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Walmart is America’s iconic one-stop shop for affordable goods ranging from groceries to farm supplies and beyond. But when it came to managing its partnerships, Walmart’s technology wasn’t quite so unified, with two different platforms to handle mobile and desktop transactions. That not only was a hassle for its partners, it also created data pipeline blockages, complicated data attribution, and impeded scalability for the partnership program. 

In its search for a single platform for web, mobile, and desktop transactions, Walmart landed on Impact Partnership Cloud. And the new platform has done more than just converge its technology. It has also created new opportunities for the company to enhance its relationships and equip its partners to thrive as brand advocates. 

Mike Head interviewed Aldo Bukit, Associate Director of Marketing, Affiliates, and APIs at Walmart, during Impact Growth 2020. The conversation revealed some great insights into how Walmart enriches its partnerships by sharing data, providing innovative tools, and streamlining the partnership experience. Check out the video here, or read the full transcript below.

Since consolidating to Partnership Cloud, Walmart has taken its partnership program and its partner experience to the next level in a number of ways:

Smart tools for partners

Walmart’s sophisticated engineering team has built on the Impact platform to extend innovative tools to its partners. One such tool is Dealfinder, where affiliates and partners can filter and search for Walmart deals and offers that align with their audience needs and interests. Partners simply choose and post the links they want, which are seamlessly integrated with Partnership Cloud for tracking and payout. 

Sharing custom insights

Walmart has rigorous data privacy standards, but they are also committed to providing partners as much insight as possible into — anything that can help the partner better understand and optimize their audiences, traffic, and transactions. For example, Walmart might provide customer journey and complementary item information that tells a partner: Customers who buy A are also likely to buy B, so the partner can show relevant offers and increase AOV. 

“One link to rule them all”

With Impact in place, Walmart’s partners no longer have to choose whether to post a desktop, mobile, or mobile web link. With Partnership Cloud, one link automatically takes the consumer to the right experience and that much closer to conversion.

Continual optimization

The Walmart team uses Partnership Cloud analytics regularly for performance insights that guide its strategy. Daily and weekly, the team looks at performance (sales, traffic, orders, commissions, AOV, and more) by type of publisher, product category, device type, cohort, and other variables to spot trends and optimize results. During holidays and peak sales periods, that analysis may be done on an hourly basis to capture opportunities as they arise.  

Walmart employs marketing channels ranging from paid search to email to engage with consumers. But only the partnership channel brings an element of personal advocacy to the table. That’s why the company invests in partnership automation and innovative technology to create the best possible experience not only for shoppers, but also for its partners.

Want to see what Impact Partnership Cloud can do for your partnership program? Connect with an Impact growth technologist at grow@impact.com.

Here’s the full interview transcript:

Mike Head:

Hello, I’m Mike Head Chief Partnerships Officer for Impact and incredibly excited to be doing this interview with Aldo from Walmart.

Aldo Bukit: 

Thank you Mike, this is Aldo from Walmart, I manage the Affiliate Program, Walmart.com. And thank you for having me.

Mike:

Really excited to have you on. Let’s start with a really broad high level question. Many know the name, but can you just tell us a bit about Walmart?

Aldo:

As you know Walmart has a humbling beginning in your office. It’s a small discount retailer that grew to a big retailer as it is today. We have over 4.5 hundred stores in the US and online presence, ecommerce presence. What unique about us is the everyday low price strategy. That’s a cornerstone of our strategy by keeping our prices low, to save our customer money. That also makes our stores one stop shopping, from grocery entertainment, apparel, sporting goods, you name it, we have them all. But Walmart it’s more than just that. We care about the environment. We pick our vendors and suppliers carefully. And also we care about our communities.

Mike:

And then tell us a bit about Walmart online.

Aldo:

Walmart.com and our app, the Walmart app, is just another way making it easier for customers to shop Walmart. We offer tens of millions of items online for our customers to ship it to home. Or we can ship it to our stores as well for customers to pick it up themselves. So it is a very complimentary situation where we have to store super limited items that the customer gets very high turnover items. And online, we have millions more items that we carry in our warehouse, including marketplace sellers.

Mike:

You mentioned running the affiliate program. And you recently made some changes over the last year or two to the strategies. Can you talk to us a little bit about the before scenario and some of the challenges you were addressing?

Aldo:

Before, we had multiple platforms, we had two platforms that track desktop transactions. And then we have another platform to track mobile transactions. Here it is to two different platforms and programs that our affiliates have to sign up for. This creates challenges on the back end, with our data pipelines. That’s been going on for over a year. We needed to have a single platform. A platform that can actually track both desktop, mobile and web all in one. That’s where we shopped around. And we come across a PC, which is a great product. You and I talked last year, it was amazing internally, pretty excited about this. The platform helped us change to where we have a single platform, track all of our traffic’s conversions in one platform. And then to make it easier for our product teams and engineering teams to build products, from a platform. You don’t have to build products for two different platforms. The strategy of in will help us improve us in building all the tools and the products that we want to do and how to help our partners and affiliates.

