For most, it’s hard to remember a time that Walmart wasn’t the dominant retailer in the U.S. Despite the company’s scale, it has struggled in e-commerce with less than five percent market share — putting it squarely behind Amazon, which has nearly 40 percent of the market, and eBay.
However, times are changing.
Walmart is now a strong second to Amazon and growing faster than its rival. The company is embracing new strategies, partnerships, and infrastructure that have modernized its e-commerce platform and made it a more formidable rival to Amazon and direct-to-consumer sellers.
The recent closure of Jet.com signaled a change in direction for Walmart. The company is, in a sense, going back to basics and will refocus on using its physical network of nearly 5,000 stores as a primary asset for e-commerce.
Walmart.com is using stores to offer services such as online grocery ordering, which is expected to see revenues more than double in a two-year span — and is possibly experiencing a permanent boost in consumer adoption due to the pandemic. Shoppers have tasted the convenience of curbside pickup, and many are here to stay!
Walmart is also creating new allegiances. The retailer formed a partnership with Toronto-based Shopify last month. Walmart needs to win with both shoppers and marketplace sellers in order to maintain competitive selection and pricing. The Shopify partnership gives Walmart access to emerging brands, many of whom will be happy to join its marketplace and invest in Walmart’s new self-service marketplace platform covered in this article.
User experience, of course, counts for a lot, and Walmart has made major investments in its platform to enable a better shopping experience. The big news in 2020 was Walmart’s merge of its Core and Grocery apps, which ignited online grocery buying. The seller experience on Walmart.com is catching up to Amazon in terms of features, but the retailer is also working hard to deliver its own touches in hopes of appealing to its unique, value-minded customer base.
Being a little more like Amazon helps Walmart with its own vendors and sellers because many of them learn how to do e-commerce at Amazon. Consistency with Amazon’s platform drives more adoption of Walmart’s platform (and again, more selection and price competition).
Amazon may still be the leader in e-commerce, but Walmart.com has a more distinct role than ever that shouldn’t be dismissed by consumer packaged goods (CPGs). In particular, three big factors are at play: enhanced content opportunities, the introduction of new fulfillment capabilities, and the introduction of self-service marketing tools.
Time for Enhanced Content
Walmart’s enhanced content can deliver an experience similar to Amazon’s A+ content. Brands can achieve much more with product listings if they leverage these tools. Examples of Walmart Enhanced Content include:
- High-definition, responsive product images
- Video content
- 360-degree image spins
- Product comparison charts
- Larger infographics and other illustrations
This improved approach to product page content can have a measurable impact on your ability to drive sales. Research suggests that the Enhanced Content feature can boost conversion rates by as much as 10 percent on Walmart.com.
All of that said, unlike Amazon, implementing Enhanced Content on Walmart requires a bit more technical skills and tools. Amazon perfected its page-building tools over a period of years; Walmart’s process is much more manual, and you’ll typically either need special software or an agency partner to implement your creative intent.
In addition, you should learn best practices for basic content creation on Walmart.com and optimize accordingly. Although enhanced content is exciting and sexy, product title length, description length, and having the right number of product images per listing are all critically important. These should be your first focus.
Walmart Fulfillment Services
Amazon has offered its own branded fulfillment service, Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA), since 2006. The service has made it easy for sellers to list products online, generate sales revenue, and build up online reviews and a brand reputation through the platform — all while using Amazon’s immense fulfillment and customer service platform as their own back-office capability.
Until recently, Walmart had no similar fulfillment service. Instead, each brand or reseller had to figure out fulfillment on their own, absorbing associated costs and being held responsible by Walmart and shoppers for fulfillment hiccups.
Walmart Fulfillment Services (WFS) now gives sellers the option to outsource fulfillment and thereby level the playing field with Amazon.
Brands still need to cover fulfillment costs when they go through Walmart’s service, but the size and efficiency of that supply chain can provide lower costs and better value than what brands might pay on their own — or with established third parties.
Some of the offerings of Walmart Fulfillment Services are:
- Guaranteed two-day delivery for products
- Seller dashboards offering inventory tracking, order management, and shipping information
- Better search visibility through increased Buy Box prominence and Walmart Two-Day tags on product listings
- Access to the Free & Easy Returns program
- Improved control over page content for product listings
- A simple pricing structure with no hidden fees
- Personalized support to help brands maximize their Walmart.com success
The program is still largely in beta, and not every brand will qualify for access to Walmart Fulfillment Services. Products need to meet a set of requirements to have their applications for this service approved. For starters, products must be deliverable to Walmart fulfillment centers in the U.S., and can’t include any perishable or regulated products — in other words, no fresh grocery items or regulated products like tobacco or pharmaceuticals.
Self-Service Marketing Tools
Historically, Walmart.com’s marketing solutions were designed for use by companies with deep pockets that could afford a major marketing contract with the company. Although that approach delivered value to major CPG brands, budgets were out of reach for many sellers looking to market on Walmart.com. For that reason, precious marketing dollars moved to Amazon, which offered multiple solutions like Lightning Deals, Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, and others — as well as pricing to fit any budget.
Now, Walmart.com offers similar self-service marketing tools that extend paid marketing opportunities to many growing brands looking to improve their product visibility through the Walmart.com platform.
Brands can take advantage of this platform in several different ways.
The first is by directly gaining access to the suite of self-service marketing tools that Walmart.com now offers. There is a steep learning curve, however, not just for the tools but also for the best practices required to be successful. Another way to take advantage of this platform is to work with a partner who is already proficient in the tools and tactics and can help the brand establish itself and grow faster.
Adoption of these self-service tools is building gradually. Early adopters have an opportunity to deliver keyword ads that feature far less competition on Walmart.com than on rivals like Amazon. That won’t last forever, though. With Walmart’s increasing popularity as a retail channel, competition is bound to increase. Fortunately, some of the familiar tools that sellers have been using to manage their Amazon ads are now also available for the Walmart.com platform.
Regardless of what your goals with Walmart may be, the message for all CPG brands is the same: If you’ve been reluctant to start selling on Walmart.com until now, you’ll never see a better opportunity to dive in before your competitors realize what they’ve been missing.
It’s Walmart time!