Walmart Advertising Strategy Guide: How To Harness The Power Of Performance Ads
Estimated reading time: 13 minutes.
“Retail e-commerce sales projected to pass 4 trillion (14.6% of total retail sales) by 2020.”
Competition is rife in ecommerce, and that’s only set to increase. Whilst studies say that the number of us blocking ads has gone up, that doesn’t mean we should give up on advertising altogether.
This is why performance-based advertising is so popular - you only pay for desired actions once you’ve received them. Whether it be impressions you want, clicks, engagements, leads or sales, you don’t waste money advertising to people who ignore or don’t see you.
According to marketing and SEO industry leader Neil Patel, “you’ll reach more consumers than ever before with performance-based marketing. Take Google AdWords, for example. With this tool, you’re purchasing an entire army of websites promoting your products… your ad won’t just appear on SERPs… [but] on any relevant website in the Google Display Network… Done right, performance-based marketing is nothing but profitable and user-friendly.”
Harnessing the power of performance ads can be overwhelming, especially if you already sell on other platforms and will need to adjust your strategy specifically for Walmart.
To help you get started, this article explores:
- Walmart advertising strategy compared to Amazon.
- Walmart’s advertising options for sellers.
- How to get attention with your ads.
- Measuring your ROI.
- Tools for successful advertising and promotion.
- Other ways to increase your traffic and revenue.
Walmart Advertising Strategy (vs. Amazon)
With a new ecommerce platform comes the need for a new or revised strategy. Whilst performance metrics remain the same, the way to use and optimize your content for them is different. If you can harness the benefits across all your platforms, you should see significant results.
So how does Walmart advertising strategy compare to Amazon?
Walmart Sponsored Products Strategy
If you wish to advertise on Walmart Marketplace, you will be required to attend a webinar hosted by Walmart Media Group on the platform. These happen weekly and introduce you to your options, potential strategies and provide the opportunity for you to ask questions.
Walmart Sponsored Products (or ads) are a good resource for increasing your visibility to shoppers. They can land you on the first page of search results, category pages and item pages.
According to Teikametrics, only about 1.6% of Walmart’s sellers advertise. Optimising your Walmart advertising strategy may take you a bit longer in the beginning, but by getting this right now when competition on the platform is lower, you can find your winning formula and gain a competitive advantage before your future competitors get started.
Essentially your key areas to focus on are the same as for Amazon:
- Carefully monitor your CPC bids so that you grow your SOV (share of voice) and ROAS (return on ad spend) cost effectively.
- React and change bids to reflect what customers are doing.
- Don’t underestimate the potential of boosting your secondary products.
Now let’s take a deeper dive into each of these areas, and how to optimise them for Walmart.
1. Nailing Return on Ad Spend (ROAS) vs. Share of Voice (SOV)
If you already sell on Amazon, you’ll likely know about ROAS and SOV metrics - but just in case, here’s a quick refresher:
- ROAS: the revenue you make for each advertising dollar you spend.
- SOV: your brand’s visibility for keywords and categories compared with competitors.
Amazon and Walmart both advertise using the Cost-per-Click (CPC) model. The above metrics end up not aligning, i.e. if your CPC bid is high, so will your SOV be, but not your ROAS - so finding the right balance when optimizing bids is crucial.
Amazon and Walmart require different approaches to nail this.
The winning bid on Amazon is the second highest plus one cent. On Walmart, the highest bid wins. This means that on Amazon you have a bit more freedom to bid high because you may not win. As a result, the competition is fierce, and often more expensive. On Amazon, it might make sense to try different strategies like bidding on long-tail keywords where you will have higher SOV.
With Walmart, just trying to bid high and win may not be the best plan. Just because your SOV is high, won’t necessarily mean your ROAS is too and remember, you want to balance both.
President and Co-Founder of Pacvue, Melissa Burdick, recommends a scaling approach:
“…start low and scale bids up by 15-20% every few days until you hit your target Share of Voice. This approach is especially useful right now, as there is less competition on Walmart and brands are generally seeing a higher Return on Ad Spend than on Amazon.”
The key takeaway here? Nailing this early will give you competitive advantage as the Walmart Marketplace expands.
