The value of online marketplaces is undeniable. However, few businesses get to experience their full value right off the bat. The path to success isn’t always straightforward, especially if you’re accustomed to the way that one marketplace works over another.
Case in point: when sellers make the jump from Amazon to Walmart Marketplace, many overlook the vast differences between the two. The result? Countless listing errors. Inconsistent customer experiences. And overall disappointment by Walmart’s performance.
In a live chat with AMZ Advisers and ShipCalm, we dive deeper into the most common mistakes Amazon sellers make when expanding to Walmart. Check out the full recording below, or keep reading for a recap of the conversation.
The Significance of Walmart in the Ecommerce Space
Opportunities abound on Walmart—granted, it’s still in its early development stages. In just the last year following the COVID-19 pandemic, Walmart Marketplace has seen record growth in user count, traffic and sales. While still not nearly as large as Amazon, it surpassed eBay for the second-largest share of U.S. ecommerce sales in 2020, according to eMarketer. The marketplace is only expected to shatter more records, given its investment into programs like Walmart+ (an Amazon Prime rival), WFS (an FBA rival) and its omnichannel advantage.
For the seller, Walmart offers 13 times more exposure than on Amazon because of the highly-vetted, less-competitive nature of its marketplace. While it’s not realistic to expect Walmart to bring in as many sales as Amazon (yet), those with the early mover advantage are in the best position for the long haul.
"With COVID, everyone says that ecommerce has grown 30-40%. [Walmart] has really catapulted with this trend," said Zentail's Director of Marketing Pauline Shiu. "More than any other [marketplace], I'd say Walmart is on the rise. A lot of that does have to do with grocery, but still, their tried-and-true marketplace has seen a lot of growth, both in the number of sellers [and] traffic transactions."
The Most Common Mistakes Amazon Sellers Make on Walmart
When it comes to getting started on Walmart, many Amazon sellers—even those in the top 1%—struggle to crack the nut. The truth is, Walmart is a completely different ballgame and you're going to need a unique game plan to win on it.
With the exception of distribution (which works similarly across both channels, according to CEO of ShipCalm Ted Fogliani), most operations need pivoting to accommodate Walmart’s unique requirements.
Here are specific mistakes to be on the lookout for.
1. Assuming that the Same Products that Sell on Amazon Will Sell on Walmart
While it’s certainly worth seeing if your bestsellers on Amazon will fare well on Walmart, you’ll want to take into consideration how FBA and Prime status played a role in your products’ success. In fact, 88% of Prime members say that free shopping is factored into their purchase decisions.
“A lot of sellers think, ‘I have a hundred SKUs. I’m just going to copy and paste them onto Walmart’…Candidly, we don’t see that working,” says Shiu. “It’s a different audience. It’s a different marketplace. It’s not FBA.”
Today, the audience on Walmart.com is even starting to look different from Walmart’s in-store shoppers. More than half of Walmart Marketplace shoppers are homeowners of medium-to-high income households as opposed to lower-income households, according to Walmart. Though compared to Amazon, they tend to be even more price sensitive.
Early Walmart+ adoption behaviors also suggest that consumers have a different purpose for shopping on the retailer’s site than on Amazon.com. When surveyed a few weeks after the service’s launch, 45% of Walmart+ subscribers still kept their Prime memberships.
“You really need to figure out what are the key trending products on Walmart and that can take time,” adds Shiu. “Give yourself time to, if you will, ‘A/B test’ your catalog. If you have a centralized data platform like Zentail that has your product data and your inventory all in one, it’s not that hard to toggle your listings over. Or even if you’re doing it manually or through another software provider, you can see what’s working better across your channels.”
2. Assuming that You Can Use Amazon FBA to Fulfill Walmart Orders
An overwhelming majority of Amazon sellers use FBA to remain competitive on its site. And since Amazon FBA offers multi-channel fulfillment (MCF), it’s only natural to assume that you can use it for fulfilling Walmart orders.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case. Walmart prohibits the use of FBA on its platform, which means that by using FBA, you could risk severe penalties like account suspension. The silver lining is that shipping expectations are slightly different on Walmart than on Amazon.
“For a while [in 2020, buyers] were trading availability for lead time—like if they could just get the item when stock was shrinking, they [wouldn’t mind later delivery times],” says CEO of ShipCalm Ted Fogliani. “But even as that was happening, Amazon was pushing and pushing for two-hour delivery.”
Walmart doesn't stress as much over fast shipping as Amazon does, he says. Two or three-day shipping is typical for Walmart, whereas Amazon emphasizes same-day and is working towards two-hour deliveries. For sellers, being open with buyers about expected delivery times is key.
"I still believe that a good product selection at a good price with a well-communicated message about lead time still helps conversion enough to compete with the 20-minute delivery to your front door," Fogliani says, adding that, “Fulfilling on Walmart and shipping on Walmart will get better, just like Amazon continues to get better. They're just a little bit behind on the infrastructure to do it."
With that said, most 3PLs today already support two-day shipping across the country and are working to stay ahead of the trend. Walmart also has the advantage of physical stores, where they can eventually offer more buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) options for marketplace sales.
As guidance for getting your shipping ready for Walmart, Shiu advises to keep these three things in mind:
- Three- to two-day shipping will help you receive pro-seller status
- Walmart offers shipping templates, which helps everyone (sellers, 3PLs, software service providers and customers) stay informed on when, where, and what's involved with the shipping process
- Walmart's brick-and-mortar establishment makes a significant difference for sellers (currently, Walmart accepts in-store returns for marketplace orders and in the future, may allow for pickups)
3. Not Knowing Profit Margin
A shocking number of sellers still lack a good pulse on their profits at the end of the day. Fogliani can recall several occasions when a brand was too quick to celebrate a 50% or higher gross margin, forgetting to factor in other costs.
