Small business owners looking to sell their products online should consider selling on Walmart. The retail behemoth has made a concerted effort over the last few years to boost their ecommerce operation, and is now second only to Amazon in terms of online sales.
Unlike selling on Amazon, the process for getting your business set up on the Walmart online marketplace is free, and it’s fairly straightforward. Marketplace sellers also have complete control over inventory, price, fulfillment, and customer care.
Let’s look at how you can get your products in front of Walmart Marketplace’s 100 million unique monthly visitors. We’ll break down the pros and cons of selling on Walmart Marketplace, how to become a seller, and tips for success.
Pros of Selling on Walmart Marketplace
What sets Walmart Marketplace apart from other online selling platforms? Let’s take a look at the following advantages.
No Setup or Maintenance Fees
One of the pros of Walmart Marketplace is that they don’t charge initial setup or monthly maintenance fees. Walmart only charges merchants a referral fee for selling on their platform. Referral fees vary based on the product, but range between 6% and 20% of the product’s sale price. Compared to Amazon, which charges a variety of fees outside of referrals, this can be a low-cost solution for many businesses.
Build Brand Awareness
Having your products available for purchase on Walmart.com can build brand awareness and credibility amongst your customers. You may also be able to drive more visitors to your site by selling on Walmart Marketplace.
“Buyers are likely to trust the Walmart Marketplace when directed there by ads as opposed to private Shopify sites,” says Nate Masterson, owner of New Jersey-based health and beauty business Maple Holistics.
Widen Customer Base
Over 100 million people visit Walmart.com on a monthly basis, which could help expose your products to audiences who would never find it otherwise. In addition, Walmart’s low cost guarantee attracts a different segment of the market than you might find on Amazon.
Starting in November of 2019, returns for the Walmart Marketplace became significantly easier. Customers can continue to return products online. However, Walmart now also offers in-store returns for most of their products. That means you won’t have to pay for return shipping. Customers will simply package up their item and return it to a local Walmart store. Walmart will then ship the item back to you.
The Walmart Marketplace is growing rapidly, with the ecommerce segment slated to expand 35% by 2020. Despite high levels of growth, however, Walmart isn’t Amazon. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Compared to Amazon’s over 2.5 million sellers, Walmart only has about 33,000. Fewer sellers mean there’s less competition for your product to be seen and purchased.
Cons of Selling on Walmart Marketplace
Of course, selling on Walmart isn’t without its drawbacks. Here are some disadvantages sellers should be aware of:
Walmart prioritizes competitively priced products, meaning that you may have to price your products at a lower rate than you otherwise would on another ecommerce platform. While this can lead to increased sales, you will likely also see lower margins.
It’s also worth noting that if you sell the same product on another platform (say Amazon or your own business website) for less than you’re selling it on Walmart Marketplace, Walmart will delist your product. Plus, if you list a specific product for significantly more than another seller, Walmart will also delist your product.
Delayed Seller Support
Some Walmart Marketplace merchants say they have had difficulty dealing with Walmart’s Seller Support service. They can either be slow or unresponsive in handling seller issues.
“We had trouble uploading a few products and we tried to troubleshoot it with seller support,” says Sarah Ayala, owner of The Kiwi Importer, a Texas business that sells gourmet food products from New Zealand. “We’ve sent a few emails back and forth but we haven’t been able to get on the phone to talk to someone.”
As we’ll get into more detail later in this article, you must apply and be approved to become a Walmart seller—they don’t let just anyone sell on their platform. While this means less competition if you’re approved, it also means some businesses won’t be able to sell via Walmart.
Similarly, Walmart has a two-day shipping program and Walmart Fulfillment Services that only select sellers qualify for. Again, if you’re approved, this can be a huge asset for your business, but on the flip side, not qualifying for these programs puts you at a disadvantage.
DIY Order Fulfillment
As we briefly mentioned above, Walmart Fulfillment Services is similar to a dropshipping setup, where Walmart will actually store, package, and ship orders for your business. This service, which launched in 2020, is only available to select sellers, as determined by Walmart.
For the many sellers who won’t qualify for Walmart Fulfillment Services, they will have to deal with their own order fulfillment, which can be a use of time and money that some small business owners cannot afford. In addition, businesses that make errors when shipping can be penalized by Walmart.
Tips to Sell on Walmart Marketplace Successfully
There are some things you can do to improve your sales on Walmart. Consider prioritizing the following when selling your products:
1. Get Great Customer Reviews
Customer reviews on Walmart do not appear on third-party sites, but some customers search for the best-reviewed products. Reviews also appear right below the price on the product page. The better your customer reviews, the better your ranking in the marketplace will be, so make sure you’re providing a positive experience to each customer and reach out to buyers after their purchase to solicit reviews.
2. Win the Buy Box
Walmart has a buy box on many of their product pages to foster competition among sellers. This allows buyers to check which seller is offering the product for the least cost. If your product is featured in the buy box, it can really increase your sales.
To win the buy box, your item will need to be listed for the lowest price, but this also takes into consideration other fees, such as shipping cost. If you’re able to join Walmart’s two-day free shipping program, this can help your chances of earning the buy box.
