Selling on Walmart Marketplace: is it Really Worth the Effort?

Readers’ Questions are in partnership with Emanaged and Online Seller Consulting.

Question

Hi Matt! I recently got approved to sell on Walmart which I know is special to receive, but I’m not sure it’s worth my time to prioritize this. I was going to focus on a new website originally. Is it worth listing on Walmart? I sell mostly homewares and bedding supplies. It’s a vague question, sorry! I would appreciate complete honesty.

— Will from Texas

Answer

Hi Will!

Congratulations on being accepted to sell on Walmart. It’s certainly a great honor you have been gifted, as one of the mere tens of millions of sellers that they mass-emailed recently.

Seriously though, I’ll do my best to cast some light on this.

Walmart is huge. Epically huge. You know that already, but just so everyone else is on the same page, consider a few things:

  • Walmart has more employees than several of our planet’s countries. If their workforce were an army, it would be the world’s second largest.
  • If Walmart were a country, they would be ranked in the region of the 22nd to 24th largest economy.
  • They are bigger than Home Depot, Kroger, Target, Sears, Costco and Kmart combined. Combined!

On top of these basic bananas-crazy facts, they sell a lot of bananas. It’s their biggest seller. Bananas!

Walmart have power, and with the acquisition of Jet.com, they sent a clear message that they are investing in ecommerce. Their marketplace is still fairly new, and hasn’t grown much over the years. But soon after acquiring Jet.com, we noticed a large influx of sellers receiving invites to sell on their platform. This hit our existing clients as well as sellers in our wider network, and many new clients started asking us for help. Walmart are really going to town on email invites these days.

Walmart is the marketplace to watch in North America. They have a name, financial backing and infrastructure to have a serious decade-long battle with Amazon, if they want to. As per above, they have the army and economy. Amazon will need to bring some guerrilla tactics to the fight if Walmart goes fully after them. It will be the heavyweight ecommerce battle to watch over the next few years.

But for now, ecommerce for Walmart is only about 2-3% of their total sales. It’s a backwater.

Their marketplace is also… well, fun. Think of it as a bit like the wild west. You have some ghost town categories, where the land is ripe for investment but the trickle of settlers is slow. Then you have boom-town areas with few controls or limits, but also very little clarity about what the heck is going on.

For example, different categories have listings that vary in numerous different ways. It seems that sellers can do just about whatever they want at times. The left-hand navigation filters don’t have a clue what’s going on. No one is sure what’s getting indexed and picked up in search, and wild crazy theories about how the algorithm works abound.

But there’s gold in them thar hills! As with the gold rush, many sellers are making good money because they have the land to themselves. All it took was a couple of donkeys, a pickaxe and a hessian sack to strike it rich. (Just for clarity, in this analogy, the sack is a bank account, the pickaxe is a product data file and the donkeys… um.) Anyway, if you can find yourself a rich seam, the opportunity is there.

You should be aware of a few things upfront though:

  • You’ll need to offer free shipping.
  • You’ll need to set up all sales tax codes yourself, which is a special kind of “fun”. The manual for that is six million pages long, approximately.
  • You need to offer competitive pricing. If you price too high in relation to other sellers or external channels, Walmart will suspend the listing.
  • Similarly to Amazon, you’re “connecting” to listings on Walmart. This can be an issue when data isn’t accurate. Variation changes are especially problematic.
  • The data upload formatting is a bit hit and miss, but you can find help figuring it out.

Walmart has comprehensive reporting and is slowly structuring things more effectively. But it’s a young channel and has a few chaotic areas.

Now, you said you were originally going to focus on a new website. So let’s compare selling on marketplaces to selling on your own website, as best we can. A website has some key benefits:

  • You’re growing a direct-to-consumer channel.
  • Your website has better margins (maybe, we’ll revisit this).
  • A website does more for your ego. A business card looks much better with your own domain.
  • You can provide a better quality service. You can also treat your buyers crappy, but you will likely want to dictate how well they are nurtured and cared for.

I think any ecommerce business will eventually need a website. It’s not required in every circumstance, and perhaps not at first, but if you started off selling one item on eBay and grew your sales and product catalog continuously over the years, you will eventually want a website. If I’m searching for new home decor, or bedding, I likely will appreciate the ease of buying it all from a single location.

But you need to be ready for it. Launching a website is easy. Getting people to find and purchase from it is the real work. Assuming you have a budget to launch the site, have you put aside six months worth of marketing spend? Will you do Google ads, PPC, email blasts, advertising placements, blogging and backlink-building all by yourself? Or will you use an agency, or hire people? That’s assuming all the SEO work and product copywriting is done properly too…

Suddenly those margins don’t look so great.

