Omnichannel Strategies

Walmart Advertising 101: How to Make Walmart Marketplace a Part of Your Growth Strategy

Tara Johnson / 9 min read
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Walmart Advertising 101: How to Make Walmart Marketplace a Part of Your Growth Strategy

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Walmart is one of the largest retailers in the world. With hundreds of millions of customers each week between their physical Walmart stores and ecommerce marketplace, they continue to ramp up their ecommerce presence and improve their ad tech to compete with Amazon and Google.

And Walmart is hot on Amazon’s heels: Between early 2017 and last year [early 2019], Walmart saw 207% growth in its ecommerce buyer base. In 2018, Walmart became the third-largest ecommerce retailer in the United States, with online sales up by 43% in the third quarter of 2018.

.Right now, the Walmart marketplace presents a fantastic opportunity for ecommerce sellers. More than 110 million people shop on Walmart.com each month, and the marketplace has grown 2020 sales at a higher rate than eBay.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to make Walmart marketplace a part of your ecommerce growth strategy through Walmart advertising.

Walmart Advertising Needs to be a Part of Your Businesses’ Growth Strategy

If you sell on Walmart and want to improve your digital marketing strategy and reach more ecommerce shoppers, you need to be advertising through Walmart.

This is especially true if you want to target Amazon shoppers: According to Consumer Intelligent Research, the average US Amazon Prime customer spends more than $1,300 a year, and there are more than 100 million Prime members around the world. However  many Americans also shop at Walmart or Walmart.com.

Plus, advertising on Walmart can help you reach more in-store customers, too: 62% of Walmart customers say their ad experiences on Walmart’s site or app influence their in-store experience.

Here are some additional reasons you need to make Walmart advertising part of your growth strategy. 

1. Measure the effectiveness of your performance ads.

The self-serve advertising portal Walmart rolled out in January 2020 makes it easier for sellers to:

  • Target the right consumers
  • Measure the impact of their Walmart ads

Lex Josephs, Walmart Media Group’s VP of Sales and Media Partnerships, explained in the official release

With 90% of America shopping at Walmart every year and nearly 160 million visitors to our stores and website every week, Walmart Media Group enables brands to reach more customers at scale and measure advertising effectiveness across the entire shopping journey. Now, brands can tap into Walmart’s shopper footprint to get the right sponsored ad experience, to the right shopper at the right moment.”

Walmart claims that this new omnichannel advertising portal offers a closed-loop advertising strategy that can accurately measure your digital campaign’s effectiveness on its site, mobile apps, and in-store.

2. Supports your organic strategy. 

Clicks and views generated by your Walmart advertising can boost your long-term Walmart SEO efforts. 

Walmart itself has stated that investing in Sponsored Products ads can increase organic ranking. When products get views from your ads, it increases their relevance for the terms that you bid on and that the user searched for. You can also use Sponsored Products ads to give new product listings a jumpstart in gathering data and increasing visibility in the Walmart search engine results pages.

3. Get visibility for new and low performing products. 

Walmart.com brings in up to 100 million unique visitors a month. Those visitors interact with the search results page, product detail pages, and category pages — all primary places for Walmart sponsored ads.

Advertising on Walmart can drive visibility for your products, especially new products or low-performing SKUs. Effective, targeted advertising can help get your lesser-known products in front of a wider audience across the site. 

How Walmart Advertising Actually Works

Walmart’s self-managed service ad platform enables advertisers to purchase ad space within Walmart’s marketplace directly. This new ad platform works similarly to Amazon’s self-serve advertising. 

In the official announcement of the new ad platform, Walmart shared:

“Today, we’re kicking off 2020 with the launch of our Walmart Advertising Partners program to expand advertisers’ direct access to their Sponsored Products campaigns, a bidded auction-based marketplace, giving them more transparency and control. Brands will now be able to increase visibility with Walmart’s diverse, sizable audience of shoppers.”

Walmart has invested in building an in-house advertising platform through Walmart Media Group that lets advertisers buy on-site search and Sponsored Product ads that appear on Walmart’s ecommerce sites and apps.

Ways to Advertise with Walmart

All of Walmart’s advertising options operate on a CPC (cost-per-click) model, so you’re only charged when users click on an ad. 

Walmart’s ad offerings are similar to Amazon’s Headline ads. Each ad links to the Walmart product detail page for the product advertised.

In this post, we will discuss the following Walmart Product Ads including:

  • Walmart Sponsored Products
  • Search Brand Amplifiers
  • Buy Box Banners

1. Sponsored product in-grid search results.

Walmart’s Sponsored Product ads can help increase conversions and boost visibility for new products. According to Walmart, Sponsored Products are chosen “based on a combination of relevancy and bid” and must be in stock to be promoted. 

There are two ad types for Sponsored Products:: In-grid search results and Sponsored Product carousels. 

To appear in the in-grid search results, the Sponsored Product must appear organically within the top 128 results and win the buy box. In-grid search results ads look like this:

walmart example 1

The ads drive traffic to product detail pages. Brands can set budgets for the ad campaigns; however, the minimum campaign spend for in-grid Sponsored Product ads is $100, with a daily minimum of $50.

