Walmart Media Group (WMG)
Walmart rebranded its WMX ad platform as Walmart Media Group in June, having introduced a redesigned Walmart.com earlier in the year. Two major platforms now fall under the WMG umbrella: the WPA Sponsored Search platform, which allows suppliers to contextually target, promote and measure their product listings across the site; and the WMX Audience Targeting and Measurement platform, which uses past shopper behavior to predict, target and measure digital campaigns both in-store and online.
WMG is the conduit for all brand advertising on Walmart-owned sites (e.g., Walmart.com, Jet.com, Bonobos, Hayneedle) and external sites (e.g., Facebook, Google, Pinterest), as well as brand placement during live streaming through Walmart Live.
- A refreshed Walmart.com with ad units featured on bolder “takeover” home pages, dynamic search pages and image-driven brand stories/landing pages.
- Offsite targeting of Walmart shoppers via Google, Facebook and Pinterest.
- Real-time reporting, including mid-campaign reporting.
- Self-management of WPAs (retailer paid search) and WMX audiences in offsite media.
- Actual sales results tied to Facebook and Pinterest campaigns.
- Walmart overall: Over 140 million shoppers per week.
- The goal is to grow from 130 million omnichannel households currently to 150 million by 2023.
Keys to Success
Commit to the investment. Any manufacturer that is unwilling to fully invest with Walmart or that expects WMG media dollars to be rewarded with incremental merchandising or distribution is going to be disappointed under the new regime.
In the past, most brand managers have been less willing to invest in shopper marketing with Walmart, based on the assumption that the retailer’s sheer size and reach will drive their business. But that is starting to change, says Lisa Johnston, vice president of client services and Walmart & Sam’s Club team leader at Epsilon Catapult. “National advertising is not the best way to drive sales at Walmart,” she says. “Success depends on investing in the retailer’s technology platforms in smart ways that engage with the Walmart shopper at every stage along the purchase journey.”
As Walmart has consolidated its ad platforms under the WMG banner, the imperatives for marketers have become even clearer: Walmart considers marketing/media and merchandising to exist independently. It expects brands to bring their best prices and to support its EDLP/EDLC merchandising strategy. At the same time, it wants to continue to grow its advertising business. In WMG, it is offering marketers an expansive and integrated new platform through which to speak to the Walmart shopper.
“We view our commitment to WMG as an investment in the future,” says Drew Mathias, omnichannel marketing team leader for Walmart at Georgia-Pacific. “It gives us a tremendous platform to meet the needs of ever-changing shopper behavior, such as the substantial increase in online grocery shopping that we expect in the next couple years.”
Look to develop creative partnerships. Experts say that marketers should not be deterred by the required investment levels from seeking creative partnerships as part of their commitment to WMG. “It is important to have an open dialogue with your WMG partners. There are many ways to creatively solve for both Walmart’s and your own brand’s objectives,” says Shaina Fox, customer marketing manager at Mars Food, a business unit of Mars Inc.
Mars recently worked with WMG on a program that started out as separate awareness-building initiatives but ultimately combined brands pages on Walmart.com for its Uncle Ben’s rice brand and Seeds of Change organic brand. “Through several rounds of conversations with WMG, we were able to come up with a great solution to leverage both brands within the Walmart network and maximize our investment,” says Fox.
For Mars, having physical proximity to WMG teams at the Walmart headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, is critical to building trust and confidence in the relationship. “Day-to-day contact is necessary to get the partnership to a point where they fully understand your brand and your category,” says Fox. “When it is time to develop and execute campaigns, it becomes more seamless than an in-and-out approach.”
Use insights and inspiration to personalize ads. Marketers who work with Walmart on digital advertising say there’s one thing that hasn’t changed under the new WMG platform: The path to personalization goes through data and insights.
Marketers must come armed with those critical data sets in their respective categories when building a media strategy to speak to the Walmart shopper, says Mathias. “The effectiveness of digital advertising execution comes down to the quality of insights, virtual merchandising and storytelling with the right tools, timing and message.”
For a pantry brand that might not be at the highest priority on the shopping list, there are different ways to personalize the digital ad experience, says Fox. “It’s our job to provide WMG with insights to build the right call to action. The weeknight dinner dilemma might be a quick trip in and out of the store, which is very different than spending leisure time on a Sunday afternoon preparing a family dinner.”