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What is an Ecommerce Controller?
One would like to answer the question with: Good question. Next question? Because neither the job description of the controller nor the ‘content’ of the term e-commerce (or e-commerce) can be clearly and unambiguously defined. Sometimes it seems as if ‘development in progress’ is the only really connecting element between ‘ controller ‘ and e-commerce. In this respect, every description is always subject to reservations – at least that sounds much better than ‘is already out of date on the day of publication’.
A look back
E-commerce grew out of what used to be called direct marketing. Its core elements were advertising letters that were sent directly to people in a specific target group, who were only known by name, in the hope that they would reward the personal approach with an order. In the early days, advertising mages like David Ogilvy called direct marketing ‘my secret weapon’ and there were instructions on how to design ‘million dollar mailings’. Essentially, the returns were measured in relation to the mailings sent out; if they reached 5%, there was champagne in the marketing department. The costs for development, printing and shipping were cheap compared to advertising campaigns in TV and print, but above all there were clearly measurable successes that could be assigned to a specific broadcast. It was also possible to test and modify mailings on a small scale before undertaking large quantities. In other words: Finally, the effort involved in reaching a target group and the result – their ‘act of purchase’ – were under control.
Controllers overtake marketing departments
Back then, controllers were still seen as ‘numbers servants’ who had to do the groundwork for the marketing department. They provided the numbers, but the real makers were the product managers, group product managers, marketing managers, and chief marketing officers. In marketing departments, analyses, strategies, budgets, new products and actually everything that was future-oriented and therefore relevant for the company in the medium and long term were created. ‘Marketing’ asked for numbers, ‘Finance’ or ‘IT’ delivered.
That has changed radically. On the one hand, ‘marketing’ now has direct access to data, and modern software takes over routine evaluations and largely independently supplies tables and analyzes on which many marketing decisions are based. This trend will continue, and AI will continue to accelerate this trend. On the other hand, the demarcation between marketing and controlling is becoming more and more difficult because – put simply – marketing is becoming more number-oriented and controlling is more future-oriented. Today’s controllers keep an eye on current market events just as much as marketing professionals do. Ideally, this results in harmonious cooperation.
Products, services – today everything is trade
E-commerce controllers usually decided early on to focus their training on their affinity for numbers and commerce, and aligned their studies accordingly. Your entry into professional life usually takes place as a junior controller in a company that deals in products that can be shipped. But one has to add here: Even service companies and dating agencies are now looking for e-commerce controllers for the analysis, development and expansion of their business models. The subjective attractiveness of the industry is therefore a key criterion for many newcomers when choosing a company.
However, it can also be the location or the e-commerce professionalism of a company that makes the difference, because basic experience in e-commerce can be acquired almost independently of the industry – the advantages of specific industry know-how only become apparent over time of further professional life. In addition, many trading companies have discovered and expanded e-commerce as an additional business area to their stationary business – a decision that has helped them, especially during the pandemic. And, of course, e-commerce is not location-based.
The guiding principle in e-commerce controlling: Nothing is unmeasurable…
The classic mail order business is (of course) the pioneer of e-commerce – the analyses, reports and reports of the controllers concentrated on purchasing, sales, warehousing, sales figures, flow rates, customer loyalty, returns and special offers much earlier than in other industries. Since the absolute quantities are higher there, forecasts can also be made with greater certainty than in sectors with lower quantities.
The development towards e-commerce was the logical answer to the rapidly growing use of the internet as well as the consequence of ecological and economic pressure – the production of catalogs for consumer goods used up wagonloads of paper several times a year and thus caused immense costs, in addition to the expensive ones Dispatch of the kilo-heavy print works. However, the relocation of many entrepreneurial activities, from A for acquisition to Z for payment processing, has meant that all industries are now dealing with e-commerce tools, albeit with varying degrees of intensity.
E-commerce controllers are therefore among the controllers whose (controlling) tasks are more closely linked to the end user than in many other areas – in larger companies they are almost exclusively concerned with end user-related tasks and manage them, depending on their experience and company size, not just teams, but entire departments. They have the best qualifications to actively intervene in product development and product range design – they recognize success factors faster than others and can make forecasts that not only have a decisive influence on product and product range policy, but also on investments
What is is important – but what is to come is even more important
The possibility of immediate access to current information and the partially automated analysis of data and information must be organized – therefore it is one of the tasks of e-commerce controllers to create the technical and organizational basis for analysis, planning and control and, if necessary, to share them with others Coordinating the company’s controlling units. This requires a comprehensive understanding of the industry, which e-commerce controllers usually have acquired over several years of professional experience. With such a background, they not only work at the interface between controlling and marketing – they are the transition. The larger the amount of data, the more important it becomes to organize the connection between the two areas, to draw conclusions from the analysis, To ‘sense’ customer needs and develop plans for future products, ranges and investments. In other words, having data is one thing, using data is the key.
