Search as a Retail Optimization Tool

By David Levy, Director, Marketing & Business Development

It’s well known that two of the most common challenges that retailers face are around promotions and inventory.

In terms of promotions, many retailers have hundreds or thousands of product SKUs, with a different internal Merchandiser that oversees each product line. Communication internally around what promotions are going live, when, how long they will run, etc. can often be difficult within a large retail organization. Not to mention… the difficulty of communicating this externally to a search agency.

On the inventory side, it can become a huge challenge just to get the actual inventory levels available in the stores (or distribution centers) to match the inventory on the website.

The last thing a retailer wants is for a customer to land on their site and see an inconsistent promotion/price from what they saw in a weekly circular, or to think that a product is available (because the site says it is) when really it’s out of stock. This could cost you not only a future sale, but potentially a long term customer due to a poor user experience.

Allow me to explain how search can help.

Search is one of the few mediums that is dynamic enough to change on a moment’s notice if a new product promotion arises or if a product goes out of stock. If you’ve already printed a circular, you can’t take that back. But, you can pause keywords and campaigns… or build keywords and campaigns – quickly.

Search can be the catalyst for the solution – and the key is technology and automation.

Search marketing is at the forefront of marketing technology. It can be the impetus for developing systems that can seamlessly automate the link between inventory and promotions with keyword bids and optimizations. The good news is… the benefits don’t stop with search.

To make this work, the retailer would need to input and update what these promotions and inventory levels will be within a customized technology interface. This information then gets translated to the search agency and built into the optimization strategy (through automation). This system would not only benefit the search program, but facilitate communication between internal teams by virtue of the fact that they login and update changes within a centralized interface, all of which is transparent to all parties. All of a sudden, you’ve got an automated system that drives efficiency on a large scale – saving both time and money. No more spending money on CPCs for products that are out of stock. And, less time spent tracking down folks internally to ensure cross-department communication is happening.

Additionally, if the system is scalable, it can extend beyond search and literally become a centralized hub by which inventory and promotions are managed for all marketing efforts throughout an entire organization.

Moral of the story… search is not just about keywords, creative and landing pages. It’s about business, and it can be the catalyst for helping to optimize a business – now that’s value!


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