2. Sponsored product carousels. 

Sponsored Product carousels show up on the search results, category, and product pages. They look like this:

Walmart example 2

Items promoted via carousel don’t need to rank within the top 128 organic listings; you just need to pay to have your products listed. Sponsored Product carousels are only available for automatic campaigns.

3. Search brand amplifiers.

Walmart SBA (Search Brand Amplifier) is a branded group of products that show up at the top of a search result listing for specific keywords. This advertising placement is managed through the Walmart internal media team and needs at least 4 Base IDs to be booked.

These ads can help your business drive sales and improve brand awareness, which can be a big help for new sellers or brands launching new product lines. 

4. Buy box banner ads.

This is a coveted spot that is not directly targetable. It’s possible to win the buy box banner only through automatic campaigns depending on relevance and a competitive bid. 

Pro-tip: Walmart does offer additional Display ad options, but keep in mind those ad placements often come with a commitment requirement and higher price tag.

How Walmart Advertising Differs from Amazon

Walmart’s self-serve advertising platform is much newer than Amazon’s and is similar to Amazon’s in its early stages.

But that’s not the only difference. At this time, Walmart offers limited targeting capabilities, centered mostly around keywords and bids. Unlike Amazon, they don’t have audience, page placement type or sales data to use as ad targets in the self-service model.

In addition to targeting and reporting, you should know these three differences between advertising on Amazon and Walmart marketplace advertising.

1. Types of ad auctions.

Walmart uses a first-bid auction, which means that the winning bidder pays their full cost-per-click (CPC) bid. Amazon uses a second-bid auction, where the winning bidder pays the cost of the second-highest bid plus one cent.

This means that brands can wind up paying a lot more bidding on Walmart ads than on Amazon.

Walmart ads

2. Bidding strategy. 

Different auction types require different bidding strategies.

On Amazon, you can bid high and know that you may not pay your full bid. (Instead, if you win, you’ll pay the second-highest bid plus one cent). This flexibility means that you can bid on less expensive long-tail keywords to drive sales, then bid higher on more competitive keywords to win share of voice. 

On Walmart, on the other hand, bidding high can end up costing you a fair chunk of your advertising budget. Instead, start your bid low, then scale them up gradually until you find the right mix of reach and return on ad spend (ROAS). Because fewer advertisers are competing for share of voice on Walmart than on Amazon, brands tend to see a higher ROAS on Walmart when they bid strategically (as opposed to starting high). 

3. Auto bids. 

Walmart allows advertisers to set automatic campaign bids at the item level, which lets you group similar products into the same automatic campaign and set individual bids for each product. 

On Amazon, automatic campaign bids are set at the campaign level. To set product-level bids for automatic campaigns on Amazon, you’d need to set up different campaigns for every product. Walmart’s setup allows for much more specific bidding than Amazon.

5 Steps for Getting Started with Walmart Advertising

By now, you can probably tell that advertising on Walmart can be a great way to get your products in front of more shoppers and drive sales both online and off. 

Still not convinced? Take a look at this quote from Elizabeth Marsten, Senior Director of Strategic Marketplace Services at Tinuiti:

“Today, Walmart presents a viable and promising opportunity for brands to expand beyond Amazon. The functionality and performance of Walmart’s self-service advertising platform mirrors much of what we saw with Amazon Sponsored Products when it launched in 2014, where early investors had huge competitive advantages.”

If you’re ready to get started with Walmart advertising, here’s how to do it.

1. Become a Walmart Marketplace seller. 

To sell on Walmart’s website as an approved Walmart Seller, you have to apply via Walmart.com.

The application requires the following info:

  • General contact information (name, email, company name, website, etc.)
  • Business information
  • Product assortment information
  • Ecommerce and marketplace experience
  • Operations information

Once you submit your application, the Walmart team will review it. If your application is approved, you’ll sign the Retailer Agreement and start onboarding as a seller. 

“There’s no magic formula for being accepted into Walmart’s Seller program, but there are a few key requirements that brands and sellers should fit,” explains Elizabeth. “These include reputation, sales projections, and alignment with Walmart’s values.”

2. Create a product catalog. 

When listing products on Walmart, consider starting with products that already sell well and have positive feedback on Amazon. Our recommendation for Amazon sellers looking to expand to Walmart is to have at least a 95% feedback or seller rating on Amazon and at least 50 product reviews.