Those who are vigilant have dazzling prospects
Trade is change, and e-commerce is constantly changing. New tools, new analysis and test methods, new specializations are just as challenging for e-commerce controllers as international markets, changes in consumer behavior, stricter data protection guidelines, higher environmental protection regulations and pandemics. Anyone who pays attention to their immediate and wider environment and is open to developments has the best prospects for a successful career in e-commerce controlling, which with increasing experience can also lead to group controller and beyond that to the CEO.
The most important things in 5 seconds
- Education: Business studies with a focus on controlling, marketing or e-commerce / internships in e-commerce / ideally several years of professional experience
- Starting salary: €39,000
- Top salary: €89,000
- Opportunities for advancement: Group Controller to CEO
Who Needs Ecommerce Controllers?
Companies that hire ecommerce controllers are typically companies that do ecommerce
- is the only or essential distribution channel (e.g. Amazon, Parship, many B-to-Bs)
- represents an alternative sales channel whose importance is of equal importance to other sales channels or at least makes a significant contribution to sales (e.g. online shops of chains such as Tchibo, Lidl etc.)
Such companies often already have e-commerce staff who take care of the organizational aspects (e.g. listing products on the website).
It is often, but not exclusively, companies whose products, services or shops have a brand character that can be used but also needs to be maintained. This requires that e-commerce controllers have a sufficient budget at their disposal.
What Does an Ecommerce Controller Do?
The tasks of the e-commerce controller are already very different depending on professional experience and company. In addition, the tasks are constantly changing because e-commerce is a business area that is changing rapidly. The same applies to the classification of e-commerce controllers within the organizations. Young companies often have flat hierarchies – the e-commerce team there is often even on an equal footing with the management due to its importance.
What all the activities of the e-commerce controllers have in common, however, is that they are focused on the company’s trading activities.
- The (professional) e-commerce controllers create (sometimes daily updated) reports, reports and analyzes on incoming orders, deliveries, returns, incoming payments, complaints for products, product groups, assortments, stock levels etc. – they put together everything that is needed for the online distribution channel is important, measure and control the effectiveness of implemented measures and suggest improvements.
- You create target/actual comparisons, profitability calculations, forecast and planning calculations, work out short-, medium- and long-term budget planning and monitor budget compliance and deviations.
- With growing professional experience, e-commerce controllers increasingly influence the design and implementation of the company’s e-commerce strategy – they are involved in formulating the specifications and criteria for search engine optimization and advertising, test new formats and technologies, coordinate the e- Commerce activities with other departments and are responsible for establishing and expanding the e-commerce team.
- With the absolute and percentage sales significance of online activities for a company, the importance of e-commerce controllers also increases. A management position is conceivable.
How to become an Ecommerce Controller
- Successfully completed business studies with a focus on controlling, marketing and/or e-commerce
- High affinity to the Internet as a sales channel, ideally relevant internships or previous work experience
- Knowledge of common marketing tools for B2B and B2C and brand monitoring
What Do Ecommerce Controllers Earn?
up to €89,000
What do you expect from the e-commerce controller?
E-commerce controllers must have a high affinity for numbers, data and analysis. In addition to a strong understanding of ‘Facts & Figures’, they must understand customer needs and develop a feel for ‘triggers’ that help to increase the number of purchasing decisions.
You need a deep understanding of how consumers and retailers think, and you need to master the tools for branding and nurturing online.
They know about the speed of change in online trading, follow trends, can motivate and accept suggestions from others – including external specialists – as well as objectively justify their rejection. They are team players and can lead and inspire a team – and they are good salespeople themselves.
Professionalism in dealing with analysis tools is expected, as is a keen interest in the development of other tools for processing and analyzing larger amounts of data – as well as a keen interest in digital developments up to and including AI.
Clear expression and fluent English in speech, writing and presentation should be a matter of course.
Opportunities for advancement as an e-commerce controller
With the decision to start their professional career at an Internet-driven company, the further path in this industry is often already mapped out for career starters. This is not only due to the special knowledge that one acquires, but also to the fascination that results from the rational analysis of numbers and the necessary feeling for the right approach to interested parties and potential buyers.
Ecommerce controllers who are willing to keep learning will also hone their marketing instincts as their career progresses. If they succeed in this, the job becomes a vocation that – provided they have management skills – can lead them to management and the board of directors.
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