Nina Wolf talks dogs, playing interpreter, and surviving fast growth
Nina Wolf understands packs. According to her, the large, fluffy King Shepherd Fergus and smaller English Shepherd Henry are her pack. But that’s not the only pack Wolf (who prefers to be called by her last name) belongs to. On 1 June 2020, she became part of ShopCreatify’s ‘pack’. The experienced marketing manager has joined ShopCreatify in a strategic capacity with a strong focus on sales, marketing and merchant success. She only growls occasionally.
Wolf was, until recently, the brand manager at Small Pet Select, a large, US ecommerce store that sells quality animal food for small pets. Because the company was very young when Wolf joined, she was involved in more than just brand management. When she wasn’t writing, improving the company’s SEO, or managing writers and graphic designers, she was making decisions about what products to stock, dealing with service providers, and working on plans and strategies for the ecommerce site.
It was during her time at Small Pet Select, that she met and worked extensively with the ShopCreatify team, who did an overhaul of its website four years ago. Ever since then ShopCreatify has continued to support Small Pet Select through its exponential growth by updating and optimizing the site, helping with user experience, and implementing new functions. Wolf assisted the ShopCreatify team by handling some of the simpler back-end technology on the site.
The ShopCreatify team is excited about the contribution Wolf will make towards conversion boosting. This is a field she’s undeniably passionate about. Instead of always pushing for new sales and customers, Wolf encourages merchants to first STOP. Wolf and her dog, Henry, are training to do search and rescue operations and she says this acronym is frequently used. It stands for stop moving, think about what’s going on, evaluate options, and then proceed.
“Instead of always trying to move forward, STOP. Get your foundation in order. Tidy up, sweep the floors, wash the dishes, fix the roof,” says Wolf. She uses this metaphor to refer to making sure your ecommerce site is built on a good, strong foundation before attempting new strategies and functionalities.
“I’m a big believer in using site optimization for conversion boosting. Make sure everything on your site is working properly including your navigation, links, forms, and feeds. Just by doing this you’ll see a jump in sales and you’ll also be stable moving forward. When you start tacking on apps or doing shiny things, you can often make any existing instabilities worse, so it’s important to get the foundations in order first.”
One of Wolf’s roles at ShopCreatify is to be a ‘project hero’ for its clients – making sure their needs are met. ShopCreatify realized soon after Wolf joined the team just how valuable she is for their interactions with current and potential clients. “Wolf can have a conversation with merchants that I’m not even able to have,” says ShopCreatify founder, Ross Allchorn. “She’s been a merchant. She knows what concerns and pressures merchants deal with. She knows what questions to ask them. She’s sat in that chair.”
Wolf acknowledges that she can play a useful role as ‘interpreter’ or ‘mediator’ between the ShopCreatify developers and their merchant clients. “Although the merchants and developers are in it together, they do see things differently and it’s hard sometimes to marry the two. Often merchants don’t have an understanding of how things hang together on the back-end. So it’s helpful if I can hop in and explain using non-technical language and a lot of metaphors. And sometimes I’m able to explain to developers why something is important from a merchant’s point of view. Trying to balance the different perspectives and priorities is helpful to clients and our own team.”
Working at Small Pet Select is only the tip of Wolf’s expansive CV and merchant experience. Although she majored in political science and economics, Wolf carved herself a niche in the animal world. After working in animal rescue and with a vet, she started a service business to assist people to treat and medicate their special needs pets. She sold that business in 2011 and founded and ran her own animal products retail business – a brick and mortar store with an online shop – before eventually moving on to Small Pet Select.
Wolf laughs when she admits she doesn’t actually feel like she’s started a new job.
“I already know everybody, so it really doesn’t feel new to me at all. It’s kind of an extension of what I’d been doing before. Ross joked that he felt like I had been on the ShopCreatify team for years already, based on our interactions when I was at Small Pet Select.”
And of course, the roles have now been reversed. Instead of Wolf telling Allchorn and his team what to do, he’s now her boss. “It could’ve been really awkward, but it isn’t at all. The whole team is super easy to work with and has been patient as I learn the ropes.”
Wolf is a wealth of advice for ecommerce merchants, and she’s generous with it too. One of the biggest challenges facing merchants at the moment, she says, is fast growth. This, of course, is due to an increased reliance on online shopping as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. While growth is positive for any business, it can also be challenging.
“In periods of fast growth, it can be really hard to keep every part of a company properly supported and keep the maintenance tasks happening. People become tired and things start to fall through the cracks.” Wolf’s advice on how to handle this is similar to above.
“STOP and get your processes in order because it will take a lot of the burden off your staff. Make things as automatic and as predictable as possible. It cuts down so much on time wasted and the frustration your staff feels.”
She recommends out-sourcing work where possible, to give employees the space and time they need to be productive. “If you find somebody that is really good at what they do, and doesn’t just do cookie cutter kind of stuff for you, it will save you money in the long run.” Taking the time to find a service provider that you can have a personal relationship with is vital, according to Wolf.
“Find someone who is going to get to know your business and will learn to anticipate what’s going to be acceptable or workable for you and what is not. You’ve got to be a good fit personality-wise and in terms of business philosophy. If you go with the highest-ranking agency, the most well-known expert, you may well up wasting a lot of money and time. Don’t be part of a production line. Require a co-operative relationship to get the most out of the effort.”
Making good use of your analytics right now is also important given the unusualness of the time we’re in. Wolf suggests identifying which new customers are likely to be returning customers and adapting the marketing strategy to retain them. “If the marketing strategy is pulling people in that aren’t your ideal customers, it is time to change things up,” she says. “Grow smartly while you can.”
She reminds CEOs to delegate to trusted employees during busy times and to thank staff for their hard work. “When companies grow at a huge rate it can put a big strain on everyone from the CEO down to the warehouse worker. Remember to thank your staff, from the heart. Get them lunch, call them, email them, text them, because they are struggling to keep up morale.”
Most of all, during the Covid-19 pandemic, Wolf urges merchants to be sensitive in their marketing.
“I see many companies that are trying to monetize the pandemic. Whatever you put out there, make sure you’re paying attention to the atmosphere right now. Talk from your heart about what you are doing as a company, and how you’re addressing things with your own action. Be sensitive. This is an important time to rely on and trust professional communicators. It is OK to be silent. If you are unsure about messaging, be quiet and get experienced help.”
ShopCreatify clients will be privy to a lot more of Wolf’s wisdom as she becomes increasingly involved in the team’s projects over the coming months.
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