The Supply Side: Walmart revamps requirements for omnichannel suppliers

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 920 views 

Content quality is essential for suppliers who sell products online at Walmart and elsewhere. Since merging Walmart’s online and in-store buyers and merchandising efforts, the retail giant is revamping item content requirements to improve product search for shoppers.

Walmart recently began notifying suppliers about the new content quality requirements via email and online informational sessions around “Item 360,” Walmart’s application that suppliers use to list their products online and keep up with their quality content scores. Walmart is calling this new content quality upgrade Omni 5.0.

Scott Benedict, vice president at Rogers marketing agency WhyteSpyder, said Walmart emailed suppliers in mid-July. He said the new algorithm will use different metrics to calculate suppliers’ content quality scores. He said Walmart is going through each category and applying the new algorithm to evaluate the score.

In most cases, scores are dropping as much as 15%. If not addressed, WhiteSypder warns that suppliers could see their placements drop in online searches and lose their ability to use paid advertising.

Walmart said the goal of Omni 5.0 is to improve content quality with imagery, copy, attribution and rich media to improve customer experience. The improved scoring model weighs core attributes and product type attributes that capture more targeted product information to drive content quality improvement, elevate item search and do a better job converting growers into buyers, Walmart said.

Benedict, who has online retail experience, said Walmart is trying to improve item discoverability on He said the middle of summer is also good for suppliers to address changes well before the holiday cycle. He said it is a big task for Walmart to standardize the style guides by each category and item.

He said standardizing item-level content is critical to improving the search experience on He carefully clarified that this is just as important for suppliers who sell in-store and online as for those who sell online.

“Omnichannel retail is what consumers want. They are sometimes ordering online and using store pick-up while also going into stores to check out the big, bulky products like TVs or patio furniture and then ordering online from their phones to have those purchases delivered to their homes,” Benedict said.

He said suppliers previously could use “other” generic-like specs when setting up items on Benedict said different words used by suppliers for similar products created inconsistency in Walmart’s search database. Under the new guidelines, suppliers will use specific terms according to the updated style guide Walmart supplies for each category on the Item 360 site portal.

Walmart said suppliers need to refer to the style guide for the product type or Walmart Private Brand to accurately set up and maintain items. Suppliers are asked to find general content on the Walmart Brand Center site if a guide is unavailable. Suppliers were told that free-form or “other” category specs would no longer be supported by the end of July.

The retailer is making an application programming interface (API) available. However, suppliers who want to set up and maintain items without manual processes can follow directions on the Item 360 site portal.

Benedict and other professionals in the industry said the suppliers should look at their content quality scores and watch them closely. When the score begins to drop, that is time for suppliers to determine where deficiencies are and fix those issues.

Walmart said new score metrics look at the core content copy of accurate product names, site descriptions, imagery and other vital features. The core content copy comprises about 60% of the score. The rest of the score consists of the product type attributes, required and recommended.

Walmart said suppliers have visibility to all content opportunities in the Item 360 site portal. There, suppliers can see the old scores compared with the new scores. Walmart is not applying penalties but warns suppliers who do not address the new requirements risk being passed over in favor of those who do.

Benedict said that once the search algorithm is applied, suppliers needing to update their listings could end up on pages five or six of customer searches. He said if suppliers don’t land on pages one or two, they risk not being seen as shoppers either find what they are looking for quickly or bounce to another site.

He said Walmart is asking suppliers for more details than just the product name. Consumers want to see if a product is, for example, Keto-friendly, low or no sugar or gluten-free. Benedict said suppliers must let shoppers know how the product can be used and provide a description with imagery, reviews and ratings.

“This is necessary to drive customer experiences and items being easily found in their first search,” he said. “Shoppers can’t buy what they can’t find. Once a shopper finds the product they are researching, there should be ample reviews and ratings so that they have enough information to make the purchase then and there.”

He said that as Walmart has grown its online inventory to roughly 160 million items through first- and third-party sellers having complete, accurate and specific item descriptions has become more critical. Benedict applauds Walmart for taking the big step to standardize the content to improve search experiences.

Walmart unveiled in April a new website and app experience with bigger photos and social media-inspired content they hoped would promote more sales.

“When you walk into a store, you get inspired and excited by what you see,” said Tom Ward, Walmart’s chief e-commerce officer. “And so we thought, ‘How do you drive that same inspiration and excitement in our closest store — in our app?”

Again, Benedict said the new updated app and website do not work if a shopper can’t easily find items. He said that once the new search algorithm is turned on and suppliers have updated their product attributes, they should work together to provide a better online shopping experience and drive more sales for the retailer and its suppliers.

Editor’s note: The Supply Side section of Talk Business & Politics focuses on the companies, organizations, issues and individuals engaged in providing products and services to retailers. The Supply Side is managed by Talk Business & Politics and sponsored by Propak Logistics.