The Complete Guide to Selling on the Walmart Marketplace | 2018

The Walmart Marketplace won’t ever be the new Amazon, but that’s not what they’re after.

CEO Doug McMillon knows that Walmart appeals to a certain segment of the market. Unfortunately, it’s one that largely lacks Millennials, which is not great for long term stability.

In an attempt to scale up product selection and gain access to more of those Millennials and Gen Z-ers, McMillon has been making strategic acquisitions of digital natives such as Bonobos, Modcloth, and Jet.com. Additionally, he’s taking on Prime with free two-day shipping minus the membership fee.

Those investments in ecommerce are starting to pay off. There are about 110 million unique visitors a month on Walmart.com, and that number is growing. In Q2 2018, Walmart’s U.S. ecommerce sales grew 40%, compared to 33% in Q1. That brings up a big question for many brands and retailers:

Is it time to invest in a Walmart.com selling strategy?

We built an in-depth look at the pros, cons, and a complete view of how the Walmart Marketplace works for those who are thinking about venturing out.

 

Table of Contents

 

 

Pros of Selling on the Walmart Marketplace

laptop with walmart marketplace shopping

No Monthly or Initial Setup Fees

The only fees you’ll pay for selling on Walmart are referral fees that are determined by product category. Amazon’s selling fees, on the other hand, include a referral fee, variable closing fee, and per-item fee.

 

Potentially Drive Direct Site Visits

We can’t promise this as a proven bonus, but some sellers claim that being on Walmart.com has increased their brand awareness that directly resulted in more site visitors

While you cannot directly market to customers who buy goods on the Walmart.com marketplace, one seller, Jason Boyce, Co-Founder and CEO of Dazadi, noticed a lift in traffic to his website after he set up products on the mega retailer’s site. He attributes this lift to newly acquired brand awareness and trust.

We know that some customers come to our site after seeing our name on the marketplaces and stay for the sale.

– Jason Boyce, Co-Founder and CEO of Dazadi

 

Widen Customer Base

The Walmart Marketplace boasts over 110 million visitors, which can help expand your potential customer audience and reach new audiences. There could be shoppers on Walmart.com who aren’t Prime members and married to Amazon.

Walmart has quickly become our second largest online marketplace, second only to Amazon.com. We feel that it exposes our brand to a different kind of customer base than what we see from Amazon and or our own site.

– Jason Boyce, Co-Founder and CEO of Dazadi

 

High Sales Volume

Some sellers have noticed that margins are lower on Walmart.com than on other channels, but the high sales volume coupled with additional brand awareness may make it worth it.

Cons of Selling on the Walmart Marketplace

 

Potentially Low Margins

As mentioned above, you’ll likely see lower margins on the Walmart Marketplace than you would on Amazon or via your ecommerce site.

“Walmart.com offers ecommerce retailers a value proposition very similar to that it offers traditional sellers,” says Boyce. “[One example would be] high sales volume, though margins will likely be lower.”

 

Shipping Rules

You can select carriers, shipping method, and shipping price (there are five methods available). Orders “must be shipped in non-branded packaging and can’t include materials from any company other than Walmart.”

This does limit sellers who want to include materials to promote brand awareness and drive loyalty, and there’s a hidden message here as well. Some sellers have attempted to use FBA to fulfill Walmart orders, which is a big no-no. Sellers with their own warehouse and shipping operations clearly have a leg up in the Walmart game.

 

Potential Listing Issues

Walmart uses a unified catalog system that is essentially first-come-first-serve. What this means is that the first seller to list a product on the site is likely to be the home base for other sellers also selling that product.

According to some sellers, brand owners may find their UPCs or GTINs are already listed on product pages and may have little control over listing alterations. Those products with the same UPC are presented together on the site.

The use of single UPCs can result in some troublesome issues. Here’s one seller’s experience:

“…I’ve also [run] into issues where I want to sell a single count of an item…I go to enter in the UPC from its packaging only to find out someone already is already using that UPC as a multi-pack, which now makes it impossible to sell the item as a single.”

