Amazon. Walmart. eBay. Target. Tmall. Mercado Libre. Rakuten. Zalando.
Each one of these ecommerce marketplaces comes with its own benefits, drawbacks, and business models that affect how sellers do business on the platform. Learning the ins and outs of so many platforms, and learning how to best scale your brand on each of them, can be a daunting task for even the most experienced ecommerce teams.
Below, we’ll take a look at two of the most prolific ecommerce marketplaces in the U.S.—Amazon and Walmart—and tell you everything you need to know to either establish or maintain your brand’s presence on the platform.
While the first brick-and-mortar Walmart opened in the 1960s, Walmart didn’t step up as a strong competitor online until 2016 when it acquired Jet.com for $3.3 billion. With the Jet acquisition, Walmart suddenly had the resources and framework it needed to focus and expand its ecommerce efforts.
Walmart has seen consistent ecommerce growth since then, acquiring several more ecommerce businesses and building its ecommerce presence. In 2020, Walmart hit a milestone as it surpassed eBay for the No. 2 share of U.S. retail ecommerce sales. Walmart ecommerce grew 79% in the 2021 fiscal year, and year-over-year from 2020 to 2021, the Walmart marketplace saw triple-digit growth.
Despite Walmart’s rapid growth, the retail giant still trails behind Amazon. Jeff Bezos incorporated Amazon in 1994 and initially began its rise to ecommerce prominence by selling books. By the turn of the century, Amazon expanded its inventory to sell a wider variety of products, more closely resembling what consumers know as Amazon today.
Although Amazon didn’t turn a profit until 2001, Bezos spent years laying a solid foundation for the future of the company by convincing investors of the potential of Amazon’s model. Investors believed their investments in Amazon would pay off, and they were right. Amazon has revolutionized and dominated ecommerce sales and become the second-ever trillion-dollar company. In the last decade especially, Amazon has become increasingly profitable and pursued its goals even more aggressively.
Despite Walmart’s efforts to focus on ecommerce, it’s still a brick-and-mortar first company. Walmart follows an everyday low prices model, meaning product costs are consistently low without sales or discounts. The mega-corporation scales volume as much as possible to translate lower costs into lower prices for consumers.
This model means that vendors in a 1P relationship with Walmart need to show up to negotiations with the lowest possible price. Walmart will end relationships with vendors holding unnecessary profit.
Amazon relies on a model that Bezos has referred to as the “flywheel” model. The goal is to build the best platform possible, and with that platform, attract the largest number of products, which will then attract more consumers, which in turn attract even more sellers and products. The flywheel naturally reinforces itself over time.
As opposed to Walmart, Amazon has a more diversified business model, thanks to Amazon Web Services and Amazon’s digital advertising services. Amazon’s technology and software infrastructure businesses have high margins that make their ecommerce business possible and profitable. While Walmart is growing its ecommerce operations from a perspective of scale to achieve profitability, Amazon has additional businesses that fund and support their ecommerce that make it possible for Amazon to compete on price.
Amazon and Walmart also slightly differ in the selling options they offer their vendors. Amazon essentially offers three options: 1P selling, 2P selling, or 3P selling. In a 1P model, vendors sell their products wholesale directly to Amazon and Amazon handles the rest. In the 2P model, also known as Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA), sellers own their products and sell them directly to consumers, but Amazon houses the products in its warehouses and fulfills orders. In a 3P model, sellers simply use Amazon as a platform to reach more customers and directly handle their own product fulfillment, pricing, and listings. Choosing between options like dropshipping and FBA is a decision each brand should make based on its products and shipping capabilities.
For the most part, Walmart’s selling models closely mirror Amazon’s, with Walmart Fulfillment Services directly competing with FBA. However, Walmart also offers an additional dropshipping option, in which Walmart handles the product listings, content, and pricing, but sellers hold and ship their own inventory. Giving sellers the convenience of a 1P model and control of a 3P model is unique to dropshipping from Walmart.
