This article is by
Director of Account Management Operations
Advertising can go a long way to educate consumer audiences and drive them toward purchases, but if your business is not prepared to delight the customer with everything that happens after they arrive at a product page, that advertising is wasting your time and money.
This is as true on the Walmart marketplace as anywhere else. To grow profitably you need to first do the work of getting your Walmart business retail-ready.
Retail-readiness on Walmart.com means devoting attention to several areas of your business. These areas are:
- Catalog structure
- Item categorization
- Buy box
- Fast shipping tags
- Advertising budgets
Let’s unpack each of these seven areas of your Walmart.com business so your brand can scale on the Walmart marketplace, and effectively utilize advertising dollars to achieve incremental sales.
Catalog structure will affect advertising plans, so it’s important to think it through carefully and choose the right structure for your business.
Putting variants under a base item can be helpful because all of the reviews of any variant will appear on that same base item. Reviews are critical to success on Walmart (more about this below) and employing this structure will enable you to essentially reuse reviews.
However, keep in mind that this type of structure can limit marketing real estate because you can only advertise the base item. The SKU can only show up once in the SERP.
If the variants have significantly different prices or margins, and they’re all on one base SKU, you can’t properly optimize your advertising strategy. In this case, it makes the most sense to separate the variants out as their own separate SKUs. That way you can effectively bid on and target your advertising in a way that best matches the business needs for each SKU.
Item categorization is critical to helping customers discover items within a huge catalog. If a SKU isn’t categorized at all, it technically exists but it’s not searchable, and you cannot run advertising against that product. In other words, not categorizing the item renders it virtually impossible to discover and purchase.
Here’s an example of an item that isn’t categorized. This kids hunting vest is technically live on Walmart.com and can be purchased, but it cannot be found via search and cannot be advertised.
You’ll also want to make sure your items are categorized appropriately so you’ll be able to quickly select the right item attributes, get the right referral rate (Walmart’s term for their commission), and make your items as easily discoverable as possible. Walmart provides a detailed guide on how to categorize items correctly.
If more than one seller is offering a product on Walmart, there’s a buy box, which features one seller at a time. Importantly, shoppers almost always buy from the seller which is in the buy box, and Sponsored Products ads will only appear for products that are winning the buy box. Depending on your category, competition for the buy box on a single SKU tends to be less fierce than on Amazon, but it’s still a factor.
Winning the buy box depends on several factors Walmart takes into consideration regarding how well the offering is likely to delight the customer. This includes pricing, inventory on hand, delivery time, content quality, and account performance metrics.
To win the buy box your product will need to be competitively priced. You’ll need inventory available, and be able to fulfill the order quickly to meet consumer expectations.
Quality content means that the listing text and images are complete, accurate, and engaging. You can gauge this with Walmart’s Listing Quality Dashboard. Account performance metrics are about how well your business delivers and includes seller history and customer feedback.
The ability to run a profitable business on Walmart.com requires attention to inventory management. It’s important to have the stock available to fulfill orders and to replenish inventory in a timely way to avoid stocking out and missing out on opportunities for sales.
Remember that promptly fulfilling orders is part of what goes into the buy box calculation. Ads also won’t be served for items that are out of stock.
Just as you don’t want to stock-out, you also don’t want to over-invest in inventory. Excess inventory ends up sitting around in a warehouse accruing storage costs.
These are the reasons why it’s so important to have a system for maintaining the optimal inventory on hand to meet the demand on Walmart.com.
Reviews from customers play a substantial role in influencing purchase decisions. 80-90% of shoppers rely on reviews before they buy. Regardless of product category, a substantial number of positive reviews will increase conversions and improve your buy box percentage.
You can gather great reviews by offering great products and customer service. Make sure that your listings are complete and accurate so that there’s no mismatch between expectations and reality.
Reviews can be a two-way street of communication between seller and customer — ask for reviews and be sure to always respond to negative reviews. This demonstrates that you’re listening and care about your customers.
Walmart partners with other service providers to support gathering reviews. For example, your business can use Bazaarvoice’s Spark Review program to collect customer reviews and display them on your Walmart product listings. You can also apply to syndicate your reviews to Walmart and make use of the work you’ve already done to collect reviews on other sites.
Fast Shipping Tags
Today more than ever, consumers expect that they can make an online purchase and receive their items before they, for example, run out of soap or leave for the weekend picnic.
For this reason, shoppers look for fast tags, indicating abbreviated shipping times, when selecting items to purchase. They’re even often willing to pay a little more for a product if it has a fast shipping tag.
Walmart’s TwoDay delivery program provides all shoppers with free delivery within two days. This program improves search rankings, increases buy box ownership and increases conversions. The chart below from Walmart shows how conversion rate is improved by shorter delivery time.
To participate in the TwoDay delivery program, you must apply and meet Walmart’s criteria for free shipping, on-time fulfillment, and low order cancel rates. Walmart recommends partnering with Deliverr for TwoDay shipping fulfillment.
On Walmart.com, advertising is necessary to reach new audiences and beat the competition for sales. Launching new products on the site requires an advertising investment to establish the product, garner reviews, and win the buy box, setting off the Flywheel effect. All this means it’s important to allocate a sufficient budget to properly advertise.
The primary ad type on Walmart.com is Sponsored Products. We recommend using both auto and manual campaigns — use auto campaigns to explore and discover new keywords and use manual campaigns to better target proven keywords from those automatic campaigns.
Walmart recently decreased the minimum ad budget requirements from $100 a day to only a $50 daily budget per campaign. This doesn’t mean each campaign will necessarily spend $50 a day, but that it is permitted to do so. The relaxed budget requirements make it easier to run more campaigns for finer-tuned control.
Walmart Retail-Readiness Checklist
To review, retail-readiness on Walmart requires a smart catalog structure, properly categorized items, a high buy box win rate, effective inventory management, substantial reviews, fast shipping, and an effective advertising strategy.
Use the following questions to check your business. If the answer to any of these is no, then you’ll know there’s work to do in that area. If all the answers are yes, it’s full steam ahead.
Walmart.com retail readiness checklist:
- Is my catalog structured in a way that will best enable me to manage reviews and ads?
- Are my items correctly categorized?
- Are my products winning the buy box a good percentage of the time?
- Are my products in stock and do I have a system to replenish inventory as needed?
- Do a majority of my products have substantial positive reviews?
- Am I participating in the TwoDay shipping program?
- Has my business allocated sufficient budget for advertising?