Walmart has a massive omnichannel footprint—one that could make even Amazon sweat—and now greets 37 million people on Walmart.com per day. It’s no surprise that sellers are flocking to its online marketplace regarding it as the next frontier.
But as with any large-scale ecommerce site, it's easy to get lost in the constant stream of products. That’s why it’s critical to employ a strategic advertising plan on Walmart to boost your brand's long-term visibility.
In this blog, we’ll look at how advertising works on Walmart Marketplace. Learn which ad types you can choose from, how to properly set up a campaign and what type of growth to expect as you explore various ad opportunities.
The Benefits of Advertising on Walmart's Marketplace
Walmart Marketplace ads (a.k.a. Sponsored Products) supply your burgeoning ecommerce business with the power to skip ahead to the top of search results pages. More specifically, they can appear in one of many high-trafficked spots:
- Search results
- Product pages
- Category pages
Ads can help you to “prime the pump” as a new seller, or to get the ball rolling on new or slow-moving products. Referred to as the Flywheel Effect, the sales and reviews amassed through ads can have a positive impact on your organic rankings.
"Advertising with Walmart is your best dollar spend. Period,” says Jason Magee, senior director at Teikametrics. “If you get advertising spend right...you're proving to the marketplace that you deserve to rank organically because folks are actually seeing your product and understanding that it fits their needs and are completing the sales cycle."
Magee notes that his team averaged 21% to 170% growth in units sold for clients last year—85% of which came from unbranded product searches. Today, his team averages 27% improvement in ROAS and manages clients with over $200 thousand invested in Walmart ads.
Aside from generating more sales, Walmart Sponsored Products also provide a way to collect more data on your customers. You can specifically test to see what shipping speeds, prices, copy adjustments and other factors move the needle and use the resulting data to spin the flywheel even faster.
Who Is Eligible to Advertise on Walmart?
Walmart Sponsored Products are available to marketplace sellers, vendors and agencies. Ads can be created for products that are in stock and win the buy box. For Search in-grid placement specifically, your product must:
- Appear within the top 128 organic search results
- Be of the same category as the search query
- Be of same product type as at least one non-sponsored product in the top 20 result
Sponsored Products must additionally rank higher than or equal to the organic search ranking of your product.
Aside from this, you must be a seller in good standing with a willingness to commit at least $100 a day (or $1,000 per month) for ads. This doesn’t necessarily mean that your total ad spend will amount to $1,000 per month—your advertising costs are ultimately driven by CPC rates.
How Bidding Works
If you’ve ever ran ads on Amazon, you know that Amazon uses a second-bid model whereby the auction winner pays just one cent above the second highest bid. But Walmart uses a first-bid model, which can be much trickier to manage. This requires you to pay whatever amount you bid when you won the auction, even if it's 10 times higher than the next highest bidder. So, if you’re not carefully monitoring your ad campaigns, you could wind up coughing up far more money than you should be.
This brings us to our next topic: there are two main campaign types that you can choose from.
This option gives you maximum control over your Sponsored Products. You can handpick the match types (exact, phrase or broad) and keywords to bid on, using Walmart’s Keyword Analytics to identify high-value keywords. You can choose individual CPC bids and update them as you wish. This campaign type only gives you access to the search in-grid placement.
This option tends to offer maximum exposure. It’s best for those who are just getting started with Walmart ads for the first time and/or do not have the time to regularly check or optimize their ads. You can get set up quickly. All you have to do is enter required product information. Walmart’s search algorithm will handle everything from keyword management to bid adjustments with the goal of maxing out impressions. This campaign type gives you access to the search in-grid placement, in addition to the product carousel and buy box placements.
Available Ad Types
Search In-grid (Manual and Automatic)
Search in-grid highlights your products on the first page of relevant keyword search results. Your item can appear within the first 12 results of search, category and product pages. However, Walmart will not display more than two Sponsored Products at a time.
Unlike on Amazon, Walmart will also avoid showing your product twice on a SERP between your paid and organic placement.
Buy Box (Automatic Only)
The buy box is located on product pages, where sponsored products may appear below the box on relevant or complementary items. This placement gives you the unique advantage of appealing to customers at the point when they’re the most ready to make a purchase.
Carousel (Automatic Only)
Carousel ads are the simplest of the three ads types and do not require you to rank within the top 128 organic search results. This type of ad inserts your product into a scrollable carousel of similar items (with maximum of 24 products) on category and product pages.
How to Get Started
If everything checks off and you’re ready to get started with your first Sponsored Products campaign, you can either apply for the self-serve platform or gain access to its third-party AdTech platform.
