What You Need to Know About the New Walmart Self-Serve Ad Platform

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The Walmart self-serve ad platform was unveiled by Walmart Media Group on January 3rd of this year.

This advertising arm of the retail giant seeks to allow marketers to more easily purchase search and sponsored product ads on the bid auction-based marketplace. This is enabled through direct access with the Walmart self-serve ad platform, officially dubbed the Walmart Advertising Partners program.

Here’s what you need to know about the Walmart self-serve ad platform as it ramps up advertising to compete with Amazon’s in-house ad platform and anticipates similar moves by Target.

The New Walmart Self-Serve Ad Platform

The platform itself is a response to the search for alternatives to Facebook and Google advertising, which have long dominated the digital ad space.

In the wake of scandals and pressure on these two ad giants, the Walmart Advertising Partners program opens a strong avenue for advertisers to depend on.

The retail marketplace made serious efforts in 2019 to build out Walmart Media Group. Moves like strengthening its supply-side ad stack signaled a push to improve transparency and control for advertisers.

Native ad campaigns, reports, and enhanced technology-enabled by acquired advertising startup Polymorph Labs completed the features for the new self-serve ad platform rollout.

The Walmart self-serve ad platform comes along with third-party deals to partner with such brands as Flywheel Digital, Kenshoo, Pacvue and Teikametrics. In total, the Walmart self-serve ad platform features aim to help advertisers to better target customers through automation with online and offline Walmart customer data.

In addition to new partners and tools, Walmart brought on additional executives and engineers in 2019 to support the advertising build-out. They have already shown success in ad campaigns run for brands like Hershey and Kellogg.

Opportunities to Expand and Maintain Category Dominance

The consumer packaged goods (CPD) category of products has been very slow to move into the online sphere. Companies focused on these item types have remained brick-and-mortar even as hundreds of other categories have seized online opportunities.

Convenience Trumps Tradition

Their reliance on physical shelf space has served CPD brands well so far. With the growth in popularity of online shopping, however, this dependency could soon cost them.

Most consumers look to the Amazon marketplace to show the available options. An online presence has become essential to brand survival.

More than having a presence, the need to successfully advertise online is vital to maintaining the level of sales these brands have become accustomed to in the physical space. More and more consumers are transitioning to online shopping, which will obviously impact continuing growth not to mention revenue over the long term.

Even if online CPD purchases currently make up only 2% of the total, brands must realize that there is an opportunity to make even more sales and happier customers by establishing online channels.

Online is Preferable

Moreover, despite this small share of the CPD market, food and beverage sales are the fastest-growing on the Amazon marketplace. This is because many prefer to shop online rather than in physical stores.

At this point in the life of eCommerce, an online store has a greater chance of making a sale than a brick and mortar establishment. This is because shoppers start their product searches online. And they look at brand credibility as well as product variety and price.

Many will also decide to purchase right there and then if they find what they are looking for. Increasingly, shoppers will resort to buying from a physical store rather than choosing to. They will take the time and make the effort to buy brick-and-mortar only when their desired item is not available online from a reliable brand at a reasonable price.

Remembering Amazon’s primary thrust:  

“To provide products at good prices and keep customers happy.”

It only makes sense that stubborn devotion to physical shelves can soon become every brand’s downfall – again, despite that small percentage that CPD companies put their hopes in.

Amazon understands the need for an omnichannel presence – evidenced by its acquisition of Whole Foods and its ongoing grocery expansion plans. This should be a sign to other CPD brands that they need to do the same if they want to maintain and continue to maximize their reach and brand reputation to pursue growth.

Competing with Amazon

The Walmart self-serve ad platform allows this marketplace as well as brands connected with it a better chance of competing with the Amazon.

Seller Central PPC

Following in Amazon’s footsteps, Walmart realized that advertisers cannot succeed at the Amazon level when constrained by their managed ad services both online and offline.

Walmart Advertising Partners gives advertisers full control over their campaigns with Walmart Performance ads (their version of Sponsored Product ads).

Performance ads use keyword targeting to rank ads on search engine results pages and place them on product page banner ads and carousels.

Walmart also has their version of the Buy Box.

Brands must win placement on the Walmart buy box and achieve top organic rankings to run Performance ads. The ads results are limited to two per search engine results page, seemingly to allow for an even distribution of opportunity for brands. There is, however, a hundred-dollar minimum daily ad spend and a thousand-dollar minimum lifetime campaign spend to qualify.

An API is in place to allow Walmart advertisers to look into campaign performance data and enable automation such as ad scheduling and inventory level warnings.

The edge that the Walmart self-serve ad platform has here is that its API pulls data from Amazon as well as Walmart to give insights on tweaks to achieve a better ranking.

Room for Growth

Marketers can’t expect Walmart’s self-serve ad platform to immediately perform as well as Amazon’s ad platform does.

Consider it an early version of Amazon Advertising.

There will surely be improvements down the line, but for now, certain features are wanting.

The platform provides only data for keyword targeting. There is as yet no data on audience or retail sales, which limits targeting capabilities. Moreover, reporting is limited to data on performance by device and insights into search frequency. One consolation is available data on in-store purchases so advertisers can map out how online behavior like site-search ties-in with in-store shopping.

Ads on Walmart have a much bigger impact on organic search results than they do on Amazon.

The cost of advertising on Walmart is also higher than on Amazon because you pay exactly what you bid rather than paying just one cent above the second-highest bid. This will entail a modified bidding strategy to remain profitable on Walmart.

Final Thoughts

The Walmart self-serve ad platform is very new and has a lot of room to grow. It still makes for a very appealing alternative for marketers, however, especially with the valuable data that Walmart can provide from its massive in-store reach.

It’s also a landmark moment for online advertising as it offers a more comparable contender to Amazon’s almost monopoly on the Net.

The Walmart self-serve ad platform also opens up digital shelf space for CPD brands to break free from physical confines so they can comfortably expand into and compete in a growing space. As more brands work within the Walmart Advertising Partners program, they will surely work to optimize targeting, measurement, and other features, just like Amazon did.

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