It’s hard to understate how much the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted online shopping behavior, driving unprecedented growth for both Amazon and many non-Amazon marketplaces. For example, WalMart, the number two eCommerce marketplace saw 79% year over year growth in 2020. US online grocery sales have more than doubled in the last several months with Instacart experiencing a tremendous 500 percent year over year growth.
With the significant shift in consumer behavior towards adopting online marketplaces, it’s become critical for sellers to better understand how to strategically launch, manage and optimize scalable sales programs across multiple online retail platforms. Agencies that can both accommodate the market shift and position sellers to thrive holistically in the new cross platform ecommerce world are paramount.
But who is the right fit for a cross platform strategy? What works on Amazon may require an entirely different set of strategies, goals and campaign settings on Walmart or Instacart. That’s why having an agency an agency with deep expertise on Amazon to leverage that knowledge to sell more effectively across multiple platforms is the key to selling more effectively is key. I’ve assembled some key guideposts to provide insight into what differentiates the unique profiles and environments for winning on two of the biggest emerging online marketplaces – Walmart and Instacart.
Let’s dive into how to get started on Walmart and what that usually looks like from a marketing campaign and logistics perspective.
Walmart advertising supports product placements in search results on product detail pages and at the bottom of search carousel, not unlike Amazon, making it relatively easy for products to be seen across a variety of devices. Ads are managed primarily through an API feed, with limited capabilities available in the ad console’s user interface. You don’t need to already be selling on Walmart Wholesale (there is an application process unlike Amazon that is much quicker) but it helps if you are already a vendor. Most vendors can only run campaigns through the API. They are unable to launch campaigns, update bids or change targeting in the UI. It’s best to leave the management of advertising campaigns in the API to agencies that know that world best. The ad console is also where the reporting dashboard lives. Depending on the level of service from the marketing agency, you can expect a variety of robust performance reports and insights into competitive positioning.
A question that comes up a lot is, “should I be advertising the same items on Walmart that I’m advertising on Amazon?”. The short answer is maybe, it depends on the SKU and the strategy. Increasing the advertised SKU count can drive efficiency and increase overall visibility and Share of Search. In that vein, the general strategies between Amazon and Walmart aren’t all that different at a high level. The “flywheel” principle employed to drive organic improvement with sponsored ads is true across both platforms. There are different tactical execution nuances that must be tuned to drive efficiency between the two – for instance how auction bidding dynamics works from one versus the other. There are myriad other distinctions critical to thriving on Walmart online but for sake the brevity, rest assured most top-tier ecommerce agencies should be able to navigate those with relative ease.
Instacart is somewhat unique due to the nature of food accessibility and immediacy. Instacart is focused around a local pickup and delivery model as opposed to a centralized wholesale model which better supports the grocery sector’s reliance on supporting cold chain products. Instacart’s marketplace offers more than 300 retailers and grocers, partnering with national powerhouse retailers like Costco, Kroger, Sam’s Club and many others in addition to regional options. It allows sellers to advertise almost any item that is in stock, however there is generally a 4-6 week lag for new items being added to the store inventory and alcohol is a big no no. Instacart’s advertising is based on both retailer availability and geographical location; in terms of what sells better where, its variable.
To be honest, there’s no rhyme or reason to what should or shouldn’t be advertised. The prevailing wisdom is that if you want to drive sales volume, then advertise the product. Instacart’s advertising strategy is very similar to Amazon, however the ability to get hyper granular with targeting strategies isn’t as robust. Campaigns are typically more general and require sellers to pay close attention to their search term reports. Instacart handles performance optimization, removing concerns about availability at the local level. Essentially, Instacart won’t advertise an item if it isn’t in stock at a specific location.
In terms of scale, sellers can gain better shelf position by showing more traffic and sales to Instacart. So an increased marketing spend is not only gaining incremental sales on selected items, but actively moving unpaid placements higher on the shelf. Ads are managed by setting up campaigns that start with a total budget, a start and end date. Sellers need to check these campaigns frequently to adjust bidding accordingly based on budget utilization and ROAS. Like Walmart, there is a reporting console and ideally the Instacart sellers agency is able to provide actionable insights into key areas with suggestions for improvement, etc.
To get a better idea of how your brand can start scaling across ecommerce platforms to drive winning campaigns on Walmart, Instacart or Amazon, please contact us.