Mike:

Comment on your engineering and product team being able to build upon a platform. It’s a really interesting one. Is there anything more you can elaborate and how you think about building upon the platform?

Aldo:

So DealFinder, it’s a tool that our Product Marketing for affiliates put together, it’s a tool that can only be implemented on the new platform. They try to figure it out in the old platform. The DealFinders is basically an easy way for our affiliates and partners to find deals on walmart.com. You don’t have to scour millions of our products, just go to walmart.com, create a filter, and you can even save it. And the best of all is you can create a trackable link or add directly from the tool. This is where the Impact platform comes in. The magic of our data and back end logic is great, but we need this as a tool or a way to configure and expose functions on the front end. This is where Flexi Acts from the platform COPS comes handy. The Flexi Act enables an easy, seamless way for creating links and ads from the DealFinder Steven Chan is Product Manager. He’s a big proponent of this. He basically says thank you to have this mechanic available on the platform. You can launch this production mostly, the product is the tool is available. You can go to a list at walmart.com or in the marketplace. 

Mike:

Love the focus on the experience for the affiliates and partners in your program and how you’re building things for them. Could you level up a little bit? And just talk philosophically about the importance of the partner experience and you wanna attack them, that most broadly, to grow your program.

Aldo:

Our best hope is to actually help our partners and affiliates. By equipping them with the right insights and data. They can interact even more with their members. They can interact more strategically or much more efficiently with our users. And then they’re based on what we know. Think of it as the core when they interact with a member they know exactly how to do it. They know exactly how to do the right thing, offer the right messaging, right tools. We have a complimentary offer of insight and data to enhance that experience. I believe we have to help our partners and we have to help our affiliates do that. We cannot just say, here’s the link, drive traffic to azmuth, pay commission. I think that’s fine and great 10 years ago. But moving forward, we should be more engaged with our affiliates and partners and say, here’s the data about your traffic, here’s the data about your users. And, see if you can leverage, see if you can use it to better engage your user and audience.

Mike:

As you think about that strategy and how you leverage things. Can you talk a bit about the types of partners and then how you employ some of those strategies amongst data sharing with them?

Aldo:

Data sharing, real quick data sharing is a sensitive topic, as you know that Mike, we have to be really careful what data we can share. For example, we want your PII because that’s sacred, that’s privacy there. But we can share transaction data, complimentary items, for example, that we can share with our partners. 

Mike:

You mentioned at the beginning, you talked about mobile and web and desktop all being connected. I remember someone from your product team, basically saying, “One link to rule them all,” too. Can you talk about the now and how you’ve been utilizing it and the value that you’ve seen in the program?

Aldo:

It’s back again to the earlier answer about, hey, why do we have two platforms. Affiliates have to decide, hey, are we gonna try driving it to the desktop to drive revenue to mobile, because it’s two different link types. Having a single link, it’ll help our affiliates and partners a lot. They don’t have to make that decision, when which link they’re going to put in their articles in their post under the items that they talked about. They just put one link. And then if it’s going in there, they use the customer, the users in their app, they’ll go to the app automatically. If they’re on the left or on desktop, they’ll go to our desktop experience automatically. That’s what the Impact platform is . It is like one link. And then we can actually, take the customer to the right experience rather than let the fielders decide which links that they want to use. It’s been great. It’s been doing very well, we’re whole again. I think everybody knows we just migrated into this platform a few months ago. It has been a great journey, a lot of challenges in the back end, cause it’s gonna be data but nothing that the depth and the products can solve. Overall feedback that I get is, it’s amazing, it’s great. It’s so easier to use, easier to implement. And now they can just focus on actually doing promotions to do what’s right in their website, in their app in their website and just drive traffic to walmart.com.

Mike:

Can you talk to us just overall about how you’re thinking about getting new partners into the program. The processes to do so and how you think about evaluating them.

Aldo:

We get a lot of applications, we also recruit some affiliates and partners into our program. One criteria that we look at gaining is the content of that publisher or the app’s content helps our customers provide a benefit, and provides something that does make their lives better. For example, the reviews website will go because it provides value the customer will look for something like that. Comparison shopping I know it’s comparing Walmart with competitors and everybody else but it provides value for a customer. I’m guilty of one thing, when I go to comparison shopping, like CNET, for example. Just to look at reviews and see who has the best price it happens. It’s just how the customer is.

Mike:

Can you talk a little bit more about how you define this strategy where you’ll have your team members actually go after and recruit partners and then the process with which they do it?

