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Wal-Mart’s online marketplace picks up sellers and momentum

July 19, 2016 12:16 PM
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Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is quickly expanding its product assortment thanks to a growing number of outside merchants that sell on its website and app.

Wal-Mart added 100 new sellers to its marketplace in May and 150 merchants in June, with hundreds more expected to be added by the holidays, says Seth Beal, the retailer’s senior vice president of global marketplace. Wal-Mart offers 11 million products online and plans to add 1 million items per month to the assortment, primarily through its marketplace, Beal says.

Wal-Mart, No. 4 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, began in 2009 allowing merchants to sell products alongside the retail chain’s own inventory on Walmart.com. Wal-Mart has developed its online marketplace slowly, starting with six merchants and in 2014 expanding its roster. In April,  the retail giant made its first real push to invite many more merchants to its site after a long trial period that allowed Wal-Mart to rebuild its technology to support more sellers and more SKUs online.

Wal-Mart’s marketplace has quickly increased the number of merchants in the last couple months in part because retailers have more options to automatically feed their product data to Wal-Mart. In April Wal-Mart and ChannelAdvisor Corp. began working together to allow the marketing firm’s clients to use ChannelAdvisor’s technology to integrate to Walmart.com. In June Wal-Mart made similar connections with CommerceHub, Solid Commerce and 4Psite to do the same, Beal says. Additionally, marketplace sellers can directly feed their product data from their own e-commerce technology to Walmart.com.

Walmart.com had roughly 300 merchants selling on its site in April, according to Colin Sebastian, e-commerce analyst at Robert W. Baird & Co. That would mean Wal-Mart now has about 550-600 marketplace sellers. Beal says Walmart will reach 1,000 marketplace sellers before the end of the year. Wal-Mart is primarily adding U.S.-based merchants to its marketplace or international sellers that also operate and fulfill orders from the U.S.

Wal-Mart has some catching up to do in marketplace sellers compared with two of its biggest marketplace competitors, Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1 in the Top 500) and eBay Inc. Amazon has more than 2 million retailers selling products on Amazon.com and eBay has about 25 million merchants selling on its marketplaces. Furthermore, Amazon has more than 365 million products listed on its marketplaces and eBay has more than 900 million listings. AliExpress, one of Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.’s marketplaces that offers web shoppers around the world products from Chinese manufacturers, offers 100 million products as of October 2015.

While Wal-Mart still lags the largest marketplaces in the United States, some retailers are noticing bigger gains on the retailer’s marketplace. Christmas Central, an e-retailer of seasonal merchandise, sells its 109,000 SKUs on 11 marketplaces, including those operated by Wal-Mart, Amazon, eBay, Rakuten.com, Sears Holdings Corp. and others. Approximately 75% of the company’s revenue comes through marketplaces, which accounted for $19.1 million of the retailer’s sales in 2015.

Nathan Gordon, chief information officer at Christmas Central, says Wal-Mart’s marketplace sales have outpaced Christmas Central’s sales on Amazon thus far in 2016. In 2015, roughly 36% of Christmas Central’s $25.5 million web sales came from Amazon.

“People are now very aware that Wal-Mart has a robust online presence,” Gordon says. He adds that having a physical presence with bricks-and-mortar stores helps. “Shoppers feel more comfortable knowing they have a local presence in case of any issues, and they like a ship-to-store option.”

Christmas Central is ranked No. 534 in the Top 1000.

Wal-Mart’s technology upgrades have made it faster for retailers to list their products on Walmart.com. It used to take months—sometimes more than six months—but now it takes about six weeks or less. That list time remains slower than some other marketplaces, like those operated by Amazon and Sears, which allow retailers upload their listings within one day.

“We have an extensive vetting process to ensure that sellers are a right fit with our marketplace,” Beal says. The marketplace looks to see if the merchant can provide the type of value Wal-Mart customers seek, he says, one way Wal-Mart checks that is by looking at the merchant’s prices and how those compare to competitors’ prices.

In Internet Retailer’s newly released “Online Marketplaces: The shopping mall of the future” report, you can read more about how merchants are growing on marketplaces, which ones they’re selling on, key details of some of the largest marketplaces in the U.S. and what they’re doing to keep up with Amazon.

 

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