predict - and influence - what consumers will want to buy and why. Consumer behavior models are often introduced, as are the sociological and psychological factors that affect trends and consumption. Other topics of study in this online class may include demographics, product positioning and brand loyalty.
- International Merchandising Online Course: Global or international merchandising classes increase the scope of students' merchandising skills, preparing them to oversee the distribution and promotion of goods all over the world. Sourcing, buying, advertising and selling products internationally requires merchandisers to be aware of the politics, cultures and economies of different countries. Using Web-based discussion forums, students in this online class analyze case studies of international merchandising ventures and global trends. Intended for graduate students, the class teaches students to apply their understanding of target markets to the world market.
- Merchandise Planning Online Course: Students in this course will learn how to purchase merchandise and plan in order to boost sales and profits. The course will ask students to analyze retailers' revenue and loss reports and teach them to identify factors contributing to successes and shortcomings.