Amazon might have the lion’s share of inventory and sellers in the online marketplace space, but they’re not the only major player on the block. Despite some early challenges, Walmart Marketplace has made great strides in recent years, with more exciting updates on the near horizon.
Walmart is the largest retailer in the US with more than 4,700 stores across the country, and they’re rapidly building their digital presence. During their 2021 fiscal year, Walmart’s online sales grew 79%, due largely to pandemic-related effects on shopping, and a massive corporate effort to support digital demand. The shoppers are there, and they’re not just browsing or comparison shopping; they’re adding to their virtual cart.
- 90% of America shops at Walmart
- Walmart serves 150 million customers each week between their stores and website
- Walmart is the #1 U.S. retailer, #1 online grocer, and #2 ecommerce platform
The reasoning behind sellers increasingly advertising on Walmart Marketplace can be easily explained by those numbers alone, but the ‘how’ in doing so effectively requires a thoughtfully planned and executed Walmart advertising strategy.
In this article, we’ll explore the advertising options available through Walmart Marketplace, Walmart advertising best practices, and what’s new and upcoming.
Why should you advertise on the Walmart Marketplace?
Walmart Connect aggressively expanded its advertising options throughout 2021 and 2022, including Search expansion into Sponsored Brands, a Display expansion into Walmart DSS, and launching DSP for both on and off-site opportunities. Key reasons you should consider selling on the Walmart Marketplace include:
- Support organic presence. Paid advertising on Walmart.com can improve your organic presence and increase discoverability and visibility
- Boost new seller performance. New sellers (or sellers with new products) can leverage digital advertising to boost their early sales performance
- Aid struggling SKUs. Low-performing SKUs on Walmart.com can get a much-needed increase in visibility through effective, targeted ads
- Take advantage of seasonal spikes. Seasonal products—such as holiday candy and decorations, swimwear, patio furniture, and more—will be able to take advantage of seasonality spikes and respond faster to changes
- Walmart-specific promotions. Retailer-specific online promotions such as Deals for Days, Rollbacks & More, and Walmart+ exclusives drive more traffic to the site, and encourage consumers to make a purchase
Walmart Connect Ad Types
Walmart Connect offers an impressive array of valuable sponsored search and onsite or off-site display ad options to enhance your visibility.
As Tinuiti’s Mark Gray noted in one of our recent webinars, sponsored search advertisements are focused on lower-funnel tactics, while display ads in particular are often responsible for driving both online and in-store sales.
Shoppers see the display advertisements when shopping either off-site—or on Walmart’s digital properties—helping them learn more about a given product or brand. This often influences them to consider the product the next time they’re shopping at a physical store location.
1. Walmart Sponsored Products – Search In-Grid Results
Search In-grid Sponsored Products are CPC ads that appear throughout all SERP pages, driving traffic to relevant Walmart product detail pages. The advertiser controls how much they spend by setting budgets and bids, and only pays when a user clicks on the ads. These Walmart.com ads are available for both manual and automatic ad campaigns.
The minimum campaign spend for this ad type is either $100 for the total length of the campaign, and/or a daily minimum of $50. Bear in mind that this isn’t how much you will actually spend, but what Walmart has set as the minimum that will be entered into the platform.
2. Walmart Sponsored Products – Carousels
Carousel ads appear in a variety of locations across Walmart.com, from the homepage to product level pages, and all carousel types are available for both automatic and manual campaigns.
Carousels can play a pivotal role in the success of your Walmart advertising campaign, whatever your goals may be, including maintaining your existing visibility, aiming to capture new customers, promotion of new or seasonal items, and more.
Some of Walmart’s popular Carousel ad placements include:
- Search results
- Category pages
- Browse pages
- Curated shelf pages
- Product detail pages (PDPs)
- Featured Items (homepage)
In addition to the placements noted above, ads may also appear within personalized shopper carousels. These carousels can include items that customers also viewed, considered, or ultimately purchased.
3. Walmart Buy Box Banner
The Buy Box is a coveted, highly competitive placement that is available for both automatic and manual campaigns. It can be found on the product detail page (PDP) for items that are a relevant alternative to the product shoppers are viewing, or items that are complementary to the product shoppers are viewing (ie. shampoo on a conditioner page).
4. Walmart Sponsored Brands
Sponsored Brands (sometimes abbreviated to SB) is a branded group of products that appears at the top of a search result listing for specific keywords.
This ad type presents a unique opportunity to elevate brand recognition and awareness of the variety of items available within your product lineup. Sponsored Brand placements feature your logo, custom headlines, and between 2 and 10 individual SKUs, appearing above the returned search results. Shoppers are directed to a manual shelf, search, or browse page from SBs, with minimum bids for this placement currently set at $1.00.