A website project is like a single man buying a baby pig. Hear me out on this. Baby pigs are so darn cute on day one, and we all know that taking that little thing for a walk will get attention. But one year later, you’re bankrupt trying to feed the 400-pound darling, and exhausted cleaning up after it. The allure, along with a portion of your soul, died long ago. That’s after they chewed all your nice furniture and best linens too.

So if you are planning to launch a website, and have lined up people, budget and agencies to grow it, support it and nurture it, great. Get it launched. The sooner it’s up, the sooner the clock starts towards an eventual return on investment, which won’t be overnight.

But if you were expecting a return much sooner, and you are a small team with limited budget, launch on Walmart instead. It may be the wild west, but wild frontiers breed opportunity. More settlers are coming, so get your saloon known now. It sure beats raising a pig single-handed.

Comments

Jazva
Jazva

Funny yet informative post Matthew! Developing a great website shopping experience definitely takes more time and investment, but sellers will have more control over the brand experience and customer relationship. Some perks include data collection for remarketing and personalization, upselling and buy-online-pick-up-in-store services.

Selling on Walmart isn't always ideal either. Certain categories sell better than others on specific marketplaces. Customer satisfaction has been a problem on Walmart Marketplace, too. The average rating for the top 100 sellers on the platform is 3.9 out of 5, compared to the top 100 sellers on Amazon and eBay, which average a near-perfect 4.9 out of 5.

Matthew Ferguson
Matthew Ferguson
In reply to Matthew Ferguson

Very true Jazva, very good valid points.

If I had a point, which is itself debatable, it would be merely to highlight the vast long term project a website truly is, as oppose to a Marketplace where the marketing is done for you.

I have worked with sellers who, upon launching a website, then wonder why no one is buying from it 3 days later... and they are being serious. A website is important, but no small task to grow.

Walmart, as is the case with most marketplaces, is a lighter touch. Less time and effort to see some returns on the investment of your time. If you don't have time to sell on Walmart, how will you have time to grow a website.

At least I think that was my point. Could of been about dating strategies with pigs too, Im not sure.

DaveP
DaveP

That article was funny as hell. What a great comparison; I heard OPEN SHOP NOW. Walmart may be the wild west but Amazon is where the millions of credit cards live and trust Prime.
Thanks, DaveP

Matthew Ferguson
Matthew Ferguson
In reply to Matthew Ferguson

Indeed Dave, Amazon is monolithic right now. I'm guessing that's where the bulk of your revenue resides on marketplaces?

DaveP
DaveP
In reply to DaveP

I would like to see someone seriously challenge that monolith. My FBA fees are insane!

Matthew Ferguson
Matthew Ferguson
In reply to Matthew Ferguson

Have you applied for SFP? Might help, depending on your variables. FBA, after warehousing, boxing, shipping and staff, is increasingly competitive.

Out of curiosity, what do you sell?

DaveP
DaveP
In reply to DaveP

I sell home and garden items under mrdirtfarmer.com and on AMZ. I'm not familiar with SFP, what's that?
DaveP

Matthew Ferguson
Matthew Ferguson

Stands for Seller Fulfilled Prime. You need to be eligible to apply, but basically you get to keep warehousing in-house and still get 'Prime'. An Amazon courier service will show up at your door step each morning to pick up the orders. You can't mess up though! You may not be eligible sadly.

Webretailer did a nice piece on it: https://www.webretailer.com/b/amazon-seller-fulfilled-prime-guide/

Appeagle did a good one too: http://blog.appeagle.com/amazon-seller-fulfilled-prime

Matthew Ferguson
Matthew Ferguson

So... you're a fan? Sorry!

I am sincerely sorry to hear about the pain John. The unpublished topic is a true thorn for many sellers, especially when you want to bundle things. Excellent detail shared about lumping shipping into price.

It seems unrealistic that as they grow, that functionality will continue. I don't see how they can control it properly at scale, when clearly its a mess now.

It is sadly still the wild west. All marketplaces that survive start up go through a maturation phase. I don't know if you ever sold on the early Amazon or eBay, but they were a bit chaotic too back in the day.

Message me back via [email protected] if you want me to take a closer look at things. Always keep commenting and sharing!

K Sheets
K Sheets

What about items that are not currently in their "catalog" can you create new item listings?

MJ
MJ

I am selling on Walmart and I am getting sales but dealing with the listings is not very easy. They constantly take them off for odd reasons then put them back on whenever they feel like it. You can not call into customer service it is all done by email so I email them everyday about something. Very frustrated.

Jason
Jason

":Walmart forces you to include shipping and then unpublishes you if your price on another site adds in shipping separately – even when the combined price is higher." That is my concern. We are also selling at other sites with shipping cost separately. If they unpublished listing just based on the price, it will be disaster.

