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Q&A with Nadia Lotter of Samantha Wills

Welcome to our weekly Q&A with Internet Retailing’s 2018 Top 50 People in E-Commerce. See our previous Q&As here.

This week, we interviewed Nadia Lotter, brand director at Samantha Wills.

Ranking 30th in this year’s Top 50 People in E-Commerce, Lotter joined the online jewellery business in 2016. Previously, she was e-commerce and marketing manager at Sass & Bide.

Lotter started her career working on digital projects for major retail clients like Myer and Officeworks at top-tier advertising agencies like Ogilvy.

Keep reading to learn how Lotter helped build Cotton On’s first online store and the Myer One loyalty program, and what key e-commerce trend she’s following now.

Heather McIlvaine: You started your career in marketing, but eventually made the leap to e-commerce. How did that happen?

Nadia Lotter: My first gig in Australia was working on the Myer One loyalty program. Back then, 12 years ago to be exact, they still had a large print/direct mail program running. They were slowly starting to get up to speed with the digital media and had just started an email program with great success in the beauty category.

I used to UX/wireframe the emails on rice paper and then scan and send them off to be approved before we handed the wireframe/rice paper to the graphic designers. There weren’t any online tools to wireframe back then, and because I was a producer, not a designer, I didn’t have access to Photoshop or InDesign on my computer, so I made do.

We had a team of data architects pull data for us for every email blast and we would upload that data before every send. Nothing was integrated in the early days. I really can’t imagine how we managed back then but, we did.

Eventually, together with an incredible team, we launched the first ever digital Myer One loyalty program which finally and importantly integrated with their CRM. Don’t worry, no rice paper was used for that. It was an incredible success, but as a team and as a business we wanted to do more.

So, we started looking at how we could pitch an e-commerce solution to Myer. We pitched three ideas at the time and failed each time. We didn’t fail because of our ideas, we failed because e-commerce wasn’t a priority for most retailers and they couldn’t understand how they would deploy the logistics around it. Importantly, most large retailers in Australia simply just didn’t understand e-commerce.

Myer wasn’t the only company that was challenged with this level of thinking, and because I love challenges I decided to craft a career in e-commerce and help brands launch into what back then was the unknown. I was lucky enough to work on the first ever Cotton On online store as well as Twining’s, which – for as long as you and I can remember – had been predominately a B2B business.

It’s 12 years on, and I think brands still face challenges with e-commerce and, while they are different challenges, I still find the area I chose to work in to be one of the most exciting industries to be a part of. 

HM: Coming from an agency background and having worked with many different retail brands, do you think you bring different skills/points of view to the table?

NL: I’d like to think I learnt a lot from working on the agency side because of the diverse set of people you meet. I was working with developers, creatives, strategists, marketers, and brands. Now I work with creatives, investors, marketers and people just starting out in the industry.

I also worked across multiple projects and clients, which can be overwhelming at first, but I learnt that zero inbox every day is key, and to this day I use some great priority tactics I learnt from ad land.

HM: What does your role as brand director at Samantha Wills entail? 

NL: My secret weapon is my title. People assume because I’m a brand director I don’t know much about technology, so when I sit in a room with smart like-minded tech folk and start rattling off things about our technology stack and the issues we have, they always end up asking me how I know so much about technology. I think, particularly in Australian fashion, it’s important to have a secret weapon. Someone who lives and breathes digital and has faced many challenges across different brands in digital can really help support your business goals.

In saying that, I run the Samantha Wills business and manage the entire team. We are only a small team of eight, but I’m lucky enough to work with incredibly talented and passionate individuals, which makes my days as a leader more exciting and, importantly, more meaningful.

HM: What are your top priorities over the next 12 months?

NL: Here are a few:

  • Nurture and grow the Samantha Wills leadership team and support our vision of creating excellency in our people.
  • Implement a best-in-breed customer retention strategy to better build the customer lifecycle of our brand. Expand categories for both Samantha Wills and Hat Club.
  • Successfully launch the new Hat Club brand identity and importantly align the product to support the new brand vision.
  • Launch the new flagship store for Hat Club in New York City.

Oh, I should have mentioned I wear many hats. I’m currently also working across Hat Club, a US headwear retailer. Exciting times! 

HM: What new technology or trend are you interested in exploring? 

NL: Cyber Security. Companies are caught in a privacy paradox. They are caught between using customer data to provide better consumer experiences and violating consumer privacy (hello, Facebook).

It’s been an interesting year overall in digital with artificial and voice search becoming more and more advanced, but personally, with these recent events and trends mapped out in Mary Meeker’s report, I predict we are at a tipping point in digital marketing.

Consumers want more protection even though they don’t really know what from. They think they want their data protected from the companies they shop with, but that doesn’t stop their data being hacked. While there’s all this talk about privacy, you really should be asking yourself…what about cyber security?

If anyone is reading this and can recommend any great cyber security courses, please get in touch via Linked In.

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