Walmart plots roadmap for media business with focus on premium ads

Live Brief:

  • Walmart outlined plans to grow its Walmart Connect advertising platform this year, including through a focus on premium ad experiences, in a company blog post.
  • The big-box store said it will begin testing on-site video ads on Walmart.com later in 2022. It is also developing new ad formats for connected TV and video, along with “omni experiences” across self-checkout screens, TV walls , in-store events and sampling.
  • On the campaign management end, the chain is enriching its targeting, search and measurement capabilities, and will shift to a second-price auction model that is common in programmatic bidding. Walmart is quickly scaling its retail media business as the segment draws significant revenue but also faces stiffer competition.

Live Insight:

Walmart has big plans for Connect as the segment now generates billions for the retailer. The 2022 roadmap will see the big-box chain attempt to refine its technology stack while diversifying the types of ads that can be placed across its digital properties and storefronts, particularly when it comes to video.

The spotlight on video demonstrates Walmart is angling for more premium brand dollars but also suggests that common units like display and sponsored product listings could be nearing a saturation point. Fueling interest in these formats is Walmart’s troves of first-party shopper data. Walmart said more than 150 million customers shop its digital and physical stores each week.

In pitching a wider range of brands, Walmart continues to emphasize automation that can make launching and managing campaigns easier. About half of Walmart Connect’s ad sales in the fourth quarter derived from automated channels, Walmart previously stated. Walmart Connect saw its advertiser base grow 136% year-on-year in 2021.

Connect recently opened a self-service portal for display ads to select advertisers, a mark of maturity for digital platforms that are trying to reach brands with differing budgets. Self-service tends to be less expensive than managed services, where a platform handles campaigns for clients on a more individualized basis. Walmart is also broadening the availability of the Walmart Demand Side Platform (DSP), an automated solution for purchasing off-site inventory that was developed with the help of ad-tech partner The Trade Desk. Walmart DSP was announced in August and saw its first pilots starting in October.

Walmart DSP is a substantial bet that a traditional retailer can build and scale a complicated piece of ad tech. But Walmart at the same time is expanding the roster of outside vendors available on Connect through the Walmart Partner Program. Jungle Scout, an e-commerce technology firm largely known for its work on Amazon, joined the program earlier this month. Its Downstream by Jungle Scout solution is now integrated with Walmart’s sponsored products API.

Other retailers are trying to grow their partner networks to make services more accessible and robust. The grocery chain Kroger, which also operates a substantial retail media business, this week started allowing ad inventory on its websites to be purchased through select third-party platforms for the first time. Pacvue, Skai and Flywheel are the initial partners.

Walmart broke out sales from Connect for the first time last quarter, stating the group generated $2.1 billion in revenue for the full year. Those figures trump rivals in the traditional retail space but are small compared to digital heavyweights. Amazon, for instance, drew more than $30 billion from ad sales in 2021. Walmart has said its aim is to eventually become a top-10 advertising platform.

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