5. Walmart Offsite and Onsite Display Advertising
As Walmart Marketplace evolves to increase advertising opportunities with the retailer themselves, they’re also leveraging strategic partnerships to grow beyond their own properties.
As part of their partnership with The Trade Desk, the two “companies have built what’s known as a “demand-side platform” (DSP) that uses Walmart shopper data to place targeted ads across the web, not just on Walmart’s own sites.” With the launch of Walmart’s DSP in 2021, “advertisers have access to all inventory that The Trade Desk offers, including connected TV, video, audio, mobile and display.”
In addition to reaching potential shoppers beyond Walmart’s digital properties through their DSP, advertisers also have access to onsite display ads through Walmart DSS—Walmart’s self-serve display platform that allows advertisers to bid on onsite display inventory.
Differences Between Walmart Advertising and Other Retail Ad Offerings
Here are some differences that Elizabeth Marsten, Sr. Director of Strategic Marketplace Services at Tinuiti, noted:
On Walmart.com, organic listings are impacted by advertising performance. You can “push” a product to higher organic listings if you have ads for the same product that get clicks and views. Search functionality isn’t as robust on Walmart.com as it is on other online marketplaces, and it is more difficult to be discovered organically if you don’t have boosters like the 2-day shipping badge.
Most brands on Walmart.com aren’t given their own exclusive page like they are on other ecommerce platforms. If you’re on a product detail page and you click a brand, the site will do a Google search for that term and send you to the results page–as opposed to Amazon, which sends you to the brand page.
What are some Walmart.com advertising best practices?
In order to get the most value from your Walmart.com advertisements, Marsten recommends making careful use of automated campaigns:
“Automated campaigns tend to perform better over time than manual campaigns, but you need to have at least 10 SKUs in the product group and start by controlling it with minimum bid and ad budgets.”
In short, don’t set and forget; check your campaigns consistently to ensure they’re operating at full potential, and your spend is in alignment with your strategy and goals. If you’re running manual campaigns, start with keywords from the Suggested Keywords tab. They’re listed in descending order, so starting with the top of the list will give you better results than the ones below—and probably better than any long-tail keywords you add yourself.
If you’re patient, you can set aside an advertising budget and consider it a test of a couple of thousand dollars’ worth of ads. It probably won’t perform as well as Amazon or Google, but it will serve as a good benchmark for future performance. Be realistic with your expectations and don’t simply copy over content from different channels. Create ad content unique to Walmart.com.
Walmart.com is not yet at the level of Amazon and Google, however, there are still benefits to exploring this market to gain both immediate value and future rewards. If you set realistic expectations as to what Walmart.com can deliver and be more open to experimentation, it’s possible to have reasonably large returns on your ad spend on this platform.
Looking Forward with Walmart Connect
When Walmart rebranded Walmart Media Group to Walmart Connect in January 2021, there was more to the change than a fresh new name. The rebranding is reflective of “Walmart’s investment in becoming one of the world’s leading omnichannel advertising businesses.” Many of these changes are already in motion…
- Closed-loop measurement helps advertisers better understand post-exposure effects on sales, new buyer acquisition, conversion lifts, and overall ROAS
- The unification of Walmart.com and Online Pickup & Delivery ecosystems increases the opportunity for search to boost both online and in-store sales
- Unique in-store digital media offerings, including ads on self-checkout screens, and ads on the TV screen walls. These ads are managed at the store level, and consider factors like if a particular product is in-stock at the time of ad delivery. This ensures your ads are only shown to shoppers who can make a purchase right away
- Self-serve display ads aim to enhance “connections between brands and customers at scale,” and are beneficial for advertisers big, small, and every size in between. Walmart noted: “While we expect our largest suppliers to adopt automation technology fastest, we are building this new platform to scale for Marketplace sellers and suppliers of all sizes.”
“Walmart Connect has placed an emphasis over several years on giving more control to advertisers by enabling a plethora of self-service advertising options from Sponsored Products to Off-Site Display capabilities, enabling brands to have more control over their allocation of media spend.”
— Mark Gray, Specialist, Marketplace Strategic Services at Tinuiti
How Advertising on Walmart is Different in 2023
In the latter half of 2022, Walmart announced two major changes to their advertising offerings: An advanced second-price auction model, and search-relevance enhancements. Both of these changes helped simplify the media buying process while helping brands optimize their ad spend.
Walmart’s advanced second-price auction model for Sponsored Products and Sponsored Brands officially launched in June 2022. Under this new structure, bids won’t solely determine the final price; relevance to the search query will too. If the winning item is highly relevant, the advertiser will likely pay less than the bid amount.