 

Delayed Seller Support

Amazon Seller Support has gotten a bad rap for being unresponsive, but sellers on the Walmart marketplace have noticed it’s much worse on Walmart.com. Here’s one seller’s experience:

“Support on Walmart is pretty much non existent. Seller support is even more useless than AMZ. At least you can talk to or chat with Amazon support. Email is the only option with [Walmart].”

 

Stringent Pricing Requirements

Sellers are allowed to list their own prices for products on Walmart.com. However, some sellers have found that their products have been delisted for price competition elsewhere.

 

Cost to Sell on the Walmart Marketplace

Sellers on the marketplace must pay Walmart a referral fee per sale, which varies by product category. There are no additional charges.

Here’s a full list of Walmart’s referral fee percentages by category:

  • Apparel & Accessories 15%
  • Automotive & Powersports 12%
  • Baby 15%
  • Beauty 15%
  • Books 15%
  • Camera & Photo 8%
  • Cell Phones 8%
  • Consumer Electronics 8%
  • Electronics Accessories 15%
  • Furniture & Decor 15%
  • Gourmet Food 15%
  • Grocery 15%
  • Health & Personal Care 15%
  • Home & Garden 15%
  • Industrial & Scientific 12%
  • Jewelry 20%
  • Kitchen 15%
  • Luggage & Travel Accessories 15%
  • Major Appliances 8%
  • Music 15%
  • Musical Instruments 12%
  • Office Products 15%
  • Outdoors 15%
  • Personal Computers 6%
  • Pet Supplies 15%
  • Shoes, Handbags & Sunglasses 15%
  • Software & Computer Video Games 15%
  • Sporting Goods 15%
  • Tires & Wheels 10%
  • Tools & Home Improvement 12%
  • Toys & Games 15%
  • Video & DVD 15%
  • Video Game Consoles 8%
  • Video Games 15%
  • Watches 15%
  • Everything Else 15%

 

 

How Sellers Get Paid on Walmart.com

There are three things you should know about getting paid on the Walmart Marketplace:

  1. Sellers agree to payment terms and schedule in the Marketplace Retailer Agreement, though they are typically paid on a weekly basis for orders occurring during the period.

 

  1. Sellers are paid the total amount from sale of products minus Walmart’s referral fees.

 

  1. Periods end on Mondays at midnight (PST), which means sellers can typically expect funds to be dispersed by noon (PST) the following Wednesday.

 

After a customer places an order, Walmart enacts an authorization hold on the order until the seller confirms the product has been shipped.

Once this is completed, Walmart.com will debit the customer account. This means sales are reported on the shipping date, not on the order creation date.

 

Pricing Products on Walmart.com

You can see the price parity requirement within Walmart’s Seller Agreement doc:

…except for in connection with Excluded Offers, the purchase price and every other term of offer and/or sale of the Products (including associated shipping and handling charges and options, any “low price” guarantee, rebate or discount, any free or discounted products or other benefit available as a result of purchasing one or more other products, and terms of applicable return and refund policies) is at least as favorable to Walmart.com users as the most favorable terms upon which a product is offered and/or sold via any other online sales channel.

 

This is no doubt Walmart is working to ensure a customer never finds a product on Amazon that isn’t cheaper on Walmart.com.

If you don’t maintain price parity, you will be penalized on Walmart.com.

One seller describes their predicament when products are not always compliant:

“Often out of nowhere, Walmart will delist an item…They are constantly removing items due to pricing. They crawl Amazon and eBay, and who knows where else and if they believe they found a lower price, they drop the item from their catalog.”

 

Walmart support may reach out to a seller with a letter that looks like this:

The remaining SKUs on your list were unpublished due to a business decision. Please keep in mind, title, description, images and key features play a big role of determining the item’s compatibility. Walmart is entering more restricted relationships with some brands and manufacturers. Walmart is also restricting some items to be sold only by first party suppliers. Working closely with these first party suppliers allows Walmart to ensure that, over time, customers will get the best price. I have listed those SKUs below for your reference.

