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Walmart Canada Sees Explosive Growth with Online Marketplace Grocery: Interview

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Walmart Canada Marketplace’s Grocery has reached a significant milestone since it launched in November of last year.

The program now has more than 175 third-party sellers and seller onboarding more than doubled between January and June this year as more than 20,000 grocery items are now available through Marketplace.

Dan Farmer
Dan Farmer

Walmart said Marketplace Grocery orders are trending at six times compared to 2020, with an increased average order size.

Dan Farmer, VP Digital Platforms and Marketplace for Walmart Canada, said offering customers more choice is at the core of the retailer’s business and the new platform is enabling local Canadian companies and brands to reach customers in an increasingly competitive ecommerce environment.

The grocery platform is part of the wider Marketplace initiative which was launched in August 2017.

“We’ve been building the Marketplace business at Walmart Canada for the past five years or so. At the end of the day, this is about offering more selection beyond what Walmart brings in to our customers and to Canadians,” said Farmer.

“Our ambition is to be a real credible alternative to the other global marketplaces that are out there . . . in terms of bringing really broad selection, thousands of sellers from around the world. We built the Marketplace up to almost 5,000 sellers and it will be 5,000 by the end of the year, offering 30 million items to Canadians. Most of that selection has been in general merchandise and that’s a fairly typical place to start when you build a marketplace business . . . The natural extension for us is offering the same type of value of increased selection, access to specialty and niche items in grocery and so we started thinking about this late last year and we launched a project to start expanding into our grocery space.

Image: Walmart Canada

“It really does, particularly for Walmart, offer customers the ability to shop  much deeper into categories beyond what we carry in our stores. So it’s actually a very nice complement for customers looking for a national brand and typical stock up type items you’d find in a store but then also allow customers to find more niche items based on lifestyle, healthy items, ethic items, also specialty items for a certain diet.”

Farmer said the number of third-party sellers in the grocery space is expected to continue to grow.

“Part of the value of the Marketplace for let’s say sellers or local Canadian businesses is that they can access all of the traffic that walmart.ca has to build and grow their businesses,” he said. “We definitely expect it to grow. We’ve been focusing on very specific categories as a starting point and as we start to open up more categories we definitely expect to see growth.

“There are parts of the grocery business today that are natural kind of next steps for us as we start to think about fresh and frozen. Every time we take the next step further in providing more to our customers through our Marketplace there’s additional business requirements we have to put in place to make sure that we can manage those businesses.

“But for us for sure, broader category selection as well as fresh and frozen are the next steps for us . . . We believe we’re the only full scale global competitive marketplace that can also leverage our 400 stores across Canada. We think that’s a huge benefit to the customers and it’s a huge benefit to sellers. That’s what I think really makes us different.’

Farmer said Walmart is continually building more services for the sellers.

Walmart Canada
Image: Walmart Canada

“If you are a seller on the Marketplace platform today the first promise is access to our customer base that is online. The thing that we’re working on all the time is making it as easy as possible to apply to be on the Marketplace and to set up your business on our Marketplace,” he said.

“If you’re a specialty brand and you have a story to tell about your brand, there’s the ability to do that which is through kind of storefront pages and those types of things. When it comes to other services like fulfillment, we’re in the process of building those types of services for our sellers and to be transparent they’re not in place today but we have on our road map to build those types of services for our sellers.

“Certainly there’s opportunities for additional marketing, there’s opportunities to always access our stores for ship to store. We have a ship to store program where customers can pick up in our store so you can leverage our store network to make it easier and easier for customers, and sellers have the opportunity to do that. And then we also have returns to our stores. So a seller can know that if a customer wants to take an item back they can easily do it in the store and then the item goes back to the seller through our network.”

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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