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Walmart Adds Partners to Grow Third Party Marketplace

Seth Beal is charged with making a success of Walmart’s third-party merchant marketplace. We sat down with Seth at the Internet Retailer conference in Chicago last week to learn more about the program, which, as the company announced in April, is ramping up.

Beal revealed that after working exclusively with ChannelAdvisor, Walmart is adding three new partners to help it scale the Walmart Marketplace: CommerceHub, Solid Commerce, and 4Psite, which are helping their merchant customers integrate with Walmart. Sellers also have the choice of integrating directly.

But just because Walmart is going from “hundreds” of merchants to “thousands” doesn’t mean everyone will have a chance to offer their goods on its marketplace. Beal said Walmart is looking for professional sellers versus the “eBay seller.” Walmart will be looking at such things as, “Do they have the product, a track record, and good customer reviews,” he said.

While the Marketplace started awhile back with a handful of sellers, it wasn’t until Walmart completed building its global technology Pangaea platform that the company was able to expand the assortment at scale and accelerate its marketplace expansion plans. Beal said Walmart expanded its assortment from 2 million to 9 million items and said Marketplace was a major contributor.

Interestingly, Beal said Walmart doesn’t have a seller strategy – it has a customerstrategy. Walmart looks at the things that customers want and adds those offerings to its site, whether it sources the products itself or adds inventory from third-party merchants.

How do they know what customers want? Through internal signals, such as search terms entered into the website search box, and data collected from its stores – and through external data as well. Beal mentioned the word assortment several times – clearly a priority and a reason for the Marketplace.

Rival Amazon.com has said it was a big cultural change when its internal merchandisers found themselves competing with sellers when it opened up its site to marketplace merchants – we asked Beal if Walmart faced such concerns from its employees. He acknowledged the issue, but said they must answer the question, what’s better for the customer? The bottom line: customers will go someplace else to find what they need if they can’t get it from Walmart.

Beal said merchants can feel like a stranger on other marketplaces, while Walmart Marketplace wants a true partnership with its sellers. Selling fees are similar to those from other folks, he said.

So what keeps Beal up at night as he looks to quickly add thousands of sellers to the program? “I worry about the edges,” he said. Disappointing a customer on Walmart Marketplace can impact Walmart stores, he explained. “How to react to make sure customers are taken care of.”

There’s a waiting list for merchants wanting to join the program, but Beal doesn’t expect it to take long for Walmart to get merchants up and running.

Walmart is deep but not necessarily wide, he said, and the product categories they’re looking to fill out include electronics and electronics accessories, apparel, home, and health and beauty. If you’ve got products that could add to Walmart’s assortment, you can find more information on Walmart Marketplace.

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.