 

Make sure you keep tabs on your product prices across multiple platforms. This goes for data, too—Walmart pays attention to the content you provide them vs. the content on your website or another.

 

Paying Taxes for Products Sold on Walmart.com

While remitting taxation is your individual responsibility, Walmart.com will collect sales tax on the your behalf if desired.

According to Walmart.com, you can use partner tools in the Seller Center to “identify which tax codes and jurisdiction apply, and Walmart.com handles the rest.”

 

Shipping & Customer Service on the Walmart Marketplace

 

Fulfillment / Shipping

If you are a first-party seller, you can ship directly to a Walmart fulfillment center and let them take care of the rest.

Third party sellers on the Walmart.com marketplace are responsible for handling shipping, exchanges, returns, and customer service.

Since sellers are responsible for fulfillment, they can enter their shipping costs along with their product listings, with free shipping being an option. Sellers can set shipping costs by one of two methods:

  • Tiered Pricing: Shipping is charged based on the price of the item. A different rate can be applied for different price ranges.
  • Item/Weight Pricing: Shipping is calculated based on the weight (in pounds) of the item purchased or based on the amount of units ordered.

 

Based on the shipping model chosen, sellers then enter expected transit times and shipping costs. Updates can be made at the item level, and offering multiple shipping methods will grant customers the option of upgrading their shipping. This will enable them to receive their product faster if desired, which can greatly assist in the buying process.

Fast shipping is key.

When a customer places an order for a product on Walmart.com, the order is added to the seller’s queue located in the Seller Center platform. It will contain the necessary information for correctly shipping the order to the customer. The seller is responsible for frequently checking their queue for new orders and making sure they are properly and promptly fulfilled. For sellers using the Walmart.com API, Walmart expects acknowledgement of an order within one hour.

Fast shipping is key. Not only do sellers not get paid until the item is shipped, but it’s important to ship quickly to keep your metrics up. Here’s one seller’s take:

“One key thing with [Walmart.com] is to ship within a day or two max. We use Geekseller to tie into their API for order and shipment status updates.”

 

Customer Service

Unlike Amazon.com which offers FBA choices, 3P sellers on Walmart.com are responsible entirely for fulfillment, including managing and supporting customer service inquiries, shipping, exchanges, and returns.

While this will entail additional work on the seller’s behalf, it does give them more control over the fulfillment process.

 

Cancellations

If Walmart.com believes an order is fraudulent, it will not be released to the seller and the customer will receive a cancellation email. Cancellations are final. Once an order is canceled–by either party–it cannot be reversed or shipped.

This includes those times when a shopper cancels an order, and you must do everything you can (that’s “commercially reasonable”) to halt shipping to that individual.

 

Returns and Refunds

When a seller signs up for the Walmart.com marketplace, they are required to write a <4000 character return policy. Since sellers are responsible for fulfillment and customer service, they are able to dictate their return policies, as long as it is transparent to customers.

Your return policy on Walmart should be as good as the return policy on your website, so make sure it’s up to par.

 

How to Set Up a Seller Account on the Walmart Marketplace

 

Depending on what vertical you are in, Walmart may ask you to become a vendor or a seller on Walmart.com and its affiliate websites (Jet.com, Moosejaw.com, Shoes.com, Hayneedle.com). However, this is extremely rare.

“Walmart is obsessed with customer experience, profitability and bandwidth. The company does not have the bandwidth to review millions of sellers all of the time. Therefore there are about 15k sellers on the Walmart Marketplace while Amazon has millions.”

– Megan MacDonald, Marketplace Channel Analyst at CPC Strategy

Megan MacDonald Marketplace Channel Analyst

If you are not selected to be a vendor, you must apply to be a Walmart.com seller via Walmart’s website.

From there, the Walmart Marketplace team will review your application (may take up to two weeks), and a Business Development Manager will reach out and assist you with the verification process.

