Walmart headlines Brandweek Conference – and here’s what advertisers need to know

Advertisers are taking notice as the world’s largest retailer closes in on the launch of its very own demand-side platform.

Advertisers are taking notice as the world’s largest retailer — Walmart — closes in on the launch of its very own demand-side platform. 

The Walmart DSP, built on The Trade Desk’s platform, is slated to make its debut this holiday season and is part of the retail giant’s growing ad business. Its launch will soon allow brands to tap into the retailer's treasure trove of shopper data to activate media on channels such as connected TV, display and digital audio.

Just to give this project a sense of scale -- Walmart sees 150 million weekly shoppers; has a grocery ecommerce business that overtook Amazon’s last year; and a physical footprint of some 5,000 stores across the U.S. In addition, Walmart last August said it intends to become a top 10 advertising platform in the next five years.

It’s also poised to change how advertisers reach consumers in an increasingly fragmented media landscape. “We sell the shoes, soup and TVs,” Stephen Howard-Sarin, VP of strategy at Walmart Connect, said during AdWeek BrandWeek. “We can paint a picture of who the consumer is and their brand preferences. We even know the meta stuff, like whether they like organic food, or spicy or sweet snacks.” 

Tearing down walls 

Consumers are increasingly spending their time across numerous digital channels, though their behavior has become wildly unpredictable across a fragmented media landscape given the pandemic. That makes an already complex ecosystem even more difficult for marketers to navigate, says Howard-Sarin.

“What we’re able to discern is whether those behaviors are an unusual or crazy spike, or if they are persistent, long term changes,” he says. “We can then turn those insights into audiences and activate them on a brand-by-brand basis not just in our own backyard, but everywhere where the consumer is.” 

Such retail media insights can also form unlikely partnerships. Auto manufacturers, for instance, can work with Walmart Connect to find expectant parents, or a financial services provider can reach people who may have purchased a new home. These abilities — such as targeting and sales measurement — can also be applied in areas like connected TV. That gives the Walmart DSP access to the most premium video in the marketplace, Jed Dederick, a panelist, and senior VP of client development at The Trade Desk, said.

“The Trade Desk has spent years-and-years building this CTV and premium video marketplace,” Dederick said. “What we’ve now unlocked is the ability to put sales measurement in Walmart stores and online properties in conjunction with what I think is the most effective form in the history of advertising — the television in the living room.” 

The Walmart DSP also has the same data-driven advantages found on The Trade Desk, according to Dederick. “Marketers and agencies can bring over their inventory, curation strategies and deals easily into the Walmart DSP,” he said. “If they have relationships with brand safety providers or data companies, the Walmart DSP can honor that, too.” 

George P. Slefo