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 made great strides in 2020 and the first half of 2021, with more exciting updates on the near horizon.
Due largely to a combination of pandemic-related effects on shopping, its significant physical footprint—Walmart is the largest retailer in the US, after all, with more than 4,700 stores across the country—and the massive corporate effort behind building up its digital presence, Walmart’s “online sales grew 79% for its fiscal year 2021, which ended Jan. 29.” The shoppers are there, and they’re not just browsing or comparison shopping; they’re adding to their virtual cart.
In a recent webinar session focused on scaling your Walmart sales, presented by Tinuiti’s Stuart Clay and Walmart Connect’s Matthew Smith, Smith shared the following (Sources: Walmart first-party data, 2019, 2020, 2021):
- 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.
New to selling on the Walmart Marketplace? Start with our beginner’s guide.
Why should you advertise on Walmart.com?
Amazon is still the undisputed ecommerce leader, but Walmart.com has several things going for it that make it a good investment for retailers looking to expand and diversify.
Support organic presence. Paid advertising on Walmart.com can assist your organic presence and increase discoverability and visibility.
Boosts new seller performance. New sellers and 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—to include holiday candy and decorations, swimwear, patio furniture, and more—will be able to take advantage of seasonality spikes and respond faster to changes.
Walmart.com Ad Types
While Walmart.com doesn’t have as many ad types available for retailers as Amazon.com, there is still an impressive array of valuable sponsored product and onsite and offsite display ad options to enhance your visibility.
As Walmart Connect’s Matthew Smith noted in a recent webinar with Tinuiti, display ads in particular are often responsible for driving both online and in-store sales. Shoppers see the display ads when shopping Walmart.com, learning more about a given product or brand, and often seek out the product next time they’re shopping at a physical store location.
1. Walmart Sponsored Products – Search In-Grid Results
These are CPC ads that appear within the first three pages of search results, 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
To be eligible for search in-grid ad placement, the store and/or grocery products you wish to advertise must already surface organically within the first 128 search result positions, due to this ad type’s heavy reliance on relevancy. If your product is truly relevant for a search, chances are you’re already showing within these 128 results, with advertising offering a fast track to even greater visibility.
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, with differing availability for manual campaigns and automatic campaigns. All carousel types are available for automatic campaigns, while only the search carousel is available for 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)
Unlike search in-grid ads, the items you wish to promote through Carousels do not have to appear in the top 128 organic listings.
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
This is a coveted, highly competitive placement that is only available for automatic campaigns (not manual). The Buy Box 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 Search Brand Amplifier
SBA (Search Brand Amplifier) is a branded group of products that appears at the top of a search result listing for specific keywords. Much like with display packages, this placement is also managed by the Walmart Connect team.
This ad type presents a unique opportunity to elevate brand recognition, and awareness of the variety of items available within your product lineup. Brand Amplifier placements feature your logo, custom headlines, and up to 3 individual SKUs, appearing above the returned search results. Shoppers are directed to a manual shelf, search, or browse page from SBAs, with minimum bids for this placement currently set at $1.00.
5. Walmart Offsite Display Advertising
Brands are also given an opportunity to reach potential shoppers beyond Walmart’s digital properties. In addition to the host of benefits onsite display ads offer, offsite display ads help capture customers across the greater web, including through social media.
How different is advertising on Walmart.com?
Advertising on Walmart.com is different from advertising on Amazon or Google. There are differences in the way Walmart handles algorithms and treats brands.
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
- 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
- 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
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 the 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.”
Also, automated campaigns have the potential to take off very quickly, due to them being eligible for more placements, and because of Walmart’s first-price auction. 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. As explored in more detail in our What is Walmart Connect? blog post, 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…
- As Walmart Connect’s Matthew Smith explained in a recent webinar, the role of Walmart Connect is to stay at the center of the shopper journey, wherever that shopper is
- Closed-loop measurement helps advertisers better understand post-exposure effects on sales, new buyer acquisition, conversion lifts, and overall ROAS
- With Walmart unifying the Walmart.com and Online Pickup & Delivery ecosystems, the opportunity for search to result in increased online and in-store sales only continues to climb
- Walmart will offer advertisers unique opportunities to reach in-store shoppers through digital media, including ads on self-checkout screens, and ads on the TV screen walls. Because these ads will be managed at the store level, they’ll be able to take consideration of things like whether a particular product is in-stock at the time of ad delivery. This can help ensure you aren’t spending valuable advertising dollars piquing the interest of shoppers who are unable to make a purchase then and there
- Self-serve display ads are coming to Walmart Connect later this year, a platform aimed at enhancing “connections between brands and customers at scale.” Among the primary benefits the self-serve platform brings is scalability for advertisers big, small, and every size in between. Walmart notes: “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 Partners with The Trade Desk
As Walmart Marketplace evolves to increase your advertising opportunities with the retailer themselves, they’re also leveraging strategic partnerships to grow beyond their own properties. As part of their recently-announced partnership with The Trade Desk, the two “companies are building what’s known as a “demand-side platform” (DSP) that will use Walmart shopper data to place targeted ads across the web, not just on Walmart’s own sites.” Walmart’s Chief Customer Officer, Janey Whiteside, shared the following in an interview:
“We’re pretty confident that we’re going to be able to grow this business to become one of the top 10 advertising platforms in the U.S. over the next few years.”
Once Walmart’s DSP launches, “advertisers will have access to all inventory that The Trade Desk offers, including connected TV, video, audio, mobile and display.”
The Tinuiti Advantage to Advertising on Walmart Marketplace
Tinuiti’s Marketplace Team was founded in 2007, bringing more than 14 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 May 2021, Tinuiti is privileged to be just 1 of 8 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 updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.