If you’re approved, you’ll sign the Retailer Agreement and start onboarding, which typically takes up to four weeks.

The following information is required in the application:

  • General contact information (name, email, company name, website, etc.)
  • Business information
  • Product assortment information
  • Ecommerce and marketplace experience
  • Operations information

 

Seller Qualifications on the Walmart Marketplace

There’s no magic formula for being accepted into Walmart’s seller program, but there are a few key requirements that brands and retailers should fit. These include the following:

Reputation: Most likely revolved around brand awareness, brand equity, and other factors related to your brand’s positioning in your industry. “First-class customer service” and “fast and reliable fulfillment” appear to be important considerations.

Sales Projections: Is listing on Walmart.com a good fit for both you and Walmart, based on sales history and forecasting? Unique product assortment and competitive pricing are weighing factors, as are current sales. Some have estimated that $500k is the cutoff point, but there have been several exceptions to that rule.

Alignment with Walmart’s values: A spokesperson for Walmart ecommerce supplemented the qualifications on their website with “Walmart.com is an invitation only marketplace. We select sellers based on experience, scale and reputation related quality of assortment, strength of pricing, and customer service track record.”

It can take several months to get approved, and the Walmart team is not quite as communicative as you’d expect during this process. If you aren’t approved, it’s likely you won’t hear conclusively for several months, so you’ll need to be patient.

Once you are approved, it’s on to the next step.

 

How to Set Up Your Product Listing Content on the Walmart Marketplace

 

1. Log Into the Walmart Seller Center

One thing to keep in mind as you navigate the seller center—Walmart has a long way to go in order to catch up to Amazon’s Seller Central, but they are constantly making improvements and updates.

 

2. Select Products You Want to Sell on Walmart.com

Obviously, you will want to start with some of your top-selling products. But keep in mind you’re dealing with customers who will value low prices most.

Additionally, you should know there are some products that are not allowed, despite Walmart’s claim that “You can sell just about anything on our site”. Like Amazon, Walmart has a hefty list of prohibited or restricted products.

These include:

  • Alcohol
  • Animals
  • Artifacts
  • Collectibles
  • Used products
  • Currency
  • Drugs and medical devices

 

You can view the full list of prohibited items on the Walmart site.

 

3. Build Your Product Content Feed on Walmart.com

Items can be uploaded three different ways:

  • Via the Walmart API
  • As a bulk upload using Excel spreadsheets
  • By collaboration with a Walmart channel partner (ex. companies specializing in listing products on the Walmart.com marketplace)

 

If you’d like to go with the third option, here are a couple feed management options you might want to investigate:

 

Next, you’ll need to ensure you’re in line with Walmart.com’s content and imagery guidelines.

 

3. Upload the Correct Product Content on Walmart.com

As we’ve mentioned before, one important distinction is that Walmart’s product detail pages—unlike Amazon’s—aren’t brand protected. Instead, it’s based on a first-come-first-serve system.

If a seller has an item that competes with the same item also being sold by Walmart, or competes directly with another seller, an algorithm will select a Primary Content Provider (PCP).

Walmart.com will use the PCP’s content and imagery for the product listing, even if your product wins the buy box. Your item content will only be displayed if you are the sole seller of that item.

The same content rules apply to variant groups. If two sellers (one of which can be Walmart) are each selling variants of a product, overlapping variants will be grouped together as one listing.

If a single product has multiple SKUs, think colors or sizes, all of the variants can be listed on one product page. For a product with a single variant (color) there is a 50-100 variant limit to what can be featured on one page. Multi-variant products have a 500 variant limit. This applies to an item with 5 sizes and 100 color options, for example.

It’s very important to have the right details in your product listings. We’ve heard that Walmart is upping their requirements for images, particularly for fashion products.

Here are the data points you should include in your file, including both required and conditional.

