Walmart explores matchmaker marketplace for social media influencers


FILE PHOTO: A man talks on his mobile phone in front of a Walmart store in Sao Paulo, Brazil, February 16, 2016. REUTERS/Nacho Doce/File Photo

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Walmart may launch a platform that will use social media influencers to help the retailer and its 100,000 third-party sellers promote their goods and services online, according to trademark filings.

Walmart filed trademarks for "Walmart Creator" and "Walmart Creator Collective," which would provide social media consulting and "the promotion of goods and services of others through influencers," according to the July 27 documents seen by Reuters.

Walmart currently works with influencers to promote its groceries and apparel, as well as its Walmart+ loyalty program. Influencers often have large followings on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok and recommend products by posting affiliate links. They earn a commission when a customer uses the link to make a purchase.

Influencer marketing is expected to grow into a $16.4 billion industry in 2022, according to media company Influencer Marketing Hub. Rivals Shopify and Amazon.com each have own social-media influencer services.

Companies file trademarks for many reasons and filings do not always lead to a company launching a new product or service.

Walmart declined to comment on its plans for Walmart Creator and Walmart Creator Collective.

Walmart's third-party sellers can currently purchase ads from Walmart Connect, the retailer's digital advertising business. Walmart Connect raked in $2 billion in revenue for its ad business last fiscal year, the company said during its February earnings call.

Growing its e-commerce business, including its delivery- subscription service Walmart Plus, has been a priority for Walmart, with plans to launch new services for sellers, the company said during its fourth-quarter earnings call in February. Walmart currently has nearly 240 million items online by the end of 2022 and said on Tuesday that its second-quarter U.S. e-commerce sales jumped 12% since last year.

"The relationship between digital growth, marketplace growth, advertising is something that we're trying to take advantage of," Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said on the second-quarter earnings call on Tuesday.

Walmart's global advertising business, comprised of Walmart Connect and its India-based e-commerce company Flipkart's ads, grew nearly 30% year-over-year. The company said Tuesday on its earnings call that the number of active advertisers has increased 121% since last year.

Since 2017, Amazon has offered social-media influencers the chance to create their own online pages for certain recommended products sold on Amazon.com's marketplace. The influencers earn commissions for every product purchased from their page.

Matt Gilbert, chief executive of business partnerships software firm Partnerize, said Walmart wants to capitalize on advertisers' moves to spend more of their budgets on "the creator economy."

Many influencers depend on Walmart for revenue through "affiliate dollars," said Danielle Wiley, chief executive of influencer marketing agency Sway Group. "Any way that the company could make this easier for influencer and facilitate content creation is going to benefit both sides."

(Reporting by Arriana McLymore; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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