This article was written with the expert advice of Greg Yevich, Co-Founder and Technology Director at OperationROI.
Walmart.com is the online marketplace to watch in North America. It’s growing fast, and attracting plenty of new customers.
For sellers, there are many opportunities on Walmart.com, in multiple niches, but many challenges as well. Despite Walmart’s huge size, its online marketplace is immature and lacks the refinement that sellers are used to on Amazon. Like the Wild West, Walmart is a new frontier for sellers who are prepared to put the work in, but can be disorganized and even chaotic at times.
That said, Walmart is investing in improvements and is constantly evolving. It certainly has the momentum, resources and infrastructure to present a serious challenge to Amazon going forward.
In this article, we’re going to break down the Walmart marketplace for you. You’ll learn about what it is, what sells there, and everything you need to know to get started. We’ll also give you actionable advice to help you succeed.
What is the Walmart Marketplace?
The Walmart Marketplace was launched in 2009, allowing third-party merchants to sell their products on Walmart.com. The marketplace now has over 33,000 sellers with 52 million products that are exposed to over 468 million monthly visitors.
95% of Walmart’s traffic comes from the US, and 1% comes from Canada. In the US, Walmart.com is the third largest online marketplace behind only Amazon and eBay. While smaller than Amazon, it’s important to note that 57% of Amazon shoppers also shop on Walmart.com, according to consumer research.
Although Walmart has had an online marketplace for more than a decade, it hasn’t always been an important part of its ecommerce strategy. After the acquisition of rival Jet.com in 2016, Walmart’s ecommerce division was reinvigorated and there was an increased focus on growing the marketplace. Jet.com was absorbed into the main Walmart.com website in 2020.
The majority of goods sold on Walmart.com are new mass-produced items with UPC codes, and are sold at fixed prices. Walmart does not allow used products to be sold, except for jewelry and some refurbished items.
Walmart also has a liquidation auction site run by B-Stock which allows businesses to bid on excess inventory, store returns, and refurbished bulk lots from Walmart stores and Walmart.com. This is not part of the Walmart online marketplace.
Who shops on Walmart.com?
Walmart marketplace shoppers tend to be budget-focused and hunting for value, but are higher earners on average than those who frequent Walmart’s retail stores. A typical online customer is from the US, female, mid-40s in age, and has an annual household income in the $70,000 range. Walmart reports that half of online buyers are from families with children. As a comparison, Amazon shoppers tend to be similar in demographic but a little higher in household income.
Walmart’s recent online strategy has been to target upscale millennial customers who may never step into one of their physical stores. They are attracting this group with higher-end luxury products, private label brands, and improved logistics for shipping and grocery delivery. Walmart’s purchase of outdoor gear retailer Moosejaw, and acquisitions via Jet.com of clothing retailer ModCloth and home decor store Hayneedle, form part of this strategy.
Walmart has also been broadening its appeal with a more user-friendly website design, free delivery on orders over $35, two-day shipping, and the option to pick up purchases at one of their stores.
Overall, however, Walmart’s philosophy remains one of saving people money. Its low price guarantee is very important to Walmart and attracts shoppers from all walks of life, but with a common drive to find the lowest possible price on the items they buy. Products sold on Amazon can often be found cheaper on Walmart.com.
There are some key customer types for Walmart.com, but sellers should not get hung up on stereotypes. The Walmart brand name appeals to a very wide range of shoppers who are more comfortable buying from an established name rather than visiting an unknown website.
Which products sell best on the Walmart Marketplace?
Walmart sells a mix of branded and generic products. Branded products sell better on Walmart than non-branded products, and Walmart has been acquiring brand names to sell directly themselves.
The top selling product categories on Walmart.com include:
- Home, Furniture & Appliances
- Patio & Garden
- Vitamins & Supplements
Recently, however, Walmart has been shifting their online focus away from books, electronics and toys to essentials such as apparel, fresh food, groceries and drugstore items. These categories are likely to grow strongly.
So, what are the ideal products to sell on Walmart? Sellers should look for good quality products from brands that people know, with very competitive prices. While the categories above have strong sales, Walmart covers a wide range of products that are worth considering.
Direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands that don’t have to compete with resellers often have the best chance of success on Walmart. DTC brands are able to control their listing information, and can more easily keep pricing in line with Amazon and other online stores.
Is selling on Walmart.com a race to the bottom?
Much like Amazon, Walmart has a catalog-driven marketplace where multiple sellers can add their offer to one product page. However, while Amazon’s Buy Box is influenced by a variety of factors, including price and FBA, Walmart’s Buy Box puts price above everything else.