 

Required Walmart Product Listing Content Details

  • Product name
  • Product long description
  • Product short description
  • Primary product image
  • End date
  • Manufacturer name
  • Partner Item ID
  • Item price
  • Product tax code
  • Origin of components
  • Must ship alone
  • Availability code

 

Conditional Walmart Product Listing Details

  • Small parts warning code
  • Composite wood warning code
  • GTIN
  • Brand
  • Manufacturer item number
  • Shipping weight
  • Warranty length
  • Supplier warranty
  • Certified item
  • On hand quantity
  • Street date
  • General certification of conformity

 

You can manage content in bulk using Walmart’s Category Templates.

If you’d prefer to outsource to a Content Service Provider (CSP), you can check out some of Walmart’s approved CSPs.

 

category-templates-walmart

 

Note Walmart may send written requests for more information about your products, and you must comply. Additionally, there is the caveat that they may change these requirements at will, so stay on top of your messages from Walmart.com.

You can learn more about each of these product listing requirements in the Walmart Marketplace Seller Agreement Doc.

 

How Product Listings Appear on the Walmart Marketplace

You’ve done the hard work of uploading your product data. Now, let’s examine how Walmart’s products show up on the search results page.

After a query is entered, the search results page will display the marketplace’s listings for products displayed on the standard result page.

product-listing-on-walmart

Shoppers can refine searches by category, shipping and pickup options, size, color, brand, retailer, special offers available, and price. Shoppers also have the option to search by “Store Availability”, giving them the ability to check stock and pick up a product at a nearby Walmart (similar to Target and other big box retailers).

When a user clicks into a product’s page, they’ll see not only product information, but also a product information section that resembles Amazon’s EBC premium content sections:

 

walmart product detail page

 

If you want to create stylized content such as the one above, but don’t have either the resources or time, you can partner with one of Walmart’s full-service Content Studio Service Providers (CSSPs) to create item pages.

 

Also like Amazon, customer reviews on these pages are not integrated with third party review systems – they are generated on Walmart.com alone.

Amazon’s organic search results pages are battlegrounds where sellers jockey to rank organically for keywords, and invest in sponsored product ads that seamlessly fit with the organic listings.

While sellers on Walmart.com can also invest in similar sponsored products, we aren’t sure what Walmart’s algorithm looks like for organic rank. However, we do have an idea how sellers can drive more sales on Walmart.com.

How to Boost Sales on Walmart.com

While you might not be able to dramatically influence your organic rank on Walmart, there are several factors that could dramatically influence your sales:

  • Low product price (and subsequent buy box ownership)
  • Customer reviews
  • Meet customer expectations/Walmart requirements
  • Optimized product listing information (requirements listed under “Upload the Correct Product Information on Walmart.com” section)
  • Display ads

 

There are several factors that could dramatically influence your sales.

None of these have been explicitly confirmed by the Walmart team, but if our work on other marketplace channels is any indicator, these factors may determine your sales.

 

1. Get Great Customer Reviews on the Walmart Marketplace

If available, customer reviews of the product will appear under the price. These are reviews submitted to and stored by Walmart.com, not by third party reviews.

 

reviews on walmart marketplace

While we can’t prove that Walmart.com takes customer reviews into account on a search, it’s important to note that some site visitors may search by average review. If that’s the case, these product reviews could really impact your sales.

 

2. Win the Walmart Marketplace Buy Box

When Walmart.com opened its marketplace to 3P sellers, they introduced buy box competition to their products:

 

Walmart-vs-sellers-buy-box

 

The Walmart.com buy box appears to be primarily influenced by price (selling price+shipping), which Walmart, if a seller of the product, will usually have the lowest.

Walmart has built its reputation around EDLP’s and it appears Walmart’s buy box algorithm has price as a very heavily-weighted variable; Amazon’s algorithm calculates in more factors.

While the buy box includes the option to compare with other sellers, it’s likely that most shoppers don’t investigate that option, just as they don’t on Amazon.

 

3. Meet Seller Requirements for Customer Service and Shipping

Just as an Amazon seller must sell up to Amazon’s standards, you’ll need to make sure you’re upholding Walmart’s shipping and customer service standards. Otherwise, you’ll risk suspension.

