With around 140 million people shopping at its 5,000 stores in the U.S. every week, Walmart is not just a retail giant. It is also a growing advertising platform that touts its ability to connect online consumer behavior and a mountain of in-store sales data that its biggest rival Amazonlacks.
Walmart wouldn’t provide executives to comment on this story, but conversations with agency executives revealed that Walmart is offering both insertion order-based media buys and programmatic display through Walmart Exchange, a media network the company introduced in 2014. Ad formats include banners, search ads, product listing ads and native ads in the “Sponsored Products” section on Walmart.com. Edward Yruma, managing director for investment bank KeyBanc, called Walmart’s advertising business an “underappreciated growth opportunity.” The company has been serving third-party display ads from other brands more often, rather than just promoting its own product offerings, according to Yruma.
“Ad load on Walmart.com is definitely increasing, and a growing number of our clients are interested to serve ads there,” said John Baker, CMO for agency Mirum. “Brands are interested in retail media because retailers know when people have intent to purchase something. That data is hugely valuable and enables advertisers to stand out from their competitors in e-commerce.”
Jason Goldberg, svp of commerce and content for agency SapientRazorfish, agreed, saying that back in 2014 when Walmart.com represented a small percentage of Walmart’s overall revenue, advertisers paid little attention to Walmart Exchange. But now, as Walmart’s e-commerce business grows and becomes a significant digital player, brands have realized Walmart.com is a lucrative ad vehicle.
Analysts and ad executives think that Walmart Exchange makes sense, as the retailer uses programmatic infrastructure combined with Walmart’s in-store sales data to target ads for brands and manufacturers. Similar to how Amazon buys ad inventory from other publishers, Walmart also buys ad inventory through Walmart Exchange from other demand-side platforms and publishers like YouTube and CBS Interactive and resells it to advertisers, according to agency executives. Those ad placements are cost-efficient and informed by Walmart’s first-party data, they said.