Walmart Media Group’s Vice President of Sales and AdTech Partnerships shares the impact of COVID-19 on retail media, the evolution of omnichannel shopping, and what’s next for branded shopping experiences
2020 has been a year of unprecedented change, churn, and adaptability for all industries. In retail, the pandemic has accelerated the trend toward increased investment in retail media platforms. What were the driving factors for this shift in marketing and advertising dollars?
Count retail media among the (small) list of winners from much of America being forced to stay at home. With more customers purchasing online than ever, retail media is experiencing the same acceleration in its momentum. Walmart Media Group, too, saw a significant increase in national media budgets from brands due to a shift in the allocation of marketing dollars to retail media platforms. This year, many sporting events were not aired on TV, live concerts were canceled, print publications experienced a decline due to fear of COVID-19 transmission, and social media boycotts due to unsafe or politically divisive content showing along with their ads.
Even before the pandemic hit, retail media was becoming an increasingly lucrative option for brands to consider given the rise of e-commerce, the opportunity to offer personalized shopping experiences to customers based on first-party purchase data, and being able to tie media spend to sales, which in the case of Walmart means tracking sales both online and in-store. That, combined with the evolving role of the CMO where driving business results is a requirement, not a nice-to-have, has made retail media an attractive option for advertisers to lean into for both brand marketing and performance marketing campaigns.
Walmart’s biggest focus is customer-centricity. How does the advertising business benefit from this?
At Walmart, we create everything with a customer-first mentality. This approach allows us, at Walmart Media Group, for example, to leverage our first-party customer and conversion data to create personalized experiences for our customers and deliver closed-loop campaigns that perform for our advertisers - both in-store and online. We don’t see ourselves as just a media company. We’re a trusted retail media partner focused on building targeted, Omni retail experiences designed to unlock measurable growth for brands and help customers discover products to help them save time and money. Our ad placements are geared toward adding value to our customers’ lives, not disrupting them. One way we do that is by working with ad tech partners to help brands scale, automate, and optimize their campaigns. If that helps increase our SKU selections and enables our customers to find more efficiently priced products, then everyone wins. We understand that building and running a successful media business is entirely dependent on meeting the customer needs at the right time and place with the right content. That’s our North star.
Presently, Walmart Media Group has two core offerings: Walmart Sponsored Products ads and Walmart Display ads. How can brands best utilize these two offerings to work together?
Sponsored Products ads do a great job of reaching customers when they’re shopping with a specific intent and searching on Walmart. Making your products discoverable at this time can be incredibly valuable. Remember that customers are not always shopping with specific intent or on-site; this where Display ads come in where you can share your brand’s story on Walmart and across the web to drive omnichannel incremental sales on dotcom, pickup & delivery, and in-store.
Focusing solely on converting specific demand using Sponsored Products means you’re missing out on important opportunities to inform customer decisions and ultimately drive sales. Both these offerings truly complement each other, so pairing them together helps ensure brands are engaging customers at every stage in their shopping journey. Look at your ad strategy holistically and incorporate tactics that support awareness down to purchase is the most effective strategy to grow your brand.
You and your team have worked with some of the world’s largest and most well-known brands. What do they want most from their Walmart advertising experience?
Marketers know that we reach 150 million omnichannel customers every week, more than 90% of America shops with us. We understand how customers shop and how to show them the right message at the right time. Marketers want to work with us because we’re the only provider who can deliver real campaign attributed sales and incrementality across Walmart digital properties, pickup & delivery, and in-store. Done right, the combination of our customer base, plus the growth of our e-commerce (79% in Q3) overall, is a tremendous opportunity for all brands. We work with some of the largest global marketers, excited to team up with us to create the most meaningful engagements with Walmart customers.
You’ve worked in digital advertising and media for over a decade. What keeps you excited about being in this business?
The combination of human insights, psychology, business, and creativity is what keeps me going. At Walmart, we’re continually finding ways to create relevant, innovative experiences for our customers and advertisers. There’s just so much opportunity ahead of us to connect with Walmart customers from an omnichannel standpoint and deliver relevant and meaningful experiences to them.
Give us a behind the scenes look. What’s next for branded shopping experiences at Walmart Media Group?
We’re always looking at ways to enhance the customer shopping experience. Because of our customers’ affinity toward omnichannel shopping, we’re constantly experimenting with ways to incorporate and expand omnichannel advertising experiences that add value to their lives, not disrupt them. We’re also fully aware of how daunting and expensive developing creative can be for many brands and are improving our capabilities to be consultative partners for our advertisers, including making it easier to repurpose existing creative assets. Finally, we understand how critical reporting and measurement are to enable our advertisers to optimize their campaigns and investments, and we’re bolstering our capabilities on that front, too.
We’re still in the early stages here, but we’re excited to continue inventing and innovating new shopping experiences to delight, inform and inspire our customers.