How advertisers should respond to the network’s newly revamped offering.
By Jessica Felice & Katy Jordan, The Mars Agency
Staying on top of all the changes taking place across the retail media landscape is a difficult but important task for commerce marketers these days.
It’s difficult because the leading retail media players are relentlessly updating capabilities and refining processes in an effort to make their platforms more appealing to both brand partners and audiences. It’s important because falling behind the changes can lead to inefficient spending, ineffective programming, and lost sales.
Among the recent changes that should be on everyone’s radar are the enhancements Walmart Connect has made to its paid search offering, which the retailer implemented “to deliver even more impact to advertisers and better experiences for our customers,” according to the platform’s Insights blog.
In April, Walmart Connect took steps to simplify the ad-serving criteria it uses by making all qualifying Sponsored Products ads eligible for relevant in-grid results on both search and browse pages. Ads now qualify based on:
● how closely the advertised product matches the perceived intent of the searcher.
● the ad’s contextual relevance to the search term.
● the product’s historical online sales performance at Walmart.
● the quality of item page content (as determined by Walmart Connect).
The changes included eliminating the practice of “deduping,” which means that products can now appear both organically and in sponsored placement within the same search results.
Compared with Walmart Connect’s previous formula, advertised products are now more broadly classified as relevant (based on the search term), no longer have to rank within the top 128 organic results to be deemed relevant, and can appear anywhere relative to their organic search results (higher, lower or equal). In addition, in-grid ads can now appear in any of the first four slots rather than just the first two (see image at left).
Results in the rest of the search grid remain the same, with two ads appearing for every 10 results.
Already in effect for all in-flight and Sponsored Products campaigns run either through Walmart Connect’s managed service or self-serve portal, these enhancements provide more opportunities for products to be discovered and, therefore, potentially increase the advertiser’s share of voice and ROAS (return on ad spend.)
Advanced Second-Price Auction
In June, Walmart Connect introduced a new competitive auction model that levels the playing field for all advertisers by focusing more heavily on search-term relevance than on the bids themselves — so much so, in fact, that the winner doesn’t necessarily have to pay the maximum bid.
In the advanced second-price auction model, the most relevant product wins regardless of the bid it submitted, with the cost then determined based on all relevant competing bids. That means the ultimate cost may be less than the winner’s own bid.
Actions to Take
Given these significant changes, The Mars Agency has been working with our clients to continue optimizing their search activity by taking the following actions:
● Evaluating current bids, bid multipliers (the factors used to determine the relative weight given to various placement opportunities), and dayparting strategies. We recommend pulling daily budget reports to see if budgets are lasting longer throughout the day.
● Revisiting current ad groups, keywords, etc. Expensive keywords that you previously avoided might now be more attainable.
● Doubling-down on top performing keywords and items to ensure that you continue winning bids as the competition becomes more aggressive.
● Auditing and improving the elements of your PDP (product detail page) to ensure the content is relevant to the search terms you’re bidding on.
“The quality of your ad content is the key to winning at search,” Walmart Connect recommends. “Frequently managing and updating this content increases the likelihood that your ads are relevant to what customers are searching for and helps you compete for better ad placement.”
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Jessica Felice is Senior Director of Commerce Media for Walmart & Sam’s Club at The Mars Agency. She has dedicated 10 years of her career helping cross-category brands meet and exceed their business objectives through Walmart Connect and Sam’s Club Media Group.
Katy Jordan is the Director of Commerce Media for Walmart & Sam’s Club at The Mars Agency, where she assists brands in navigating the ever-changing world of retail media. Katy has a passion for media strategy and connected commerce, and has spent over 10 years delivering media strategies for brands at Walmart.