Walmart holds true to their slogan of “Everyday Low Prices”, and the marketplace does encourage a race to the bottom for sellers. The lowest priced item can be expected to reap most of the sales for any given listing.
Walmart is also active in policing pricing and will de-list items if they discover that you are selling the same item on Amazon (or elsewhere) for less. Walmart will also suspend your offer if your price is too high in relation to other sellers.
How competitive is the Walmart marketplace?
Walmart’s marketplace is still far behind Amazon’s in terms of the sheer number of sellers. Amazon hosts over 2 million sellers compared to Walmart’s 33,000. This means that competing for product space and sales is easier at Walmart than Amazon or eBay.
The lower level of competition means that savvy marketers can more easily achieve penetration into the marketplace. Walmart is not the same as Amazon, but many sellers do not adjust their strategy to take full advantage of the marketplace, for example by using PPC ads.
How do you get approved to sell on Walmart.com?
Walmart wants retailers and brands that provide first-class customer service, with a compelling product range, competitive pricing, and fast, reliable fulfillment. This is not a marketplace for startups or amateur sellers.
The first step is to fill out an application on the Walmart website. This form takes about 10 to 15 minutes to complete, if you have the required information to hand. You will need to provide:
- Company registration details.
- Tax information including W8 or W9 tax forms.
- Payment information.
- Shipping information.
It can take Walmart up to three weeks to process the application and let you know if you’ve been approved.
If you’re approved, you will receive an email with the subject line Your Walmart Seller Center Account Has Been Created. This email includes a link to the onboarding system, and a checklist of all the tasks you need to complete to join the marketplace.
For sellers that qualify, setting up an account on Walmart.com is fairly straightforward. Sellers have control over pricing, fulfillment, and customer care, and also get access to Walmart-owned websites, such as Shoes.com.
Can international businesses sell on Walmart?
The Walmart marketplace is geared towards domestic US businesses, but not exclusive to them – it is possible for international sellers to apply. In the past, international sellers needed a US address and tax registration but since March 2021 this requirement was removed.
Time will tell what the effect of this change will be. Currently, Amazon sellers will be relieved to hear that Walmart.com is not awash with Chinese manufacturers selling directly to US consumers. Walmart will continue to vet new sellers, whether they are domestic or foreign, and says that international sellers will be limited.
The manual approval process means that international sellers are not able to access Walmart.com as easily as Amazon.com. So far, many international businesses have preferred to concentrate on Amazon rather than navigate Walmart’s application process and requirements, which will be a relief to domestic sellers!
Do Walmart sellers get a branded storefront?
Unlike Amazon, there are no seller brand stores and minimal opportunities for branding control on Walmart.com overall.
Sellers do have a profile page which includes:
- Business name and logo.
- Reviews summary and overall rating.
- Policies for taxes, shipping and returns.
- Customer service information, link to send a message, and telephone number.
Sellers with their own unique products have control over their listing information. There are a small number of “Brand Shops” for major brands such as Apple and pages for exclusive brands such as Onn.
How much does it cost to sell on Walmart.com?
Walmart charges merchants a referral fee for selling on the marketplace. Fees vary based on the product category, but range between 6% and 20% of the product sale price.
There are no setup, listing or maintenance fees on Walmart. This is an advantage over Amazon, which has a more complex fee structure.
Payments to sellers are made through Walmart’s partner Payoneer. Registration for seller payment is a multi-part process that begins at Walmart Seller Center and is completed on the Payoneer website.
Sellers report that payment withdrawal fees can be avoided by setting up a Payoneer account via Walmart Seller Center rather than creating an account directly with Payoneer.
How do you add your products to Walmart.com?
Walmart asks sellers to upload and test at least 10% of their products before they will approve their listings.
Sellers have four options for providing product data to Walmart:
- API integration to upload large numbers of items from existing systems.
- Bulk upload from a spreadsheet CSV file.
- Manual data entry via Seller Center.
- A third-party solution provider.
The most sophisticated option is to use third-party multichannel software with Walmart support such as Sellbrite or Zentail. These tools can maintain price and inventory level synchronization between sales channels and have other features to help manage selling through multiple marketplaces.
Listings can be corrected or added to within Seller Center, and it is also possible to preview items and place test orders to verify that listings are correct.
Each listing on Walmart must have a unique UPC code, and problems can arise if there are variation changes or inaccurate data. Sellers often rely on uploading listings using information from other sales channels (such as Amazon) without adjusting the data to meet Walmart’s requirements, often resulting in errors.