Although brick-and-mortar Walmart stores tend to attract low-income shoppers, that trend doesn’t translate to ecommerce. Walmart.com and Amazon have similar customer bases—in fact, a 2020 survey found that 45% of Walmart+ subscribers also have an Amazon Prime account, and 19% of shoppers switched from Amazon Prime to Walmart+.
Amazon customers may tend to be slightly higher-income than Walmart customers simply because not all shoppers can afford Amazon Prime, which costs about $119 a year. While Walmart Plus also charges a monthly fee that comes out to about $98 a year, Walmart offers free 2-day delivery on many items even without Walmart Plus, making it more accessible for shoppers who don’t want to pay a monthly or annual fee.
Ultimately, Amazon is the most important ecommerce marketplace in the U.S. If you want your brand to succeed in ecommerce—and even in retail stores—you need to sell on Amazon. Amazon has become central to consumers’ lives, and selling on Amazon is critical for brands to stay relevant and profitable.
In part, this is because many consumers now use Amazon as a research platform. Even when consumers are shopping in a brick-and-mortar store, they use their smartphones to compare product listings and reviews on Amazon to better understand the options on the physical shelf in front of them. Amazon also offers options like Enhanced Brand Content and Amazon Renewed to make selling as simple and cost-efficient as possible.
Even though selling on Amazon is a good idea for virtually every brand, there are still some platform drawbacks for sellers. Amazon has worked hard to automate everything it can, which sometimes leaves sellers without support.
Amazon also forces you to equalize pricing across your channels, which can be a challenge if you can’t control what’s happening on all channels. If you’re in a 1P relationship with Amazon, for example, and want to sell your product on Amazon for $50 when it’s sold for $45 elsewhere on the web, Amazon will then lower the product’s price to $45 without your permission and make you pay the difference. If you’re in a 3P relationship with Amazon, Amazon can’t change your pricing, but it may turn off the Buy Box if your product is priced lower on other websites, still affecting your sales and profits.
With the rate of Walmart’s ecommerce growth, it’s becoming a necessity for brands to also establish a presence on Walmart.com. It’s almost universally a good idea to sell on Walmart’s marketplace. The one exception may be if you own a premium brand whose image may be tarnished by selling on Walmart, but even luxury brands should consider Walmart.com to grow their consumer base. If you already have a presence on Walmart, nurturing that presence will help you ride the wave of Walmart’s growth.
Another relevant benefit to selling on Walmart.com is protecting your brand from channel conflict. Having price parity and content parity across many marketplaces instills consumer trust in your brand. In an increasingly competitive ecommerce landscape, selling on Walmart.com also equips brands to better compete—if your item isn’t available on Walmart.com, you can bet that a competitor’s item will be available in its place. Considering the rate of Walmart’s ecommerce growth, these sales will quickly add up.
Data also shows that if a product is unavailable on Amazon, many consumers then search for the same product on Walmart.com. If your product is available on both platforms, your brand can still land the sale on one platform even if it’s out of stock on the other.
While the benefits of selling on Walmart certainly outweigh the costs, brands should be aware that it’s a bit more complicated to start selling on Walmart compared to Amazon. Walmart’s seller application process is a bit more rigorous, and Walmart is picky with which brands it takes on as sellers. Since Walmart’s Seller Center is a new platform, it’s more complicated to use than Amazon’s Seller Central, and Walmart is still in the process of working out inconvenient bugs and quirks. Another upfront cost to consider is that Walmart, unlike Amazon, requires each product to have a UPC.
Once your brand is established on Walmart’s website, though, it’s fairly straightforward to maintain. Walmart lives up to its motto “by sellers, for sellers” and makes seller support fast and easily accessible. Unlike Amazon, Walmart gives its sellers same-day responses and any issues with the platform can typically be resolved within 24 hours. Additionally, unlike the costs of selling on Amazon, Walmart does not charge sellers any setup or monthly fees.
In light of all this information about Walmart vs. Amazon, where should your brand focus its efforts? The answer is both. Amazon is the most important ecommerce platform in the U.S. Walmart may generate a smaller portion of your revenue, but you can expect a higher percentage growth rate over the next several years since the platform is growing so rapidly.