For self-service, contact the Walmart Media Group through this form or email WMG_info@wal-mart.com. You’ll have to provide basic company information, as well as target audience, primary campaign objective and anticipated budget (among other details).
For third-party access, get in touch with one of Walmart’s four official advertising partners: Teikametrics, Flywheel Digital, Kenshoo or Pacvue.
Tips for Your First Ad Campaign
There are some basic housekeeping rules to keep in mind as you’re preparing for your first Walmart ad campaign. First, you’ll want to remember that the success of your listing still depends on providing high-quality content. Advertising a poor-quality listing will only amplify poor-quality results. So, follow Walmart’s SEO advice and complete the CARE (complete, accurate, relevant, engaging) checklist. Make sure that prior to putting ad dollars behind your listing, your product page is fully optimized to convert visitors into buyers.
Secondly, start with a large assortment of products in order to cast a wide net and gather enough helpful data to guide future campaigns. As Jason Magee of Teikametrics put it, "Explore and exploit."
This applies to campaign and ad types as well: it benefits to test multiple at once. However, if you are new to sponsored products, start with automatic because it has the greatest reach with the least setup. You can lean on Walmart's algorithm to start, then convert to manual or a mix of the two after you get used to the process.
For manual campaigns, Walmart Marketplace has added reports such as a keyword report that can be used as a tool for search harvesting. Manual campaigns involve actively bidding against keywords. They are more strategic and less wasteful, albeit they require more work. (This is where an AI-driven partner like Teikametrics can truly add value.)
A combo of the auto and manual ads can allow you to expand your reach, while building a strong foundation for more controlled spending. As Magee likes to say, "Auto is for show, manual is for dough," and you can use content-based automatic campaigns to explore new opportunities, trends and more before switching over to keyword-based manual campaigns.
How do I start advertising on Walmart?
Request access through the Walmart Media Group form or one of Walmart’s four official ad partners. After you're approved, getting started is a matter of choosing what kind of campaign works best for you and setting your marketing budget. Walmart requires a minimum monthly budget of at least $1,000 and a daily budget of $100.
How much are CPCs currently?
The cost-per-click is a highly-fluid number that's dependent on many factors including your product's category and competitiveness, but for automatic campaigns $0.20 per click is the lowest; for manual campaigns that number is $0.30.
Regardless of the current CPC rate, Walmart is a great value, averaging anywhere form ⅓ to ⅕ less than other platforms, according to Teikametrics.
How does increasing your visibility help?
Every day, Walmart marketplace becomes more competitive. Just like a physical store, shoppers don't have the time to go down every aisle, nor can they check out every page online. Advertising boosts your visibility, essentially putting your product in your buyers' hands. The impressions, sales and reviews you generate from ads have also been known to help organic rankings by signaling to Walmart that your product is popular, plus trustworthy.
How do you get the most out of manual and automatic campaigns?
The key to using manual and automatic advertising campaigns effectively is learning how to balance the two concurrently. They each have their role. Automatic campaigns are governed by the Walmart algorithm, aimed at giving your products the most exposure across the platform. Manual campaigns are more focused and dependent on keyword-targeting. The data from automatic campaigns can help you more intelligently pick keywords for your manual campaigns, which will ultimately help to reduce wasted spend.
How can you appropriately scale your ad performance?
As noted above, scaling your business through Walmart's marketplace is a matter of leveraging the synergistic power of automatic and manual ad campaigns.
Auto allows you to test keywords and analyze what products are doing well. In Seller Center, you can use advanced reporting tools to see where an ad was served (desktop vs. mobile browser vs. mobile app), then be more aggressive with your high-performance merchandise.
Manual advertising focuses on how buyers search Walmart.com. It helps to separate campaigns by item and treat your searches with an appropriate level of differentiation. That way you can set multiple ROAS goals depending on the item. Be open to increasing your budget at times when your buyers are most likely to hit 'buy.' The Walmart platform gives you a high level of marketing customization, allowing you to strategically scale your efforts.
What are the key differences between self-serve and third-party?
With a self-serve account, you have full control over campaign optimization and are responsible for pulling your own reports. With a consulting partner, you have access to technology like AI and machine learning. The difference is usually control versus added data.
When making your choice, it helps to understand how bidding works on Walmart Marketplace. Walmart operates ad bidding differently than a platform like Amazon. Amazon employs second-price bidding. If you bid $5, and the competitor bids $3, you win the bid and pay $3.01. Walmart, however, is a first-price bid, meaning if you bid $5, you pay $5. Winning bids without overpaying is a statistics problem that requires advanced data to adequately solve. That's where a consulting partner is most valuable.
Ready to Get More Out of Walmart?
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