Walmart is one of the biggest retailers in the world with an online reputation that puts it second behind Amazon as the largest ecommerce retailer in the U.S.
But no marketplace with such a high reputation can be cultivated without high standards for its sellers. Walmart Marketplace is known as an especially selective platform. New sellers must send in an application and undergo a "trust and safety" review.
This sense of exclusivity also informs how strict Walmart is regarding infractions on their platform. The team is quick to identify several different types of violations, and if problems persist, a number of unwanted consequences can happen: Walmart may pull the listing, suspend your account, withhold money or even terminate your account for good.
It goes without saying that the best course of action is to ensure that you never find yourself in the hot seat. Here are common reasons for a suspension that you need to be aware of, and how you can take steps to avoid them.
Reason #1: Not Performing Up to Standards
At minimum, you are responsible for meeting Walmart Performance Standards. The exception is if you’re using WFS, in which case Walmart will assume responsibility for any shipping-related issues. For most marketplace sellers, the most important standards to keep in mind are:
- An Order Defect Rate (ODR) of less than 2% during a 90-day period. Your order defect rate is determined by dividing the number of orders with at least one defect by the total number of orders during the same period. Examples of such defects are seller-induced cancellations, defective or incorrect orders, late deliveries and customer complaints. While one order can have more than one problem, it is only counted as only one defect.
- The rate of on-time deliveries should be higher than 99%. This is the percentage of orders delivered on or before the expected delivery date (EDD). Orders with multiple shipments are expected to be delivered in their entirety by the EDD.
- A 14-day valid tracking rate (VTR) of more than 99%. You must provide valid tracking information and delivery scan on or before the EDD. Amazon logistics codes associated with FBA MCF orders are not considered valid. You must provide a valid link with at least one carrier scan on record.
Issues often arise when busy selling seasons hit, or when a sudden surge in demand catches sellers by surprise. While Walmart will forgive situations that are deemed out of your control, you can’t rely on this to keep you out of trouble.
That’s why it’s critical to have an inventory planning system that lets you forecast more accurately and dynamically (read: in real time), plus keep your inventory organized across all of your sales channels. A WMS can further help to prevent mis-picks and keep your warehouse running smoothly. Or, if you’re seeing an alarming high number of returns, heed Walmart’s advice and audit listing quality. There are a number of different things that can be adding fuel to the fire; uncover what they are and address them one at a time.
Reason #2: Breach of Marketplace Retailer Agreement
When you set up a Walmart seller account, you are required to agree to the Marketplace Retailer Agreement, declaring that you will not conduct any shady business and will abide by Walmart's Terms and Conditions.
This is a sort of catchall agreement, ensuring that you don’t sell any fake, used or unauthorized goods. It also outlines the processes that you will be held responsible for, like order fulfillment and inventory syncing, alongside product content policies.
To that end, it’s important for you to continuously monitor the quality of your listings, especially as Walmart makes regular changes to its requirements. If you’re not paying attention, it’s all too easy to miss the memo and suddenly face compliance issues.
You’ll also want to make sure that you’re not marketing or branding your products in ways that aren’t allowed. For instance, Walmart prohibits the inclusion of any marketing materials from any company other than Walmart in packaging and forbids branded shipping materials. Needless to say, you should read the fine print of the Agreement before you get started.
Reason #3: Trust and Safety Violation
Walmart’s Trust and Safety Standards are intended to protect consumers from unsafe or offensive material. Aside from providing a complete list of prohibited products, Walmart provides a Trust and Safety Dashboard within Seller Center that tracks three types of safety violations:
- Regulatory compliance - Violations of this includes products that are considered a risk to product and food safety regulations. Examples: foods that contain drug claims, gambling or surveillance products and baby products that lack official licenses or registration.
- Offensive product - This includes listings or items that are considered offensive by encouraging discrimination, glorifying violence or containing profanity and/or nudity (among other explicit content).
- Intellectual property - This covers products that do not cite the creator or intellectual property owner, signaling that you don't have permission or the right to distribute the product.
Reason #4: Egregious Pricing Violation
Walmart doesn’t mess around with price. While most pricing violations will result in delisting on a per-SKU basis, too many infractions or an egregious violation could warrant a suspension.
