Walmart’s self-serve ad platform arriving early next year

Dive Brief:
  • Walmart Media Group, the advertising arm of the retail giant, will roll out its first self-serve advertising platform and an API for programmatic buying early next year, according to a story in Business Insider. A Walmart spokesperson told the publication it’s working on the tools while several ad agencies and tech vendors provided details around the timing of the launch.
  • The tools are currently being tested with a small group of consumer packaged goods advertisers. The broader rollout, which reportedly will take place in the first quarter of 2020, will similarly target the retailer’s key CPG advertisers.
  • The self-serve platform will enable advertisers to buy search and display ads without having to work with a sales representative while the API will enable them to bid, buy and manage programmatic campaigns.
Dive Insight:

Up to this point, Walmart’s effort to establish an online ad business has been focused on having sales representatives work with brands. A bigger push from the retailer into self-serve ad sales was expected as a response to Amazon’s growing ad business and following Walmart’s April acquisition of Polymorph Labs, a startup that developed a cloud-based, self-serve ad platform. The API being developed by Walmart reportedly is along the same lines as Amazon’s version.

Moving quickly to ramp up its advertising platform is a strategic move by Walmart, as Amazon’s quick growth points to advertisers’ interest in online ads tied to a retail platform. However, brands are also looking for alternatives to Amazon, given its significant size and influence, and Walmart could be well-positioned to offer an attractive option.

The Walmart ad business shows display and search ads related to product categories and search terms. As with Amazon’s ad business, a key benefit for advertisers of buying ads from Walmart is being able to access data based on shopper transactions, which can provide valuable insights into how far along the path to purchase consumers are.

Meanwhile, Walmart’s direct competitor Target is also moving forward with its own media network, now called Roundel. Both retailers presented for the first time last spring at the IAB’s Digital Content NewFronts, pitching their online inventory to advertisers.

Walmart and Target have at least one major differentiator from Amazon: their data from purchases in physical stores. While Amazon has branched into the physical retailing world through such acquisitions as Whole Foods, Walmart’s and Target’s in-store sales more closely resemble their online offerings, which could help advertisers more accurately target ads to customers’ online and offline preferences.

Meanwhile, Amazon continues to ramp up its $11 billion ad business. Last month, it held its first AdCon conference in Seattle focused on brands instead of ad agencies. Although the event was closed to the press, CNBC reported that the conference pitched how Amazon wanted to expand its advertising in ways that can build brands, including video in search ads and ads on over-the-top TV.

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