- Walmart Connect, the retailer’s U.S. advertising division, is beta testing new in-store advertising formats as consumers resume brick-and-mortar shopping “en masse,” according to details shared with Marketing Dive.
- The big-box store is broadening the availability of in-store demos, which allow marketers to set up product sampling stations to help drive brand discovery and conversion. Walmart called out omnichannel capabilities, like adding a QR code to carts that can link out to custom Walmart.com landing pages.
- The Walmart Radio Network, a station that broadcasts in stores, is also introducing ads for the first time, letting buyers target their upper-funnel messages to specific locations and markets. Richer in-store offerings follow rivals that are similarly deepening the ways in which brands can engage consumers in the aisles.
Walmart Connect is drawing from a traditional shopper marketer playbook to link its massive store footprint of more than 4,700 U.S. locations closer to an ad business that experienced explosive growth during the pandemic. Meanwhile, many consumers have left their COVID-19 shopping habits in the rearview, with 88% purchasing from a physical store in 2022, according to figures shared by the company.
Walmart Connect’s business, to date, has largely focused on digital ad formats and channels that marketers can use to reach people browsing Walmart.com or third-party apps. But in-store and out-of-home have emerged as important battlegrounds for retailers as the retail media landscape gets more crowded, with budget-crunched brands seeking both differentiation and scale from platforms.
Walmart has an advantage as the largest brick-and-mortar retailer in the world. About 90% of U.S. households shop with the retailer annually, per company estimates. Walmart Connect already offers in-store options like ads at self-checkout kiosks and on its TV Wall, but described the channel as an “emerging opportunity.”
Walmart Connect first began piloting in-store demos in April at 25 stores, while the program is currently running on weekends at 120 stores. The goal is to get that number to 1,000 by the close of the year, the announcement said.
The company acknowledged that product sampling is not a new concept, but a “proven part of the shopper marketing playbook.” However, Walmart Connect is bringing the program in-house and promoting the ability to bridge real-world activations with Walmart.com via tactics like QR codes, with an eye toward scale.
Walmart at the same time is experimenting with monetizing an in-store radio network that is present at all of its U.S. locations, along with Sam’s Club and distribution centers, through audio messages that can be targeted at specific stores or regions of the country. The format is billed as a “non-intrusive” way to catch shoppers’ attention as they are browsing the aisles.
Walmart first dabbled in radio in the ‘90s as a means of conveying information in stores but has evolved the concept to feature news segments, music and live shows. The current iteration of Walmart Radio debuted in 2015 and the network has three full-time DJs and a request line.
An in-store push seeks to build on Walmart Connect’s recent momentum and help brands realize their omnichannel goals. The division grew sales by nearly 40% year-over-year in the fiscal first quarter of 2024, a rate of growth that outpaced rivals. Walmart’s global ad sales last year hit $2.7 billion.