There may be some products and brands that are better suited for one platform than another, but you can’t go wrong with selling on both the largest and fastest-growing ecommerce platforms on the web.
Need help establishing and maintaining your brand’s presence on Amazon and Walmart? Interested in what your unique brand strategy should look like? We’re here to help. Download our eBook: Selling on Walmart: Why You Should & Where to Start or get a custom demo to learn how we can grow your brand on ecommerce at no additional cost to you.
Find relevant content to accelerate your ecommerce business. Stay on top of industry trends and best practices.
Entering the ecommerce landscape is a huge undertaking for any brand—it usually requires a large investment in resources and expertise to really be successful. Any brand can quickly get in over their heads trying to navigate the nuances of SEO, fulfillment and logistics, distribution control, listing optimization, and meeting the numerous other requirements and administrative tasks to show up well on marketplaces.
Unfortunately, because it’s so easy for third party, gray market, and unauthorized sellers to obtain and sell products online, many brands find themselves pressured to execute an ecommerce plan without the right resources to succeed on marketplaces and their other channels.
So, for brands looking to enter the ecommerce space or improve their current and future performance, it makes sense to partner with an ecommerce consultant.
Pattern’s global presence and proven success with hundreds of brands has allowed us to develop highly effective ecommerce consulting services. We can guide your brand to navigate issues both large and small in marketplaces worldwide. To maximize your ecommerce efforts, you’ll need to understand what an ecommerce consultant does and how to select one who drives the right value for your brand and products.
An ecommerce consultant is a specialist in the ecommerce space who can give you personalized guidance on how to market your products and grow their presence on digital marketplaces.
An ecommerce consultant should be able to analyze your brand, audience, category, opportunity, and current roadblocks and help you understand how to utilize your resources (or what resources are missing) to be most effective in capturing your opportunities in the ecommerce space.
Not sure how to evaluate a consultant? Here are 4 key attributes to look for as you make your choice.
At Pattern, we prioritize brand obsession for a reason—we know that a brand-centered mindset makes a crucial difference in the outcomes and results our partners achieve. So in our experience, when you begin your search for an ecommerce consultant, it’s important to look for a partner who is specialized in ecommerce, invested in the product, and passionate about helping brands build and improve their strategies. Typically, this means finding someone that consults exclusively for ecommerce marketplaces, rather than choosing a consultant who offers many different services.
It’s also important to avoid choosing a consulting partner who can’t deliver the right experience for your brand. The best indication of whether your potential consultant can do that is to review their history, data, and results with other brands. Ask if they’ve helped others in your selling category, if they’ve solved specific issues your brand is facing, and why they feel you are a good fit. The key is to leave the conversation feeling confident that you understand your consultants’ capabilities and whether or not they match up with your needs.
It’s best to pick a consultant who knows how to guide a brand onto and through multiple marketplaces worldwide. You’ll want to take a look at your long-term strategy and think about the regions and platforms you’re currently on and where you might want to take your brand in the future. If your consultant is truly great at what they do, they’ll be able to help you perform well enough with your current product roadmap that it’ll be a no-brainer to expand your presence at the right time.
The most effective partnership with an ecommerce consultant will be able to give you both recommendations and point you to solutions for making those changes in your planning, processes, and execution. Your time and money is valuable, so you want to make sure that you’re spending it as efficiently as possible as you follow your consultant’s advice. So, before you commit to an ecommerce consultant, ask about the resources and concrete solutions they typically recommend to the brands they work with.
Finding an ecommerce consultant that checks the boxes can be a difficult task. At Pattern, our entire focus and drive centers around giving brands the tools and resources they need to succeed on domestic and international ecommerce marketplaces.
With over 100 global ecommerce consultants across 10 global offices, we have the right tools to partner with brands across the world to achieve better ecommerce success. We give specialized advice, then make sure our partners have all the adequate SEO, social media, CRM, Amazon multi-channel fulfillment services, and ecommerce outsourcing services they need.
Interested in ecommerce consulting services? Set up a call here to learn what Pattern can do for your brand on global marketplaces.