Common mistakes that cause products to be rejected include:
- Missing SKU, product type or category mapping.
- Invalid product name or title.
- Watermarked images.
- Missing, invalid or duplicate barcodes.
Listing products on Walmart can be an error-prone process with a lot of unique quirks and requirements, and seller support can be slow or unresponsive at handling seller issues when they do occur.
One particularly challenging issue is that sellers have to set up sales tax codes themselves, which is a difficult process involving a long and complicated instruction manual.
Although Walmart has a catalog-driven system and each unique product should have only one entry in the catalog, quality control can be weak and sellers will often create a new listing instead of adding their offer to the correct existing listing.
How do you optimize Walmart marketplace listings?
Listing optimization is a key component to success on Walmart.com. Sellers should put effort into listing titles, descriptions and images, correctly map categories and attributes, and update their listings periodically. Competitive pricing is also essential, as mentioned above.
Product titles should be unique and user-friendly, with keywords to help them be searched and found. Ideally, you should include the brand name, product name and the product’s use.
The product description is where you can put detailed information about the item, and it should include every piece of information a potential buyer would want to know. The text should be concise and use an active voice, and include the value proposition of your product so shoppers understand the benefits. It’s important to include relevant keywords, but not more than three times to avoid being flagged as search engine manipulation.
Images should be in focus, well lit, centrally placed with a white background, and with no accessories that are not part of the product. The main product image should not include graphics, illustrations, or text. Sellers can also provide images showing the product in use, and a video in some product categories.
You should also provide meta keywords for your listings. These are equivalent to backend keywords on Amazon, and work the same way to help your product rank in search results when buyers enter those keywords.
What shipping options are available for Walmart sellers?
Walmart marketplace offers six shipping methods: Free Value Shipping, Standard, ThreeDay, TwoDay, Next Day, and Freight. Sellers can offer any of these shipping methods to shoppers, but it’s recommended to use the fastest option possible. This will help you get better reviews, which helps search ranking.
There are a number of possible fulfillment strategies on Walmart.com. Sellers can:
- Process and ship orders themselves.
- Use one of Walmart’s approved fulfillment partners.
- Use WFS (Walmart Fulfillment Services).
Marketplace sellers are not allowed to use Amazon FBA to fulfill Walmart orders, or any other fulfillment provider that delivers items in competitors’ packaging. Direct use of Amazon Logistics is also prohibited. Despite the clear rule, Amazon sellers often attempt to use FBA for Walmart sales. Customers report the jarring experience of receiving an Amazon-branded package to Walmart, and sellers will then discover that the rule is actively enforced.
Walmart’s “TwoDay Delivery” program guarantees shoppers free delivery within two business days, so is similar to Amazon Prime but without membership fees or minimum order requirements.
Sellers can qualify for TwoDay Delivery, which adds a special tag to their items, in two ways:
- By using third-party logistics company Deliverr. Using Deliverr means that no additional performance criteria need to be met.
- By shipping orders from their own warehouses or using a 3PL, as long as Walmart’s eligibility criteria are met.
TwoDay Delivery eligibility criteria are demanding, including a minimum order level, generous returns policy, on-time shipping and delivery metrics, valid tracking numbers and a low order cancellation rate.
Walmart also offers sellers their own version of Amazon FBA, called WFS (Walmart Fulfillment Services). This program was launched in February 2020 and is still evolving.
What are the customer service requirements for Walmart.com?
Walmart expects sellers to handle customer service including product-related questions, returns and refunds. The only exception is if you choose to use WFS, in which case Walmart handles customer service relating to order fulfillment, just as Amazon does with FBA.
Sellers are required to offer support by phone and email, and must respond to messages from customers and Walmart Customer Care within 24 hours, with high-quality responses (not auto-reply messages).
eDesk is a multichannel ecommerce customer support tool with a direct integration into Walmart’s messaging system, so Walmart customer messages can be managed and answered within eDesk along with messages from other sales channels.
Walmart also has product reviews, customer Q&As and seller feedback, which all work in a similar way to Amazon.
How do returns work on the Walmart marketplace?
Walmart sellers can choose their own return policies and return window. As mentioned above, however, a generous return policy is required to qualify for TwoDay Delivery.
As well as mailing orders directly back to you, customers can return items to any Walmart store. After dropping off the package, Walmart ships the item back to you to process the refund.
What standards do sellers have to meet on Walmart.com?