James
James

Hello Matthew,,

Really enjoyed the article and a lot of good points made also in the comments section pros and cons.. One of the best things I like about selling on Walmart is NO Chinese at this time.. There may be some domestic Chinese wholesalers but I have not seen no overseas merchants and what I have understood Walmart is only taking domestic sellers "at this time". The Chinese can really put the slam Bam to some of your products even though it takes three weeks to three months to get it.
Good luck to all you guys may your adventures be profitable :-)

Matthew
Matthew
In reply to Matthew

Hi James,

Thank you for the praise! too kind.

Yes... Globalization is going to push positives and negatives until the laws and buyer mind set mature with the technology and inter-connectivity of systems and markets.

In the end, you will always have buyers who will wait 3 extra weeks to save 5 dollars, and buyers willing to spend a little more to get it in a day or two. Walmart eventually will open up their market, so your best option is to focus on what you can control and position yourself ready for the trends the markets will always adopt. Your issue is faced by sellers in the EU, other parts of Asia and the world over, so its very much a global topic.

Crystal
Crystal

Thanks for your advice and insight, I feel like running now.

Sean
Sean

We do alot of custom made to order items and have been looking into other markets as well but so far ebay we sell the most then our website, then etsy. was looking into walmart.com but does not look like a fit for us. Amazon fee's are so high for what we make we just stay away from there selling platform which is sad since there the biggest. Anyone have any other sites they would recommend selling on?

But Really enjoyed the article but love reading all the comments as well

Juan Solano
Juan Solano

Selling on Walmart is the worse experience a seller can have. It takes time to publish listing and if you do they can be unpublished anytime. There is no phone for customer servide and they never help you just close your ticket with some lame excuse. Walmart can issue a Refund on your behalf for no valid reason even after 2 months. They suck we sell there because we need to but as soon as we can we will leave.

klaudia whetstone
klaudia whetstone
In reply to klaudia whetstone

THis is very true, I am disgusted selling on this platform. No support, mismatches, no confirmations, partner support replie to your case like 1 moth later RUN!!!!! HORRIBLE seller experience!!!!! AMAZON PEOPLE ONLY!!!!! Do not waste time on WALMART until they rebuilt their whole database ....wasting time

Jim Costner
Jim Costner

I just started a facebook group for walmart sellers forums. If you are interested join and lets share tactics.

The group is named " Walmart Sellers Forum " Search on Facebook

No gimmicks or selling nothing. I am just trying to get people to have a good conversation on walmart selling.

W
W

Interesting comments and experiences!

Launched a new brand in consumer electronic ~Feb 2017, selling amzn, ebay, wmrt and newegg starting all around the same time. Walmart.com was the first marketplace we were able to grab success.

Walmart still performing well in 2018 for us, roughly 20% of our sales YTD, with great YOY increase.

Also have found their sales commissions to be a bit more reasonable than amzn and ebay.

Agree that the wmrt platform is young, or immature and the reporting and other features are sparse and often don't work well(or at all). If you are used to mature platforms like amzn or ebay and I can see why others are frustrated.

WMRT API is lean and functions well.

Would recommend seller to join wmrt.com

Joe E
Joe E

We are a successful seller on Amazon. Walmart is the worst!! Not enough exclamations on the end of that to describe their pitiful support service. You cannot call anyone in their Market Seller support group. You may as well call the President of the United States and get actually get thru . It's all online responses, no debate, no help , no solutions. Sam Walton would be appalled !!!. We are leaving this platform , nothing but a headache. Anyone thinking of Walmart as a way to sell,... think again..Go to Amazon or Ebay.

Joe E
Houston, TX

Ardis
Ardis

My employer (handmade paper products) asked me to help set up our Walmart store. So far the help features are not helpful and I haven't gotten even one product live yet. They need live chat to help sellers navigate their platform until they clean it up.
Would like to get a chance to try and launch a product, but can't even get there, so experience over the past week or so has been frustrating.

Matthew
Matthew
In reply to Matthew

Sorry to hear this Ardis - their system is not ideal. Is there a particular issue you're encountering?

ardis
ardis
In reply to ardis

Yep, several particular issues. For the last two days it's been a GTIN exemption for handmade products. They asked 4 questions. I answered. Then got a message: we need additional information. But I don't know what more they need. I've asked 3 times throughout today in the case resolution screen. No response yet.

So right now, two issues:
1. GTIN exemption is necessary for our products
2. Walmart Support is not responding to my efforts to resolve #1

Laurie Brandt
Laurie Brandt

Thanks for all the feedback. Triee thought had crossed my mind but when I actually thought about the sellers I know - NONE of them sell on Walmart Marketplace and if they do it is kept a secret and unknown to the rest of us. That alone says steer clear!

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