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    Walmart vies for bigger holiday ad budgets with self-service expansion

    • Walmart Connect, the retailer’s U.S. advertising division, is enhancing its search capabilities for sellers ahead of the holidays, according to details shared in an email with Marketing Dive.
    • Search Brand Amplifier, a media placement that boosts products to the top of search results, is becoming a self-service feature on Walmart’s Marketplace starting in October. The high-visibility format is targeted at smaller brands and newer ones with less name recognition and lower organic search rankings.
    • The company is also simplifying onboarding for its self-service sponsored product campaigns, automating a process that previously required a three-day enrollment period. Walmart is additionally expanding Marketplace’s international footprint, with plans to add more API partners in regions like China before the end of the quarter.

    Walmart has turned its ad sales segment into a strong area of growth and is now set on getting more brands to join the platform amid a competitive race for retail media dollars. The announcement is timed to when many brands lock in their holiday strategies and during a period when more budgets are expected to flow toward performance marketing channels.

    The company is trying to make its ad platform simpler to use, with automated onboarding for self-service sponsored product campaigns for new sellers. Existing sellers are receiving the same ease of access. There’s also a redesign of its Ad Center with more detailed instructions to “reduce the guesswork” for brands rolling out search campaigns, per the announcement.

    With its latest moves, Walmart Connect intends to make it simpler for smaller brands or those promoting new products to command the top spot on search results pages, a coveted media placement. Search Brand Amplifier was previously limited to managed suppliers and select sellers, but is becoming widely available through the Walmart Ad Center and the big-box store’s partner program. Walmart Connect has deepened its partner roster, adding Perpetua, Quartile, Sellozo and CommerceIQ to the lineup earlier this summer.

    Self-service features are a mark of maturity for digital ad networks, as they tend to be less involved and expensive than managed services that are typically reserved for deep-pocketed companies. Walmart has stated that automation is playing a bigger role in its growth strategy overall following a fourth quarter last year where about half of ad sales came from automated channels. Walmart’s global ad business surpassed $2 billion in revenue in 2021.

    Walmart broadening access to search comes as the channel continues to draw investments while other hot sectors, like social media, encounter headwinds in a tightening economy.

    Search advertising in the U.S. is forecast to grow 28.6% year on year to $99 billion in 2022, according to recent Insider Intelligence findings. The upward trajectory will continue next year, when the category is expected to hit $111.8 billion in spending, about double what it was in 2019. Meteoric gains for search follow a proliferation of retail media networks and players like Amazon and Walmart competing more directly with Google, the established kingpin.

    Walmart indicated that macroeconomic conditions, including inflation, are keeping some consumers focused on price, which could benefit sellers around the holiday window. The world’s largest brick-and-mortar retailer has added a number of perks to its online properties to attract more customers. It recently introduced a rewards program and streaming package with Paramount to Walmart+, a membership program that competes with Amazon Prime.

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