As with Amazon and eBay, sellers on Walmart have their performance tracked and measured using a number of metrics, so that sellers maintain a high quality of service and action can be taken if performance is not up to standard.
Walmart assesses seller performance bi-weekly, on a Seller Scorecard located under the Insights and Analytics section in Seller Center. The performance assessments cover several areas, and the requirements must be met in each one to continue to sell on the Walmart marketplace.
The On-Time Shipment Rate must be above 99%, meaning that over 99% of orders were shipped when expected. Orders are considered to be shipped when the seller provides a shipment confirmation and tracking number to Walmart, which also triggers a shipping confirmation email to the customer.
Note that the On-Time Shipment Rate does not measure delivery speed, only that the order was processed by the seller (or their fulfillment provider) and a carrier shipping label was created. Sellers should set their Order Cutoff Time and Fulfillment Lag Time appropriately, and ensure that any Additional Days Off are set in their schedule. This data is used by Walmart to calculate the Expected Ship Date.
The Valid Tracking Rate must also be above 99%. This means that a correct tracking number from one of Walmart’s approved carriers was provided for at least 99% of orders. On some marketplace platforms, sellers have been known to provide fake tracking numbers to save on shipping costs. It is not known if Walmart validates the accuracy of tracking numbers but providing deliberately invalid tracking information, on any selling platform, is a risky game to play.
The Order Defect Rate (ODR) must be 2% or lower. The Walmart ODR is similar in concept to Amazon and eBay, as it takes in a number of different factors to indicate if a particular order was “defective”. These include orders being cancelled by the seller, returns due to defective products, late delivery and customer complaints.
Walmart also has customer service standards that must be met, including responding to customer emails within 24 hours.
What happens if sellers don’t meet performance standards?
Walmart’s Partner Performance Team regularly reviews performance and notifies sellers if they are not meeting the standards. Seller accounts that do not comply can be temporarily suspended or blocked. Walmart will provide at least one warning to sellers who are in violation before it takes action.
Here are the most common reasons that Walmart sellers get their account suspended:
- Failing to meet one or more of the seller performance standards as detailed above.
- Selling prohibited or counterfeit products, copyright issues and other violations of the Walmart seller agreement.
- Selling products at a lower price on a competitor’s website.
While Amazon is notoriously vague in its suspension emails, Walmart will provide the reason for the suspension and any additional requirements. Sellers can appeal their suspension, but should first analyze the root cause, then create a Business Plan of Action explaining the problem and setting out steps that they will take to correct it in the future.
After submitting the plan, you will be contacted within two business days with a decision. If Walmart turns down your appeal, they are not required to provide a reason and will not allow further appeals.
How do you increase your sales on Walmart.com?
Walmart is not a saturated marketplace in the same way as Amazon, but it is a competitive marketplace. It is not sufficient just to register an account then throw all your inventory onto the marketplace with the least effort possible. But many sellers do exactly that.
To be successful on Walmart.com, research is a key factor. Spend some time on the site and determine if all your products fit the Walmart ecosystem. Consider how saturated your category is, which products are selling best, and whether your product fills a niche at a competitive price point. Understand Walmart’s return policy so you don’t lose money on return shipping.
Walmart’s TwoDay Delivery program boosts the visibility of your listings. Shoppers can filter to products with two-day shipping, and it appeals to millennial shoppers and last-minute buyers. You can use Deliverr to qualify for TwoDay Delivery, or aim to meet the eligibility criteria detailed above so you can do your own fulfillment.
Low pricing and winning the Buy Box are crucial. Walmart takes their low price guarantee very seriously and expects their marketplace sellers to support it as well.
Get great customer reviews to build up your brand. Use product kits and bundles to drive up your average order value. List to non-competitive UPCs and avoid pricing violations across channels.
Is Walmart PPC advertising effective for growing sales?
Only 1.6% of sellers use PPC advertising on Walmart (far less than on Amazon), making Walmart Sponsored Products an attractive and effective option. Walmart PPC ads reach a huge audience, so there’s a great opportunity to grow sales. Bear in mind that Walmart uses a first-price bidding auction, so you will pay whatever amount you bid rather than a penny more than the second-highest bidder. Use manual bidding instead of automatic bidding to control costs.
Walmart’s advertising is also a good way to build your organic search ranking because of the additional visibility and sales you gain through ads. Do a lot of testing to see what works best for your product and your budget.
In general, the Walmart marketplace is wide-open and less cutthroat than Amazon, which means that you have more freedom to test product strategies. Take advantage of that.
This post was first published in June 2020 and last updated in March 2021.