A recent Tinuiti benchmark report found the retailer’s transition from a first-price auction to a second-price auction resulted in Sponsored Products CPCs falling more than 50% year-over-year in June ‘22. Return on advertising spend was also 48% higher in June than in April. In short, this change transformed how advertisers could allocate their media dollars.
The new auction model combined with recent search-relevance enhancements offered two additional advantages. First, advertisers no longer needed to worry about bidding too much for a given keyword. Second, they wouldn’t run the risk of missing out on valuable traffic due to underbidding. Ultimately, this means that brands can bid confidently on the ad placements they need without overspending.
“Walmart’s search relevancy enhancements help level the playing field for sellers of all sizes. Now that products don’t need to serve organically within the top 128 spots to be eligible, a large bucket of demand has been unlocked that can now be leveraged to drive both product and brand performance across highly competitive, highly visible verticals.”
— Mark Gray, Specialist, Marketplace Strategic Services at Tinuiti
Advanced Second Price Auction ROAS Improvements
Walmart’s transition to an advanced second price auction brought an immediate performance boost to many Tinuiti clients. The benefits were most impactful for clients who had invested time and energy into crafting well-optimized titles and descriptions before the change. Clear, informative copy helps shoppers in making informed decisions, but it also helps in getting your paid and organic listings to surface for relevant queries.
As this chart from Insider Intelligence shows, Tinuiti clients advertising on Walmart weren’t the only winners in the auction shift. Comparing Q2 2022 to Q2 2021, we find that ROAS on Walmart skyrocketed, while declining slightly on Amazon and Instacart.
What contributed to the performance increase? Walmart’s switch to an advanced second price auction aims to ensure advertisers will often pay just 1 cent more than the second highest bid, helping more effectively utilize media spend. However, Walmart’s second price auction is unique from other advertising platforms in that it also considers relevancy. Costs may be higher or lower depending on the relevancy score the algorithm assigns.
Additionally, Walmart expanded the amount of available inventory, and advertisers are able to lower their CPCs due to the switch to a second price auction.
As a result of their recent changes, Walmart’s ROAS rose 82.95% year-over-year (YoY) in Q2 ‘22. CPCs fell 23.08% compared with the previous quarter, while the clickthrough rate rose 43.33%.
“Sponsored product ads on Walmart.com delivered higher return on ad spend (ROAS) than similar placements on Amazon in Q2 2022. Walmart’s Increased performance is attributed to enhanced search relevancy and a switch to the second-price auction model.”
— Mark Gray, Specialist, Marketplace Strategic Services at Tinuiti
The Tinuiti Advantage to Advertising on Walmart Marketplace
Tinuiti’s Marketplace Team was founded in 2007, bringing more than 16 years of marketplace and advertising experience to the table with every campaign we manage. Thanks to the capabilities made possible through Tinuiti’s proprietary MobiusX technology, our best in-class team is armed with the best in-class AI-enabled ecommerce activation tool.
As of January 2023, Tinuiti is privileged to be just 1 of 14 Walmart Advertising API partners. As a Walmart partner, Tinuiti is able to provide a host of benefits to our clients, including:
- Campaign management efficiencies
- Exclusive access to beta opportunities
- Advanced escalation resources
- Training and enablement
- …and more!
Tinuiti’s marketplace team specializes in a holistic approach to Walmart advertising, which will only become more important as advertising opportunities continue to grow. With seller success at the foundation of every decision we make—coupled with our deep knowledge and understanding of Walmart’s advertising capabilities—we thoughtfully work to increase your exposure on and off-site, regularly adjusting campaigns as needed based on performance.
“First and foremost, we need data and we need learnings, and this is why we have our autos (automatic campaigns) set at the foundation. We leverage our autos for more placements, more opportunities to perform, and more opportunities to generate performance data. We then leverage that performance data to identify key strategic products to break out into manual (keyword) targeted campaigns.”
— Stuart Clay, Associate Director of Marketplace Strategic Services at Tinuiti
Clay further notes that manual campaigns are essential to driving strategy and controlling return as there are currently no negative keywords in Walmart.com advertising. “If we have product parity across auto and manual, we always want to make sure that manual is bid higher and traffic is directed there since we have more control with the keywords.”
Ready to expand beyond Amazon advertising, or take your existing Walmart Marketplace strategy to the next level? Contact us today to learn more about how Tinuiti’s marketplace team can help you secure your piece of the Walmart pie through the industry’s most comprehensive Walmart marketing program.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Tara Johnson in January 2020 and has been regularly updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.