Additionally, keep in mind that the following products are prohibited or restricted by Walmart: 

  • Alcohol
  • Animals
  • Artifacts
  • Collectibles
  • Used products
  • Currency
  • Drugs and medical devices

You can view a full list of prohibited items here

When you create your product catalog, make sure you have the following info ready to add to your product listings in Walmart Seller Central:

  • Product details
  • Product images
  • Pricing
  • Reviews
  • Inventory
  • Promotions

There are three ways to upload your products to Walmart.com:

  • Via the Walmart API
  • As a bulk upload using Excel spreadsheets
  • Through a Walmart channel partner like SellerActive

3. Request to use Walmart advertising.

To advertise on Walmart, you have to submit an additional application. To apply, reach out to Walmart Media Group with the following info: 

  • Company name
  • Contact information
  • Number of SKUs
  • Product category
  • Primary campaign objective
  • Target audience
  • Desired advertising plan
  • Anticipated monthly budget 

Approval depends on your company’s performance on Walmart Marketplace; however, Walmart Media Group doesn’t list its performance requirements publicly.

4. Attend Walmart online training. 

If the Walmart Media Group approves your application, they will contact you and invite you to a mandatory online training webinar. 

Walmart Media Group hosts weekly webinars that cover the basics of the Walmart ad platform, how to create ads, and other relevant information. There is also a live Q&A session at the end of the webinar.

5. Launch your campaigns. 

Once you’ve fully onboarded, you’re nearly ready to launch your first campaign. 

Before you do, make sure you have a clear plan for your Walmart advertising budget. We recommend budgeting advertising costs for the following strategies:

  • Paid advertising to boost organic presence and increase discoverability and visibility
  • Digital advertising to improve new product performance
  • Target ads to increase the visibility of low-performing SKUs
  • Seasonal product ads to take advantage of seasonality spikes

You’ll also need to decide the length of your campaign, which specific products to promote, and how much you’re willing to budget for each specific product. 

Once your campaign launches, don’t forget to monitor campaign performance and adjust your strategy and spend accordingly.

4 Best Practices for Successful Walmart Advertising

Walmart advertising is similar to Amazon advertising in many ways, but it’s essential to create a dedicated plan for each platform. Here are four best practices to get the most out of your Walmart advertising strategy. 

1. Be mindful when using automated campaigns 

Elizabeth Marsten recommends making careful use of Walmart’s 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, working your way up to find that sweet spot.”

When bidding on automated campaigns, try starting your bids at about $0.30-$0.50 and increasing from there. Because they’re eligible for more placements on Walmart.com, automated campaigns can potentially take off quickly (and end up costing much more than you’ve budgeted for). Check on your automated campaigns frequently to keep an eye on their performance and spend.

2. Test keywords for manual campaigns

For manual campaigns, use Walmart’s suggested keywords and test out higher bids for closely related keywords. Try starting your bids around $0.50, and use cascading bids by match type. Cascading bids let you make higher bids on the most closely related keywords, and lower bids on broader keywords.

Also, keep in mind that you’ll probably see lower volume with manual campaigns than with automatic campaigns, and that success for these campaigns is category-dependent.

3. Optimize your product listing and creative 

Great ads will get shoppers on your product page, but your product listing content will make them convert. Optimize product listings and product visuals to create better customer experience on Walmart.com

To make the most of your Walmart product listing content:

  • Be concise
  • Make the value proposition front-and-center
  • Use relevant keywords, but don’t repeat the same keyword more than three times
  • Include high-quality images that show your product in use
  • If your product category allows it, add video
  • In the Walmart Seller Center, add product attributes, tagging, and backend keywords

“Detailed content is the best way to convey the value proposition of your product to the consumer. A Walmart shopper is much more likely to convert on a product online when it has clear and concise information regarding its use.” – Megan MacDonald, Senior Advertising Account Manager at Tinuiti

4. Consider partnering with an ecommerce agency.

If you want to ramp up your Walmart advertising quickly and effectively, consider partnering with an ecommerce agency. Ecommerce agencies offer marketplace expertise and experience that make it easier for brands to get started and see results more quickly. 

An ecommerce agency like Tinuiti will also have a proven methodology of campaign structure, keyword research and optimization, and product promotion in Walmart advertising, which can take a lot of the guesswork out of the equation. Tinuiti also works directly with Walmart as a partner in product development and business development to improve functionality, features, and scalability of its advertising products.

Finally, an agency can help you optimize campaigns to make your ads more effective and offer creative services to make your ads and listings more likely to convert.

Executive Summary 

As Walmart continues to ramp up its ecommerce presence to compete with Amazon, it’s never been a better time to start advertising on Walmart.com.

If you sell on Walmart and want to reach more ecommerce shoppers, you need to be advertising through Walmart’s new self-serve platform. By following the best practices in this guide, you’ll be set up for success to make Walmart advertising an integral part of your ecommerce growth strategy.

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    Tara Johnson

    Tara Johnson

    Lead Content Strategist at Tinuiti

    Tara Johnson is currently the leading voice behind the Tinuiti blog. In 2018, she was named one of the top “50 Ecommerce Experts You Must Follow” by Ecommerce Platform & one of the top “15 Ecommerce Professionals to Look Out For” by Ecommerce Magazine. She's published an extensive library of content on ecommerce-based topics including Google, Facebook, Amazon, Instagram, and Influencer Marketing. Today, she lives in San Diego, CA.

    View all posts by Tara Johnson

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