Keep in mind the two pricing rules that Walmart upholds:
- Price Parity: Your items must not be available for purchase at a lower price (including the cost of shipping) by you on a competitor’s site.
- Price Leadership: Your items must not be available for purchase at a drastically lower price (including the cost of shipping) by any other seller on Walmart.com or a competing site.
Following the COVID-19 pandemic, Walmart is also on the lookout for price gouging. The general rule of thumb? Don’t charge unfairly or take advantage of situations like the global health crisis. That’s a surefire way to get booted off the marketplace.
To help with day-to-day price management, consider pricing tools that can stay within a set limit so that you’re not inadvertently driving prices up too high or breaking price parity.
Reason #5: Failure to Meet Operational Standards
Between shipping orders on time and providing quick, helpful customer service, you are responsible for running a tight ship. Walmart, for instance, expects you to respond to all customer or Walmart Customer Care inquiries within 48 hours with a “high-quality” (aka, not simply an automated) response.
Going beyond this, you must conduct business fairly at all times, supplying information to customers that sets realistic expectations regarding purchases and delivery times.
There is an additional “respect and equality” piece to this standard. You must maintain a safe, healthy and law-abiding work environment by taking steps like:
- Enforcing every safety measure related to the workplace
- Regularly paying workers on time
- Keeping the workplace hygienic and stocked with water, food, and, should you have the capacity to do so, living facilities
- Maintain proper First Aid in an easily accessible location with a trained professional to assist if the need arises
You must additionally avoid:
- Utilizing any forced or underage labor
- Discriminating against anyone based on race, gender, age or any other factor not directly connected to their work performance
- Withholding wages via illegal or unfair practices
- Discouraging the formation of trade unions
Warning Signs that You Might Face Suspension
Despite your best efforts, you might worry that a sudden suspension is on the horizon. Fortunately, Walmart usually gives at least one warning and a reason before suspending an account. Walmart’s Partner Performance Review team will, as an example, notify you if your ODR or other performance metrics are off-target.
As a show of good faith to new accounts, Walmart will only raise the threat of suspension to sellers who have been on Walmart Marketplace for three straight months. They tend to give sellers 30 days to improve their ODR after issuing a warning before declaring any violations.
If you believe that you are not at fault for a violation, or can supply evidence to the contrary, then you can dispute the claim by providing the following information:
- A valid reason for what's causing the issues, with substantial evidence
- The time and place for when the problems first arose
- The total number of orders that were affected by the problems
If you have not improved performance or made the mandatory changes to comply with regulations within 30 days, Walmart will suspend your account. And if other actions are taken, such as terminating all open orders on your account, Walmart will make that clear in the aftermath.
How to Appeal a Walmart Suspension
All hope is not lost if you’re slapped with a suspension notice. You can initiate an appeals process, which can vary in length and difficulty. In general, here are the steps you need to take.
1. Audit Your Workflow and Find the Issue
First and foremost, you need to understand what went wrong and why. Document all the ways that your standards have slipped, then work backwards to find the root of the cause. There are third-party Walmart Appeals services that can help in this regard if you need another set of eyes and insight from those who’ve dealt with Walmart Suspensions before.
We’d also recommend tapping into Walmart seller communities to see if other sellers are dealing with the same issue in order to share tips for getting reinstated.
2. Build a Plan to Get Back on Track
Create a Business Plan of Action to get back into Walmart’s good graces. Your plan must reflect your greater understanding of the issues that got you suspended in the first place, alongside your newfound solution. If your infractions were related to the Walmart's Performance Standards and Retailer Agreement, it's best to outline how you will upgrade your trade practices. Cite any providers or software partners that are helping to address issues, and any prior communications with Walmart that may be relevant to your case.
Once your plan is ready to go, log into Seller Center and send it to Walmart support. Walmart will review your plan and notify you if your account has been reinstated.
3. Implement a Long-term Remedy
Just because you’ve successfully appealed a suspension doesn’t mean you’re out of the limelight. You’ll need to be especially careful not to break any agreements, since it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to appeal a second suspension.
Start from square one and ramp up your operations again gradually. Take advantage of modern-day software (like, cough, Zentail) that can bring your inventory management, listing quality and other workflows back up to speed while reducing your risk of error.
Walmart Marketplace has high standards. However, with the right understanding, strategy and procedures in place, they can be consistently met by businesses of any size.