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02/09/2021

Walmart Canada revamps its media business

The big-box retailer is leveraging data to connect the brands its sells with its shoppers in more meaningful ways
Walmart Connect (CNW Group/Walmart Canada)



Walmart Canada announced a number of changes to its media business last week signalling its commitment to becoming a bigger player in advertising for the brands it sells.

“Our vision is to be the number one omnichannel provider of advertiser solutions in Canada,” said Dana Toering, vice-president of what is now known as Walmart Connect Canada, and was previously called Walmart Media Group. “Walmart Connect Canada is more than just a media business. It is an essential connection point between brands and the millions of Canadians who choose to shop at Walmart every day.”

The changes are in keeping with a larger trend of retailers using the wealth of first-person shopper data, increased reach through digital channels and improved technology to deliver targeted advertising to consumers online and in store.

“We have shoppers in market for product, we can provide the opportunity to merchandise and advertise, connect and communicate to them through our platforms,” said Toering in an interview.

Amazon has been leading the way in the sale of advertising, but larger retailers like Walmart, and leading grocery retailers like Kroger in the U.S. and Loblaw here in Canada have been moving quickly in the past couple years to develop their ad businesses and drive new revenue. After only launching its ad sales business in the spring of 2019, Loblaw acquired the digital advertising technology Eyereturn from media company Torstar in November, another signal it intends to accelerate the business.

The changes announced by Walmart last week include new measurement tools to improve reporting and enhanced infrastructure and advertising opportunities in-store and online. In terms of bricks-and-mortar, Walmart plans to sell more ads to brands on checkout and display screens, and add more screens to the in-store experience in a “very tasteful, and a design friendly way,” said Toering. Screens could be added in the pharmacy sections or at the deli counter, for example.

“When you're standing waiting for your meats, there's going to be an opportunity for those suppliers… to advertise in that moment.”

Walmart announced similar changes in the U.S. late last month. At that time, Walmart said it was committed to becoming a “top 10 ad company” in the next few years, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

“We built a pretty substantial media business and are investing in new capabilities and products that allow us to pivot from a traditional media business to a closed-loop omnichannel media company,” said Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer at Walmart.

Previously Walmart sold ad space on its own digital channels, but the goal is to use shopper data to target customers in digital media beyond those Walmart properties—someone who bought one laundry detergent on Walmart.ca could later be targeted with another detergent ad on their social feeds.

Retailers have also seen increased opportunity in digital advertising in part because of the step-change increase in customer data accumulated from the spike in online shopping the past year—more and better data from shoppers buying online means more opportunity to reach customers with targeted advertising.

What’s more, it’s first-party data from customers who have a direct relationship with the business—important amidst growing calls for more privacy and data protection online. “With that, all our media metrics rise,” said Toering. “Our on-site engagement is up, our ability to—on a permission basis—capture that first party data and connect with our customers in more meaningful ways, on behalf of brands is growing.”

Walmart said traffic to Walmart.ca increased by 30% this year.