3. Take Category Mapping Seriously
When you’re first uploading your products, you may be most concerned about getting all of your inventory listed as quickly as possible. However, if you don’t categorize each product correctly, you run the risk of your products never being seen by potential buyers.
Walmart has 24 product categories outlined in their Categorization Guide. For example, if you’re selling dress shirts you may want to fill out the collar type attribute. If you’re selling food, you can fill out the GMO-Free Claim field. By thoroughly category mapping each item, shoppers will more easily find them when they filter their search results.
“Make sure you’ve filled in every available item on your product pages and that all of the listed information is wholly accurate,” says Masterson. “One misstep can doom your product in search results and ensure that you make little or no sales.”
4. Don’t Sacrifice Quality
Walmart has certain standards that merchants must agree to when they sign the Seller Agreement Document. Some of the requirements that merchants must meet include:
- Shipping on time 99% of the time.
- Shipping accurate products 99.5% of the time.
- Less than 3% of products returned due to damage or defects.
Not only does shipping the correct product quickly and accurately make for a positive user experience, but this will also help you stay on the Walmart Marketplace and move up in rankings.
5. Offer Two-Day Free Shipping
While this isn’t a possibility for every small business owner, Walmart prioritizes merchants who offer two-day free shipping, from placing their products in the buy box to highlighting eligible products in search results. This automatically helps you stand out from other Walmart Marketplace sellers, as well as helps you compete with Amazon sellers who may be offering the same products.
There are two ways to join this program: seller-fulfilled, which means you’re in charge of ensuring your products ship on time, and third-party-fulfilled, which leverages Walmart’s partner Deliverr. There are several criteria you’ll need to meet to be eligible for seller-fulfilled shipping, so be sure to check with Walmart’s requirements.
6. Provide Great Customer Service
Walmart also has customer service standards merchants must meet. These include:
- Customer service escalations on less than 0.5% of all orders.
- Provide notice confirming shipment of product and tracking information within four hours of order.
- Answer 90% of customer emails within 24 hours.
Failure to meet any of Walmart’s shipping or customer service standards can lead to suspension from Walmart Marketplace. But even without these standards, it’s always a best practice to provide excellent customer service to keep buyers coming back to your products and give them good reviews.
7. Promote Your Products With Ads
Advertisements can help you promote your products ahead of other sellers. There are two ways to advertise on Walmart.com:
- Through Walmart’s Media Group
- Through a third-party ad platform
Ads use a cost-per-click model, which means you’ll only be charged when a customer actually clicks over to your ad. You can have your ad link to your Walmart product pages or to external landing pages. Ads can take several formats, such as banner ads, in-text ads, and more.
“Paid traffic through social media channels or search engine ads is an excellent medium for making your products a possible option for interested buyers,” says Sherry Mae, chief marketing officer at Tankarium and who has been a Walmart Marketplace seller for over five years. “The best part is that customizing a highly targeted audience increases the chances of conversions, which makes the cost of the advertisement campaigns lower if businesses successfully personalize their ad crusades.”
How to Become a Seller on Walmart Marketplace
If you’ve decided that selling on Walmart Marketplace is right for your business, your first step will be making sure that the feeling is mutual. As we mentioned, Walmart doesn’t allow just anyone to become a marketplace seller. You’ll need to apply and be approved in order to be able to start selling on the platform.
“If you are an established business, you shouldn’t have an issue, but newer businesses will need to prove they have the ability to ship products and manage customer service,” explains Ayala.
Here are the steps you’ll need to follow to become a seller on Walmart Marketplace:
- Register with Walmart Marketplace: Complete the online form on Walmart’s website, which takes about 10-15 minutes and asks for some preliminary information about your business. This includes your business tax ID number, W-9, business address, and more.
- Upload products: There are four ways to upload products to the Walmart Marketplace: API integration, bulk upload, solution provider, and single item method. Before uploading, you will build out your product catalog in accordance with Walmart’s required list of product attributes.
- Preview items and place test orders: If everything works as it should, the “Complete Items & Order Testing” step in the Signup Wizard will be crossed off. A pop-up window will then appear asking if you’re ready to launch. If you select “Yes,” the Walmart Integration team will fully review your account. If all looks good, they will take all your products live and you’ll officially be a Walmart Marketplace seller.
Is selling on Walmart Marketplace worth it? For many, the Walmart online marketplace is a golden opportunity for established businesses to expand their market reach. Business owners should create a unique strategy for how they can leverage the Walmart platform, given that they will likely need to use a different pricing structure and handle their own fulfillment. Once approved, you can expect higher order volume and minimal fees, plus the brand awareness and credibility that comes with being on Walmart.
Matthew Speiser has written extensively about ecommerce, marketing and sales, and payroll and HR solutions, and merchant services. Matthew’s writing has been published in Business Insider, The Fiscal Times, Best Company, and NJ.com, among others. He was also a co-author for Startup Guide—a series of guidebooks designed to assist entrepreneurs in different cities around the world.