2. Optimize for Specific Devices
Walmart is unique in that it allows you to optimize your strategy based on the device type used by customers. If you know your conversion rates are better for a specific device, you might want to increase your ad spend accordingly.
Interestingly, in this report by Wolfgang Digital in 2019, it appears that whilst traffic is highest via mobile, revenue still comes mainly from desktop users:
3. Invest Ad Spend in Your Secondary Products
Many brands are known best for a particular product or few particular products they sell, regardless of how wide their portfolio might actually be.
Whilst it makes sense to have these hero products, it is important not to ignore the potential in elevating your other listings as well. Amazon offers Sponsored Brand Ads for you to raise your brand awareness for other products on the platform, which is especially helpful if you need to move attention away from your hero products - perhaps they are not the most profitable or maybe stock is running low…
Walmart works a little differently. Melissa Burdick explains:
“When running manual campaigns on Walmart, a product must rank in the top 128 organic search results in order to show up in a Sponsored Product ad placement for that given keyword. While this likely will not be a problem for your hero products, that gives you limited options for your secondary products.
For products outside the top 128, you can use Walmart’s automatic campaigns to build awareness, drive sales, and ultimately increase organic ranking. The benefit is that, with a limited number of spots available, you can effectively capture long-term Share of Voice benefits just by making incremental gains in organic ranking.”
Other Types of Walmart Advertising
Walmart Marketplace also offers other advertising options for different purposes such as:
- Winning the buy box.
- Native banner ads.
- Catapult ads.
- Site search feature ads.
Winning the Buy Box
Walmart is a little bit less ruthless than Amazon when it comes to winning the buy box. Unlike with Amazon, to be in with a chance on Walmart, you just need competitive pricing and plenty of stock.
If you are reselling an existing product, you can share a listing, meaning that your edge will really come down to price. Having the buy box on your side is invaluable advertising and since it is much easier to win than Amazon, it makes sense to invest some time to get it. Plus, if you don’t make any sales through this method, you don’t incur any advertising costs.
Native Banner Ads
Looking to increase brand awareness? Native banner ads may be a good option for you. Your brand appears in the header of a relevant product category, front and center. This is particularly effective if you can highlight one or two products in that banner, or a sale.
Keen to boost a particular product? Catapult ads do just that - they catapult your item to the top of the search results, labelled “Featured Item”. They work a little differently to Sponsored Product Ads in that they are dictated by product category.
Site Search Feature Ads
Wanting to increase both brand awareness and sales? If so, these ads may be the right option for you. Your brand will be promoted on a related product page, introducing shoppers to your entire portfolio rather than just one listing.
Get Attention with Your Ads
According to a 2019 report, almost 80% of Amazon searches are for types of products rather than specific brands. That’s a huge chunk of the market - which highlights the need to invest in brand awareness when developing your advertising strategy.
When digital marketing specialists Criteo surveyed online US shoppers in early 2020, they found that modern consumers have taken on what they call an “investigative mindset”.
“They’re on the hunt for information and inspiration — and searching multiple channels to get it. From in-app to in-store and online, today’s shoppers are taking this consideration phase of their shopping journey to the next level — researching the infinite options available, reading reviews from multiple sites, and digging into the details behind every business they interact with.”
What does this mean for you and your ecommerce advertising strategy? Regardless of whether you’re reselling other products or a brand owner, you need to get creative:
“For marketers, this means it’s no longer enough to simply push products through conversion-driven ad campaigns: it means encouraging engagement with your brand throughout the customer journey.”
Storytelling is key. Put your product in context. Even if you are a reseller, it is important to understand what your customers search for and why they would choose your listing over the same or a similar one from a competitor. If you have limited brand assets to use in advertising, see whether you can access more and use a range in your campaigns.
If you sell multiple products from the same brand, or are a brand owner with a range of products, look at designing ads that show the range - at least in part. Even better? Show photography of the products in action - inspire your customers to envision the product in their own lives.
You could also explore the options of interactive ads and animations, dynamic content that cuts through the rest and really puts the customer at the heart of your offering.
Measuring Return on Investment (ROI) with Performance Ads
Another huge benefit of using performance advertising is that you can measure ROI accurately and easily.
