Walmart and Roku: Partnering ‘Shoppable Ads’ for TV

Walmart and Roku are partnering to introduce “shoppable ads,” which will let you buy something directly from an ad on your T.V. The new ad format seems to streamline the shopping experience, so you don’t keep switching to your phone or computer if you see an ad for something you might want to buy.

Viewers press “OK” with the remote on a shoppable ad and proceed to checkout with their payment details easily pre-populated from Roku Pay, Roku’s payments platform.

From there, tapping “OK” on the Walmart checkout page places the order. A Walmart purchase confirmation is emailed with shipping, return, and support information.

While you have little interest in doing e-commerce on television, Roku has been vocal about its advertising ambitions for years, so this new type of ad seems to fit right in with the company’s goals. And shoppable streaming ads have been on Walmart’s mind for some time. So in 2019, the company introduced the concept to Vudu, the streaming service it sold to Fandango in 2020.

Roku and Walmart are describing the ads as a “first pilot,” which likely means that only a limited number of people will have access to it initially. But the companies seem committed to taking the concept further, as they noted (vaguely) that “future iterations of this pilot will look for opportunities to build deeper commerce experiences that meet customers where they are.”

In addition, it could mean expanding shoppable ads beyond Walmart and its products, as Roku spokesperson Sarah Saul said the company plans to start testing ads from “brands that sell through Walmart before the end of the year.”

Roku is a brand of hardware digital media players manufactured by the American company Roku, Inc. They offer access to streaming media content from online services.

The first Roku model, developed in collaboration with Netflix, was introduced in May 2008. Roku devices have popularized the concept of low-cost, small-form-factor set-top boxes for over-the-top media consumption. Roku has also licensed its medium as middleware for smart T.V.s.

In August 2021, Roku called more than 55 million active accounts, according to its quarterly earnings report. As of January 2022, Roku has 60.1 million engaged users.

Anthony Wood launched Roku in 2002, which had previously established ReplayTV, a DVR company that contested with TiVo. After ReplayTV’s failure, Wood performed for a while at Netflix. In 2007, Wood’s company started working with Netflix on Project: Griffin, a set-top box to allow Netflix users to stream Netflix content to their T.V.s.

Unfortunately, only a few weeks before the project’s launch, Netflix’s creator Reed Hastings determined it would hamper license arrangements with third parties, potentially maintaining Netflix off other similar platforms, and killed the project. Fast Company magazine cited the decision to kill the project as “one of Netflix’s riskiest moves.”

Netflix decided to spin off the company, and Roku released its first set-top box in 2008. In 2010 they began offering models with various capabilities, which eventually became their standard business model. In 2014, Roku partnered with innovative T.V. manufacturers to produce T.V.s with built-in Roku functionality. In 2015, Roku won the inaugural Emmy for Television Enhancement Devices.

In 2019, Roku acquired dataxu, an advertising technology company, for $150 million.

Walmart Inc. is an American international retail corporation that operates a chain of hypermarkets (also named supercenters), discount department supplies, and grocery stores in the United States, headquartered in Bentonville, Arkansas.

The company was established by Sam Walton in nearby Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962 and integrated under Delaware General Corporation Resolution on October 31, 1969. It also holds and manages Sam’s Club retail warehouses.

As of April 30, 2022, Walmart has 10,585 stores and clubs in 24 nations, operating under 46 names. The company works under the name Walmart in the U.S. and Canada, Walmart d Central America, and Flipkart Wholesale in India. In addition, it has wholly owned operations in Chile, Canada, and South Africa.

Since August 2018, Walmart held only a minority stake in Walmart Brasil, renamed Grupo Big in August 2019, with 20 percent of the company’s shares, and confidential equity firm Advent International holds 80 percent ownership of the company. They eventually divested their shareholdings in Grupo Big to French retailer Carrefour in a transaction worth R$7 billion completed on June 7, 2022.

Walmart is the world’s most extensive company by revenue, with about US$570 billion in annual revenue, according to the Fortune Global 500 index in May 2022. It is also the most extensive private employer globally, with 2.2 million employees. It is a publicly exchanged family-owned business, as the Walton family maintains the company. Sam Walton’s beneficiaries own over 50 percent of Walmart through their holding company Walton Enterprises, and their holdings. Walmart was the biggest United States grocery retailer in 2019, and 65 percent of Walmart’s US$510.329 billion sales came from U.S. operations.