Retail search marketing is about dominating the search bar across search engines, marketplaces and social media channels, says Udayan Bose, CEO of NetElixir.

This year Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 28, making the holiday shopping season six days shorter than it was last year. Fewer shopping days coupled with more merchants selling online means retailers are likely to face intense competition. To discuss how retailers can rise above the competition and succeed during this peak season, Internet Retailer interviewed Udayan Bose, CEO of NetElixir, a retail search marketing agency.

IR: What lessons have retailers learned from recent holiday shopping seasons?

Udayan Bose, CEO of NetElixir, a retail search marketing agency

UB: Retailers understand that first, shoppers’ journeys have become increasingly complex. The gap between physical and digital retail has blurred, and shoppers expect a seamless experience. Second, retailers’ holiday season success stems from their ability to anticipate and influence shoppers’ journeys through a well thought-out, incisive and adaptive “4P” strategy—product, price, promotion and place. And, finally, the digital marketing channel strategy has evolved from a focus on acquiring shoppers to effectively maximizing an omnichannel shopper experience that drives sales and engagement across a website, app, online marketplaces and stores.

IR: What attributes make up a successful holiday readiness strategy for search marketing?

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UB: To best position themselves for the holidays, retailers need to shift their mindset. Retail search marketing is no longer just about winning new consumers through Google and Bing. It is about dominating the search bar across search engines, marketplaces and social media channels. It is about effectively and responsibly engaging online shoppers through their entire “search-shop-buy” journey in an omnichannel environment.

Both the ecommerce landscape and consumer behavior are undergoing a massive change and retailers need to evolve. The holiday search marketing plan needs to effectively engage shoppers through their journey. The measurement metrics need to be appropriately defined. Results—as well as consumer insights—need to be aggregated, analyzed and made actionable. When the rubber meets the road, the outcomes may be different. A good holiday plan always needs to have adequate wiggle room that enables a retailer to adjust and adapt.

IR: What common mistakes do retailers make?

UB: Retailers often enter the holiday season without a carefully crafted search marketing plan. That may be because they they may have not done a thorough analysis of the previous year’s data and applicable market trends or because they fail to understand the changes in consumers’ shopping behaviors. They also often lack the required operational infrastructure that prevents a strategic plan from being effectively executed. And they usually don’t have a plan B in place.

IR: How can they overcome these challenges?

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UB: Very few retailers have access to adequate internal resources, expertise, powerful technologies and exposure to successfully navigate this complex landscape. In this complex retail digital marketing landscape, retailers need to work with a set of expert industry partners that can help them stay a step ahead of the competitors. They have to rely on and build an ecosystem of partners, such as NetElixir, that offer a shared “knowledge and expertise bank” that can help them stay a step ahead of their competitors by anticipating the future better and responding to the changes quicker.

They also need to adopt new technologies. Disruptive, artificial-intelligence driven technologies can help retailers perform complex tasks more efficiently, thereby having a substantial impact on the outcomes of a marketing program. And during the holidays, they always need to have a plan B in place.

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