Walmart Media Group (WMG)’s Vice President of Product provides a peek into Walmart’s digital-advertising technology and shares his team’s 2020 priorities and plans.
What is your team’s role at Walmart Media Group?
The WMG Product team builds platforms that enable Walmart advertisers to engage with Walmart customers in relevant and impactful ways. We build Walmart’s digital ad technology, which includes the front-end ad experiences, the platforms that power them, and the tools that measure how well campaigns perform based on both in-store and online sales. We build everything with a customer-first mentality, leveraging our first-party customer and conversion data to create personalized experiences for our shoppers and deliver campaigns that perform for our advertisers.
What is Walmart’s biggest strength?
Walmart’s ability to engage with its customers across their shopping journey. People want to shop the way they want to shop. Whether it’s in one of our 4,700 physical stores, on our app, or the site. They want delivery options whether it’s the curbside pickup, two-hour express delivery, or in-home delivery. Walmart is unique in that it is woven into the fabric of America. As a result, we can engage with our customers throughout their entire shopping journey, understand their needs, and serve them more efficiently.
You’ve worked in AdTech for your entire career. What is different now about the industry?
Trust. Five to 10 years ago, digital advertising was a race to the bottom. Everyone wanted a piece of the pie but had little expectation or trust that digital campaigns led to measurable impact. That has now changed with the rise of viewability requirements, fraud detection, and the need for transparency around the performance of every ad dollar.
Second is the rise of retail media. Retail companies have some of the most valuable first-party data available and they are beginning to use it in the advertising space. The ability to use prior shopping data to personalize ad experiences and to be able to deterministically report back on the sales is extremely powerful. According to a Nielsen report in 2019, first-party purchase data performs 3x better than any other form of targeting1. At Walmart, we enable advertisers to deliver personalized, highly relevant, and engaging ads and then report on whether the individuals who saw the ad purchased the product either online or in a store. No other retailer can do this at Walmart's scale.
Can you share what’s new at Walmart Media Group for 2020?
The job of the Walmart Media Group Product team is to bring Walmart advertisers and customers together using technology. That’s our constant. But that is not possible unless we reduce ad-buying friction and make it easy for advertisers to work with us.
In January, we launched the Walmart Advertising Partners program, which allows advertisers to launch and manage Walmart Sponsored Products campaigns through select third-party platforms. It’s been incredible to witness the market adoption of the Walmart Advertising Partners program.
Later this summer, we’re excited to roll out new self-serve offerings to our advertisers to provide more on-demand access to campaign pacing and metrics across various campaign types.
And given that 87% of all retail sales still happen inside a physical store2, the biggest opportunity for us, currently, is to expand our in-store advertising avenues and make them easily accessible to advertisers, through omnichannel closed-loop measurement. We are going to be extending our ad offerings into the store, with TV walls, self-checkout screens, and curbside-pickup videos on customers’ devices, just to name a few.
How has the pandemic affected your product roadmap for 2020?
There have been both short-term and long-term impacts.
In the short term, for example, we’ve had to accelerate work to keep track of local store inventories. We want to ensure Walmart customers don’t see ads for high-demand products that may be out of stock in their local Walmart.
There are other, likely permanent changes to shopping behavior, such as customers’ adoption of contact-free payment technology and a shift toward home delivery and curbside pickup of locally available merchandise. The Product team is re-evaluating what it means to connect advertisers with our customers in meaningful ways across all touchpoints of the Walmart shopping journey.
What is the biggest challenge for the Product team? And where do you see the maximum room for growth?
With the rise of digital media, people are inundated with content and advertising. Advertisers demand their Walmart campaigns must be viewed, and their ads must convert — and rightly so. Our biggest challenge is to constantly deliver highly relevant content to Walmart customers. It’s one we are uniquely positioned to deliver on, because unlike other digital-advertising channels, Walmart has meaningful purchase data from millions of customers that are shopping both online and in stores. Walmart knows our customers and what they’re looking for, but that still doesn’t make it easy!
Source1: Nielsen, 2019, Put your money where your consumer is: How audience-based targeting drives higher ROI
Source2: Forrester, Dec. 2018, "Retailers: You’re The Next Media Moguls"