Walmart Adopts Omnichannel Ad Strategy

Patrycja Malinowska
Associate Director - Content, P2PI
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Walmart will be introducing new in-store and online advertising opportunities for brand marketers next year in an effort to facilitate ads that shoppers “don’t hate,” revealed the retailer’s director of omnichannel advertising transformation and acceleration, Whitney Cooper, during a keynote session at the Path to Purchase Digital Expo earlier this month.

“We’re not trying to add in a bunch of noise and interruptions, we really want to add value that [shoppers] hardly even notice at times,” Cooper said.

Historically, Walmart has had a bottom-up approach to strategic planning within the organization but has been changing to take an enterprise "One Walmart" view that puts shoppers at the center of how it operates both internally and externally. The biggest evidence of the transformation was when Walmart joined its store and online supply chain and finance groups in 2019, and then brought together its store and online product buying teams earlier this year. Merging its merchandising organization into one unit laid the groundwork for the retailer’s new omnichannel advertising strategy.

“It became super evident that we needed to create a new way of working between the omni-merchant organization, marketing and Walmart Media Group,” Cooper said. “In the past, these have been very siloed conversations and we have to bring them together to really have success.”

Cooper’s role in the company is to connect the teams with the goal of creating integrated experiences that bring brands to life across different channels and drive ROI for advertisers.

“Over the next year, you’re going to see that we’re really focused on streamlining and making it really easy for our supplier partners to build out plans across all of our teams … we’re really hyper focused on driving this ‘One Walmart’ way to talk to the Walmart customer,” Cooper said. “We’ll be able to move faster, and you’ll have more options in terms of what you can do as far as advertising in the store and across all of our channels.”

Walmart is already piloting this new way of working with some of its biggest brand partners through combined joint business planning sessions that aim to deliver both operational efficiency and new advertising opportunities, Cooper said. She was clear that Walmart Media Group is a priority.

“Winning at Walmart now means working with Walmart Media Group to talk to the Walmart [shopper],” Cooper said. “The company made a very strong statement when we decided to insource this business … The scale of our reach — 150 million omni shoppers a week across stores, online pickup and delivery and ship to home — combined with the power of our data set really enable sour advertisers to target our customers unlike any other omnichannel retailer in the U.S.”

Walmart had been eyeing online advertising as a profit driver even before the COVID-19 pandemic accelerated online shopping and continues to invest in adding automation into the digital ad buying process and introducing new digital ad products such as search assistance that delivers relevant search results, easy discovery and a one-stop online shop.

In stores, Walmart for the last few years has focused on cleaning up the aisles, resulting in the elimination of some display and signage that were deemed clutter, but is now working to add back in-store advertising opportunities. These include a return of the TV wall as well as the introduction of self-checkout screens ideal for driving impulse purchases, curbside pickup videos reaching shoppers as they are waiting for their order, and store mode ads in the Walmart mobile application able to “ping” shoppers in the aisle and deliver hyper-local messaging.

“We are putting together a whole insights suite around this, we have enhanced reporting and measurement capability, and are really optimizing new product solutions,” Cooper said. “Work with us as you’re going through this and trying to decide budget and how to spend money in the best way because we’re the only ones who will be able to direct you in the best way based on the data and insights.”