Use the sales funnel to guide your spend. First up, what are you trying to achieve? Based on that, use the funnel to show which performance metric requires your ad spend. The lower down the funnel, the more costly your ads will be.
Since you only want to pay for ads that perform, measuring your return on investment at each segment of the sales funnel should be straight forward. Don’t forget to experiment and change up your strategy as you grow to make sure that you’re always getting the most for your money.
Tools for successful advertising and promotion
With the ecommerce business now the giant that it has become, a host of tools are available to help sellers advertise effectively. Here are some of our favorites:
- Google AdWords: a quick and effective investment. Performance-based, you lose nothing if it doesn’t work. About a million businesses use it, so that tells you something. AdWords lets you pay to rank at the top of the Google search page. For a step-by-step guide on starting with AdWords, check out Neil Patel’s article here.
- Google Analytics: using this effectively can provide insight into traffic to your page, conversion rates and more, enabling you to invest in growth in the right areas. Check out this helpful guide for more information.
- Facebook Ads: Facebook’s revenue is still growing, so despite many businesses claiming that advertising there is fruitless, people are still investing in it. With around 2 billion active users every month, they can be very profitable if you know what you’re doing. For a step-by-step guide, check out this one.
- Instagram: it might be Facebook’s younger sister, but with more than 800 million active users, Instagram advertising is well worth exploring for visually appealing products. To learn how to cut through the clutter, check out this guide.
- AdEspresso: great for managing your ads across multiple platforms - Instagram, Facebook and Google Ads. A great way to see all your activity in one place. Check out their Beginner’s Guide here.
- MailChimp: the most popular email marketing platform enabling you to send out eDMs and build your customer community. They have tools to help you get to know your customers, change your tact to suit and adjust after each campaign. Here’s their how-to guide to get started.
- Klaviyo: an effective tool for building and scaling your brand, recording and analyzing your customer data, marketing campaigns and customer behavior insights. Click here for more information and getting set up.
- SEMRush: SEM and SEO are crucial to getting that organic traffic flowing, so tools like SEMRush are helpful for suggesting keywords you should be using based on your content, and recommendations for optimization. See how to get started here.
- Ahrefs: a useful tool when you want to analyze your competition and keep on top of the latest opportunities. Another great way to compare and get recommendations for effective keywords unique to your business. Check out the Ahrefs Academy for more information and instructions.
Other Ways to Advertise your Walmart Marketplace Products
There are endless ways to boost your traffic, drive brand awareness and increase your sales conversion rate - they don’t end with methods offered by your ecommerce platform.
Get creative - especially if you’re on a budget. Mix and match paid and unpaid drivers, such as:
- Creating your own website: if you rely on marketplace platforms and do not have a website for your brand, this could be a huge missed opportunity. It may take some investment up front, but giving a home to your brand where customers can go to ask questions, find information or simply verify who you are, will pay off in the long run.
- Content marketing: pick a style of content that suits both you and your brand. It could be blogs, vlogs, videos, podcasts, webinars, interactive infographics - anything engaging. If you’re on a budget, Neil Patel recommends that you stick to one and focus on producing high quality content. If not, try out a few, see what works and experiment.
- Learn and use SEO: if you don’t already, master the changing best practices of SEO and keep on top of them. Learning how to manipulate the free tools out there in your favor will ensure that your time is just as expertly invested as your money, for maximum return.
- Build a community: nothing boosts brand love and awareness quite like word of mouth, recommendations and reviews. If you can bring some of your customers together, encourage user-generated content and share it across multiple channels, run giveaways and activities within the group and make it fun for people to spend time there, you can build genuine brand affinity and drive sales over to your ecommerce store. Use platforms like Facebook to meet your customers where they spend their time already.
- Influencer marketing: still highly effective when done right, it is hard to replicate the same results that influencer marketing can have by using that same budget in CPC advertising. The key here is choosing the right influencer and ensuring that their audience are your target demographic.
Understanding how customers behave from the minute they search for you, through to navigating your offerings and closing the sale, is the vital first step to building a resilient, successful ecommerce business.
Finding the balance between your business intuition and ongoing data analysis is the best way to ensure that you design an effective Walmart advertising strategy. With a wide range of affordable tools out there, you have everything at your fingertips to get started straight away!
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