"I sometimes think, ‘Uh oh, [50% margin] may not be enough because you’ve got freight, and you’ve got fulfillment fees and you've got acquisition costs,’" he says. "I think it's something really important to keep on the early analysis list...as great as shipping direct to consumer can be...there are some other fees that have to get onto the little piece of paper about how much money they’re making.”
Part of the problem is that adjusting price between multiple channels can be a huge challenge. Shiu warns that "paying attention and being careful to dot those i's and cross those t's for your margin" is really important. That requires running reports constantly and understanding how marketplaces themselves regard your price.
Most marketplaces, including Walmart, monitor for price parity. If it’s found that your products can be purchased for a much lower price on Amazon than on Walmart (or vice versa), your listings could be deactivated or hidden from view—throttling your sales.
Sellers can manage pricing in one of two ways: manually or with automation.
The latter is without a doubt better for larger merchants. Using Zentail, for example, you can leverage pricing management reports, make bulk edits or apply logic to maintain competitive prices as well as price parity. With the right tools and approach, you can ensure that you understand your costs and earnings, plus protect them as you continue to sell more products.
4. Overlooking the Importance of Listing Quality
One big thing to remember: Walmart’s ranking algorithm and taxonomy are different from Amazon’s. You do yourself a disservice by copying and pasting listings to save time. And more often than not, this approach is more harmful than good.
To rattle off a few differences between the two channels:
- Title length allowances: Amazon prefers longer, descriptive titles and Walmart prefers short, unique titles
- Categorization: The categories and subcategories on Amazon aren’t the same as the ones on Walmart
- Product attributes: While you should always provide both basic and advanced attributes about your product, the type of information you prioritize may vary by channel, e.g., the way that buyers filter or sort through Walmart pages can differ drastically from how they filter Amazon pages
- Listing requirements: From image sizes to copy length, data formatting and restricted categories, each channel has its unique way of managing data that needs to be followed
- Overall algorithm maturity: Walmart’s algorithm is a bit more literal than Amazon, leaning more on keywords and exact inputs to decipher search-to-product matches
This is why a listing automation platform is so imperative. You need a way to reduce the amount of repetitive work on your end while maintaining high-quality, channel-specific content. This is what triggers a positive flywheel effect: by having a high-quality listing, you can expect better rankings, more sales, better customer experiences (due to customers having a clear idea of what they’re buying from the get-go), fewer returns and more five-star reviews.
5. Mismanaging Inventory or ‘3PL Hopping’
Inventory management is notoriously difficult, especially when adding on another channel like Walmart. The first step is to find a system that can track multichannel sales and inventory in real time.
"You're gonna have to know that you have 100 sweaters: you sold five on Amazon, you sold 12 on Walmart—deduct 17 [from the total inventory]," Shiu says, which goes hand in hand with maintaining a healthy ODR and protecting your brand from overselling.
Inventory control across all channels is still, to this day, the hardest thing to manage, admits Fogliani. “You look across all these channels, and they all have different SKUs [like FBA vs. FBM, Walmart vs. DTC SKUs], they all have different descriptions, they all have multiple aliases. You start to do bundles and kits, and it becomes even more complicated...I think this is an industry challenge that we’re all trying to solve.”
Fogliani’s advice? Work with your fulfillment partner to figure it out. Don’t jump from 3PL to 3PL expecting one company to have it magically figured out. Understand what factors need to be accounted for and how to keep communication lines open (for example, if your team is planning to run a special promotion, let your 3PL know) to keep your multichannel inventory in check.
6. Handling Ads the Same Way
The bidding process for ads is fundamentally different across the two channels. On Amazon, you have a second price auction whereby the auction winner pays just a cent above the second-highest bid. However, on Walmart, you have a first auction model that’s far trickier to manage.
Under this setup, you are required to pay the amount of money you bid no matter how much higher it is from the next highest bidder (you could essentially be paying 10 times or more money than you need to be if you’re not careful). For this reason, you need to be extremely aware of your bidding and targeting, lest you blow your budget out of the water.
Beyond this, Walmart requires products to be in the top 128 organic search results to be eligible for ads. It also maintains a $1,000 per campaign minimum, as well as a $100 per day minimum per campaign.
“You then have automatic and manual campaigns,” adds Co-founder of AMZ Advisers Mike Begg. “Automatic campaigns are going to give you way more impressions, way more visibility...manual keyword searches [will offer more control but follow] the 128-rule. You may be in the top 128 for some keywords—not for other keywords—so you’re gonna run into issues there.”
His tips for getting started:
- Start with an auto campaign then switch to manual
- Separate campaigns out by match types (broad, phrase, exact) using the keywords you discovered in your auto campaign
- Create a manual campaign for branded keywords
- Take your learnings from Amazon and apply them to your ads on Walmart; some of the keywords that work well on Amazon may also work well on Walmart
- Limit yourself to one product and one ad group per campaign for best results
The Bottom Line
Walmart and Amazon may, at face value, look similar. But there’s a lot to be discovered under the surface. In the words of Shiu: “There are similar philosophies and practices, but they’re different when you execute.”
Make sure you know the differences so that you don’t get blindsided on either channel.