Walmart’s long-awaited Amazon Prime-competitor Walmart+ just launched earlier this month, but one study indicates that the loyalty platform might already be a hit—and that’s very good news for the store-based retail giant.
In a poll of more than 20,000 U.S. shoppers, Piplsay Research found that 11 percent of consumers have already subscribed to the Walmart+ service within two weeks of its launch, while 27 percent are open to using the service soon. As many as 53 percent of shoppers have heard about the program, which offers unlimited free delivery.
Amazon Prime has long been the king of retail subscriptions, with Consumer Intelligence Research Partner estimating it commands 112 million members in the U.S. alone. But Walmart decided to take a crack at the membership concept by offering perks Amazon simply can’t match, such as offering delivery from its breadth of 4,700 stores, with timing as fast as same-day from 2,700 locations and fuel perks at its scores of gas stations.
Membership was made available to all customers on Sept. 15, with annual costs of $98 a year or a monthly fee or $12.95, including a 15-day free trial period. In the future, the company will leverage its wide-ranging strengths to add additional benefits for members in a variety of services and offerings.
The unlimited free delivery appears to be the perk most of the shoppers surveyed were excited for, with 35 percent saying they were impressed the most by that benefit. Twenty-four percent cited the same-day/one-hour delivery window, while 14 percent highlighted the addition of mobile “Scan and Go” capabilities as the most impressive offering. In this case, scenario can scan their items as they shop and pay using Walmart Pay for a touch-free payment experience.
One major perk, fuel discounts, allow customers to fill up and save up to five cents a gallon at nearly 2,000 Walmart, Murphy USA and Murphy Express fuel stations. Sam’s Club fuel stations will soon be added to this lineup. Twelve percent of shoppers were most excited about this perk, the Piplsay survey noted.
Amazon’s lack of physical infrastructure aside from its Whole Foods locations might make Walmart+ an enticing option for shoppers that want to save money on gas and get their delivers from stores instead of distribution centers. Reports indicate that Amazon is looking to open 1,500 neighborhood fulfillment hubs to match Walmart and Target’s competitive advantage.
Meanwhile, Walmart offers a number of ways for consumer to get their goods, from free curbside pickup and next-day delivery to two-day delivery, mirroring Amazon’s fulfillment capabilities. Walmart will continue to have delivery options with a per-delivery transaction fee, so customers can choose the service that’s best for them.
And of course, the costs are cheaper for Walmart+. So while members may not have access to a flurry of other perks like streaming video and music content, the membership is still less than Amazon’s $119 per year.
Walmart still has plenty of catching up to do on the e-commerce front relative to Amazon, makes its membership push critical, especially ahead of the holidays. A June eMarketer study indicates that Amazon still leads the way in e-commerce sales by a wide margin at 38 percent of all online sales, while Walmart is ranked a distant second at 5.8 percent.
The Piplsay study shows that nearly half (45 percent) of the surveyed consumers already signed up for Walmart+ are using Amazon Prime as well, so it appears that many will evaluate the services side by side. But Walmart’s platform still has plenty of room to capture new consumers or even take them away from Amazon if things break right for them.
As many as 36 percent that use Walmart+ say it’s actually their first such shopping subscription, while 19 percent say they have migrated over from Amazon Prime.
Walmart originally planned to launch the program sometime in March or April as a rebrand of its $98 grocery delivery service before the Covid-19 pandemic first pushed those plans back to July. The project then got delayed again as Walmart continued its focus on other internal initiatives to help improve services throughout the crisis, such as expanding its “store-to-door” Express Delivery service to nearly 2,000 total stores in June.
In August, Walmart partnered with online delivery giant Instacart to offer same-day delivery starting in three California markets—Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego—as well as Tulsa, Okla., which all give customers the opportunity to have Walmart-purchased apparel at their doorstep within hours.
As far as whether the service poses a threat to Prime, consumers are still up in the air on whether that is the case. While 38 percent say it is a threat, 33 percent don’t believe so and 29 percent are not sure yet, the Piplsay survey found.
Both Walmart and Amazon are beefing up ahead of the holiday season as usual, with the former bulking up on inventory that it thinks customers want, including lifestyle merchandise like outdoor grills, bicycles and exercise equipment, outdoor sporting merchandise, and pet products in both stores and online, as well as more electronics, 1,300 new toys and 800 Walmart holiday exclusives. Walmart says the holiday gifts are now in stores and on the company’s website so customers can get a jump on seasonal shopping, which is expected to strain e-commerce.
On the other hand, the e-commerce giant is investing an additional $100 million in Prime Day and other holiday promotions starting now, giving Prime members an early start to the holiday season before the company-exclusive shopping bonanza even gets underway. Prime members who spend $10 on items sold by select small businesses in Amazon’s store now through Oct. 12 will receive a $10 credit to use on Prime Day, which the online marketplace has confirmed will be on Oct. 13-14.