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MediaMarkt x SBS - Taking High Potentials to the Next Level

Claude Boffa, Professor of Management Practice in Retail & Marketing at Solvay Brussels School 08/07/2019 Stratégie

In December 2018, we started the first session of the MediaMarkt University, a programme aimed at high-potential managers of the electronics retail specialist. Our objective: to give them the tools that will enable them to transform the way they do business, to apply their newly gained knowledge to actionable projects and act as role models inside the company. 

When MediaMarkt first contacted us about setting up a tailor-made programme for their high-potential managers, we found the challenge very stimulating because the management model of MediaMarkt stands out in comparison with their competitors. All their store managers own 10% of the store they are responsible for, and this personal stake makes them eager to learn, but it is also more demanding. Like every participant in a management programme, they want to learn new concepts, to find other ways of looking at their business, and to confront their own practice with case studies from other retail companies. But what they want most is actionability: a toolset that will enable them right away to devise and implement new projects. 

Developing competences

We decided to organise the programme into four modules centred on developing specific competences: 

  1. People Management and Transformational Leadership;
  2. Business Essentials: knowledge and tools to help the participants articulate their business intuitions and analyse them through different viewpoints: strategy, innovation, finance, marketing, sales, HR and operations;
  3. The Future of Retail: an in-depth review of the trends that will shape the retail market in the coming years;
  4. Enterprise Leadership: this part was dedicated to working in small groups on a practical case grounded in the MediaMarkt universe.

Added value

One of our strengths at Solvay Brussels School is the ability to mix academic knowledge and field expertise.

We can draw on a vast pool of experienced practitioners to design and animate workshops. They also work with the participants on case studies, where they enrich the discussions with insights from their own professional experience. Besides, thanks to the SBS network, we were also able to organise conferences where high-profile specialists came to share their unique insights. 

For example, for the Future of Retail module:

  • we first featured economists to establish the context and provide a little perspective on the evolution of the market;
  • then we had several specialists talking about omnichannel strategies like geomarketing or web-to-store. PwC, the consultancy firm, also gave a presentation of their latest study on the future of brick-and-mortar stores;
  • then academics took the stage again: Nicolas Van Zeebroeck, one of our Faculty Members, talked about the profitability of e-commerce. Virginie Bruneau talked about her latest research on fidelity programmes. Among other conclusions, she pointed out that some strategies, while seemingly sound, were actually detrimental to customer fidelity;
  • we also had executives, such as Denis Knoops (ex-CEO of Delhaize) and Denis Gorteman (CEO of D’Ieteren), who came to talk about the actual challenges of change management in a retail environment and the lessons they were able to draw from some change decisions in their recent professional life;
  • we concluded with a wrap-up on the challenge of moving from product-based differentiation – the good old Four P’s of the marketing mix – to customer-based differentiation, based on the SAVE model: Solution instead of Product, Access instead of Place, Education instead of Promotion, and Value instead of Price.

MediaMarkt operates on a very competitive market where margins are very tight, especially when you claim to be the cheapest provider. Hence the interest of stimulating an open discussion on how to move away from the rat race of price and into a model based on creating value for the customer at a premium

Field Trips to Remarkable Stores

One of the last sessions of the Future of Retail module was focused on field trips.

The idea was to visit the store of other retail chains to see if there were valuable lessons and interesting ideas to use as inspiration for MediaMarkt. Among other stops, we visited a Färm store, a Carglass centre, an AS Adventure outlet, but also a Potato Restaurant. We also visited an Auchan drive, a dark store concept by Auchan, as well as Electro Van Assche, a family-owned electronics retail store that focuses on creating a unique customer experience. During most visits, we were greeted by a representative of the store, who was there to explain the firm’s strategy and answer the questions of our participants

Focus on Results

Since MediaMarkt wanted to make sure their managers would apply what they learned right away, the fourth module was dedicated to real-life projects.

The teams had to build a strong business case and defend it in front of a jury composed of MediaMarkt and SBS representatives. The projects were to be applied at MediaMarkt after the end of the programme. And indeed, the projects were impressive: some teams went as far as to prepare packaging proposals for their new solutions, and all the teams had solid figures to back their propositions.

I am very pleased that they applied the SAVE model in their strategic thinking.

Aside from the projects themselves, the programme had one major impact on the participants: it created a team spirit among people who, in most cases, did not know each other since they were working in different locations and departments. This is indeed a welcome outcome, as strengthening the ties between high potential managers will create a lasting positive impact.

Want to know what Solvay Brussels School can do for your company? Request a tailor-made programme!


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