Aldo:

Yeah, I can give you a high level, without getting into the details. Some partners we wanna recruit because of a few things. Well, mainly we get intel that they are doing very well. There are companies out there that provide data and insights on certain partners and websites and affiliates, that matches or customers that we don’t wanna go after. My team will go to that partner’s introduction and negotiate and ask them if they want to support Walmart, by tracking traffic to it. I cannot get into details. But mainly is that, we identify the partners, we identify an affiliate that we know half our customers are you users in the ecosystem. And then we grow up bigger and bigger after.

Mike:

We talked a little bit about team members. And so you mentioned that some are focused on recruiting. Can you talk a little bit more about the different roles and responsibilities that you have within your affiliate and partnership organization?

Aldo:

All organizations are just between the core theme and the content. The content team focuses on the distaff. They go after the content partners, the big media companies and negotiate a deal to contract for us and then maintain that relationship. So they mainly do that. The core team does that once in a while with the coordinate partners, but not so much so as the content team. The core team, if you think of it, maintains the baseline of our program. This is the loyalty to yield the shopping, the comm shops, the even coupons grew up with the core to maintain all that. Make sure it’s running smoothly. All the content teams out there grab new partners and bring new deals. And drive traffic from the content partners, as content partners is a key strategy for us to wanna focus. So that’s what gets what they do. Both of our teams report to a VP of partnerships in media. And that’s how we sit in the marketing department.

Mike:

We speak with a lot of organizations, some absolutely love and prioritize affiliates and partnerships. Others don’t think of it as meaningfully any, like insights in the heavens to how this falls into the broader Walmart strategy.

Aldo:

That’s where the leadership in this team do, like me, Sarah and Farah on the content side, that’s our job to educate the guild organization. To your point, there are some questions like hey, what are we doing with the partners? We have ICM doing very well. We have displays we want to fulfill for branding. We have our emails, we have SEO and are perfect at that. That’s how the market is picking. But one of the things about those vehicles, those marketing vehicles versus partnership, they don’t advocate for us. Unlike our partners and our affiliates, Our partners and affiliates, they advocate for us, they talked about us therefore. As they head closer to their members. That’s my personal thinking, they’re closer to the customer and users. As opposed to me, I go to Google and search and something pops up. This is something you look at as impersonal. But the influencers that had talked about Walmart then and articles or the post that BuzzFeed put in, or even the deals that slickdeals put on the front page of a Walmart, It’s a bit different than looking at an ad click on it and buy because that’s what I want. Because it’s totally telling it built up brand equity as well at the same time. That’s the kind of thing that we need, as a team, as affiliates, not not only make sure that we do it, but we actually explain that to the organization as big as Walmart, that partnerships for affiliates are key for us. We need them, we can’t do this alone. We need our partners and our affiliates to help us in despite.

Mike:

So you’ve talked a lot about data and how you think about that for partners. Can you talk more about your team and how you leverage data to optimize the program?

Aldo:

Yes. My team, they pull performance data, daily and weekly, they look at the path of publisher what will happen when they do what What if they have been dragged They look at the categories it’s categories that it performs better last week versus not. As a team, we actually view data on a weekly basis. We look at what worked, what didn’t work and how we improve it. We will look at all metrics, standard one from traffic, orders, conversions, sales and commission. All the way into AOV, average order values, for example, do they do graphing or not. We do have secondary metrics. We don’t have very often like device types, we do cohorts of the customers. Which one drives which appeal is driving which customers. We do that and we adjust under a weekly basis that the weekly cadence that we do. Holidays are different, that’s like daily. Even the big six during the big six days, the Black Friday, Cyber Monday or starting on Thursday. It’s more like how we relate. I’ll look at it and data. And yes, you can imagine how the massive data that will help. It can get challenging sometimes, but the team does very well in terms of pulling data, looking at the performance, getting insights and adjusting.

Mike:

You’ve talked a lot about how things were the strategies that you’re focused on now, as you take a look a step back and look into the future. What do you think the future for partnerships holds at Walmart?

Aldo:

I mentioned a little bit earlier that we cannot fight this alone. We’ve recognized the value and the importance of the partners and affiliates in this fight. They brought so much value not only for the users but for Walmart as well. The day closer for their members that closer to the users they advocate Walmart in their articles in and in their pos. So we recognize that and we wanna work closer and more integrated with them today is that here’s a lane drive traffic over, we want to work closely, we want to integrate with the key partners. And for the rest of the partners. Like I mentioned it so many times we wanna provide insight we wanna better them. We want to equip them with the right tools for them to drive traffic to walmart.com.

Mike:

The future is bright for partnerships. And speaking of which, I really appreciate you joining us. We really appreciate the partnership and we’re looking forward to the future as well. Thank you. 

Aldo:

Thank you, Mike for having me and Impact.

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