Walmart made news recently when Reuters broke that it may be “exploring” the influencer space. In case you missed it: The retail giant indicated that it may launch a platform to use social media influencers to help it (and its 100,000 third-party sellers) promote goods and services online when it filed trademarks for “Walmart Creator” and “Walmart Creator Collective” in late July.
Of course, Walmart isn’t new to the influencer game. In fact, Walmart was actually one of the first to formalize the group of influencers it worked with, “The Walmart Moms”, back in 2008 when influencers were still considered “bloggers” and TikTok wasn't even on any of our radars. The retailer saw the power of influencers before most.
Its latest move is interesting because of the questions it raises as well as the future it could promise. Still, little is known at this point. Answers to some critical question marks could determine whether this is a must or a pass. Let’s look at a few.
Logistically, it will be intriguing to see how the marketplace works. Will this marketplace be similar to Amazon.com's, where it's based on an affiliate model? If so, might creators "choose" their favorite brands to promote? What systems will be in place to ensure the smooth running of campaigns?
Additionally, if brands or influencers want to work on a flat rate model, will the ecosystem allow for this? Not all influencers work on an affiliate model, so in order to attract top talent, will there be any flexibility in the relationship model?
How brands get involved will be interesting, too. Can any and all brands be a part of the marketplace? If it's affiliate-based, who sets the commission or payout rates? Which raises even more questions: What do the brand safety regulations look like? Can brands "choose" influencers based on applications, or is there no selection process? Can brands review content created to ensure messaging is accurate?
In other emerging marketplaces, like Amazon, this isn't the case, which could cause pause from brands concerned about what people are saying. Ideally, we would love a marketplace that allows for communication with influencers for review processes and the ability to monitor messaging.
Who Gets to Participate?
Lastly, how does Walmart choose what influencers are part of their platform? Is it anyone with social media channels, or is there a following size or posting cadence requirement? Is there any vetting of these influencers to ensure they're safe for brands to work with? For marketers, different sizes and types of influencers are crucial to successful ongoing programming — it's not a “one size fits all” type of world, so having options in the types of influencers will ultimately impact adoption.
Additionally, there are questions around which platforms these influencers will be on; will they accept folks from all social media platforms, or just specific platforms? Walmart has already dipped its toe into the live shopping game, will this new marketplace support that functionality?
Where Do We Go From Here?
Ultimately, there are thousands of influencer and creator marketplaces out there, but Walmart's access to so many brands would obviously be highly attractive to influencers to get involved. However, there are still too many unknowns to understand if this will be successful.
- Considerations for Brands: What we need to watch for, things like brand safety, type of partners, and ultimately checks and balances to ensure success.
- Considerations for Influencers: If influencers have an open marketplace and access to all of Walmart’s brands, they need to be careful not to oversaturate their feeds with sponsored content. The instinct could be to try and take a ton of work to make money, but ultimately, sponsored content should be only about 20 percent to 25 percent of their content in order to keep an engaged audience and showcase the ability to create quality, unique content.
In conclusion, understanding how it works, who is involved and how the money flows will be highly important to both parties (brands and influencers) to be successful. It will be interesting to see how and what the Walmart Creator Marketplace is, but now, it’s too early to figure out how quick brands, influencers or creators will get involved and at what rate.
Crystal Duncan is senior vice president, head of partnership marketing at Tinuiti, the largest independent performance marketing firm across Streaming TV and the Triopoly of Google, Facebook, Amazon.