Walmart today announced it will launch its own membership service, Walmart+, on September 15. The service will be available for $98/year or $12.95/month and include free same-day delivery from Walmart stores, fuel discounts, and other perks.
A Walmart+ membership gets you free, unlimited delivery “on more than 160,000 items” from Walmart stores (with a minimum order of $35), access to the company’s Scan & Go tech that lets customers skip the checkout line, and discounts on fuel. Walmart said in today’s press release that “the list of benefits will continue to grow over time.”
Walmart has been testing free delivery through its Delivery Unlimited program since last year. When Walmart+ launches across the company’s stores nationwide, current Delivery Unlimited subscribers will automatically become members of Walmart+.
Walmart+ was first revealed in February of this year in a move that immediately invited comparisons to Amazon and its Prime membership service. Speaking to TechCrunch today, Walmart said it was “not launching Walmart+ with the intent to compete with anything else.” And the service is by no means a mirror image of Prime, especially considering that Prime includes free access to streaming movies, music and more.
At least initially, Walmart+ seems to be focused more on groceries and household items (along with some toys and electronics), an area the company is already strong in. This focus on grocery makes sense given the record amounts of online grocery shopping still happening because of the pandemic. A recent survey showed that Walmart has actually overtaken Amazon as the leading retailer for online grocery shopping, and adding Walmart+ could help solidify its lead.
Walmart and Amazon have actually kind of switched places over the past week with their announcements. With today’s news, Walmart, which has a vast network of real-world stores, is announcing it’s Prime-like service. Last week, Amazon, the online retail giant, announced the opening of its first full-on real world supermarket in Woodland Hills, CA. Both moves help illustrate how important the grocery category has become for each company.
Another thing to watch with Walmart+ is how many customers will adopt the Scan & Go technology, which allows shoppers to skip the checkout line by scanning product barcodes with their phones. Walmart’s approach is more manual than that of an Amazon Go store, which uses cameras and sensors to automatically track what shoppers are buying. Will the extra scanning step inhibit adoption of Scan & Go? Also, in the pandemic era, where contactless payments are increasingly table stakes, will Walmart incentivize more people to use Scan & Go, and will customers like the system?
We’ll mark our calendars and see.
Additional reporting by Chris Albrecht.