Something to look forward to: Walmart over the past 18 months has been quietly working on a paid membership program to combat Amazon Prime, offering perks that the e-commerce giant simply can’t duplicate. Is it a real competitor, and does Walmart even want to draw those comparisons?
Sources familiar with the matter told Recode that Walmart wants to start publicly testing the membership program as early as next month. Walmart+, as it is to be called, is more or less a rebrand of the company’s existing Delivery Unlimited service which allow for unlimited delivery of grocery items from your local store priced at $12.95 per month or $98 for a full year.
Walmart’s long-term vision for the program reportedly includes adding perks like discounts on fuel at Walmart gas stations as well as savings on prescription drugs at Walmart pharmacies. The company may also bring back its Scan & Go service which let customers pay for items without going through checkout lines. It was briefly tested but discontinued nearly two years ago due to low participation.
Discounts on prescriptions and fuel would be attractive for some but those perks alone, even with grocery delivery tossed in, likely won’t be enough to supplant Amazon’s multi-faceted Prime service, if that is indeed the goal. Extras could be added at a later date but the rush to get something out the door has some insiders worried.
Others believe that Walmart+ needs to strike a balance of being valuable enough to pay for while being different enough from Prime that direct comparisons aren’t made.
A spokesperson for Walmart confirmed that a membership program known as Walmart+ was in the pipeline but didn't provide any additional details, Recode said.
Amazon isn’t sitting still, either. Earlier this week, the e-commerce giant opened its first full-on, cashier-free grocery store in Seattle. The company continues to tweak its core Prime service with new features like free one-day shipping and has built a solid foundation with Prime Video.
Masthead credit: Walmart by Sundry Photography.