 

  • On-time ship standard = at least 99%
  • Accurate products shipped = 99.5% all products shipped
  • Cancel rate = <1.5%
  • Returns due to damaged or defective products = <3% of sales proceeds for products sold
  • Emergency updates related to product information via Partner Tools = <.03%
  • 90 Day Seller Rating = >90% positive
  • Customer service escalations = <0.5% of all orders
  • Confirm every order file received by Walmart.com within one hour of receipt, 24/7
  • Confirm every order line within every order file within 4 hours, 24/7
  • Provide electronic notice confirming shipment of shipping product and tracking information within 4 hours, 24/7
  • Refund requests sent within 24 hours of receiving a customer refund or adjustment request
  • Answer at least 60% of all customer calls within 60 seconds of the end of Retailer’s customer service interactive voice response
  • No more than 4% of all customer calls received shall be abandoned
  • 90% of emails received from customers should be answered within 24 hours

 

Note: All requirements shared via this Seller Agreement Doc. We’ll update as frequently as we can, but this is subject to change at any time.

 

4. Advertise on Walmart.com

Walmart’s in house advertising offerings have been growing, as documented by multiple media outlets. On the external ad side, the biggest advantage Walmart Media Group has is their combined data of in-store and online customer sales data, via the Walmart Exchange (WMX). The WXM functions in a way similar to Amazon’s AAP network, and is geared towards advertising on other websites.

 

How to Advertise on Walmart.com

Ads are a great way to promote your products on Walmart.com above organic results. There are two ways you can advertise on Walmart.com:

 

All featured/sponsored products sections operate on a cost-per-click (CPC) pricing model. Advertisers are charged only when a user clicks on the ad and is forwarded to the ad’s landing page.

 

Third Party Display Ads

These are standard network buys and link to an outside landing page, redirecting users away from Walmart.com.

One example would be Google’s Shopping Partner Network Ads—Walmart is a partner, therefore ads can be shown on the platform.

If you’re using AdWords, this is an opportunity to have your products shown on Walmart.com without ever listing them on the marketplace. Sellers on the site should be aware of the unwanted competition this presents.

 

Advertise Within Walmart.com

All of the ads explained below link users to product pages within the Walmart.com site. These ads are expected to have higher conversion rates, as users are already familiar with and using Walmart.com.

They’re also only available to buy from a Walmart Merchant/Buyer known as the Category Manager or Category Lead. Sometimes the Category Specialist (below the Category Lead) can sell advertising as well.

Walmart’s ad offerings include Native Advertising BannersCatapults, and Site Search Features.

According to MacDonald, these ads are similar to Headline Search Ads on Amazon. However, Catapults are for a specific products to be advertised and lead to the product display page, while the Site Search Feature is for a brand’s promotion that leads to a landing destination.

 

Here’s a Native Banner Ad on the main category page for “Women’s clothing”:

 

lord-and-taylor-products-ad-on-walmart.com

 

Here’s an example of a Site Search Feature (leads to a landing destination; the Lord & Taylor Brand page):

 

example-of-3p-ad-network

Here’s an example of a Catapult Ad (leads from a category page to a product detail page):

 

catapult ad on walmart

 

 

 

Setting Up Special Offers and Promotions On Walmart.com

While we’re on the subject of ads, if you are planning on running a special offer or promotion on your products, you should notify Walmart.com by email at marketplace_promotions@walmart.com (or via any tool specified by Walmart). This includes offers that are available on your site or other marketplace.

 

Walmart Marketplace: The Bottom Line

Ultimately, Walmart is making strides in the right direction by working to expand its ecommerce platform, though it will continue to chase Amazon for the foreseeable future.

The platform does offer sellers access to a considerable audience but smaller sellers will have to wait for the announcement that the platform will open universally.

Boyce says what a lot of Walmart sellers feel:

“Amazon has been in the marketplace game for a lot longer than Walmart and we feel confident that they will catch up.”

 

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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