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Walmart is reportedly preparing a membership program aimed at Amazon Prime

The program could include free shipping and other perks

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Photo (c) Andrei Stanescu - Getty Images
Walmart appears to have abandoned its free, no-membership approach to compete with Amazon Prime.

The retailer is reportedly preparing to take on Amazon with its own paid membership program with the free shipping that Prime includes, along with other perks. Walmart has beefed up its online business over the last few years but has yet to catch up to Amazon.

According to a report by technology site Vox, Walmart will soon start testing Walmart+, in part by rebranding its Delivery Unlimited service. That service currently charges customers $98 a year for unlimited same-day grocery deliveries at more than 1,600 Walmart locations. The report says the retailer may also test a feature that would allow Walmart+ members to place orders using a text message.

But Amazon Prime offers more than just free two-day shipping, and in some cases one-day delivery. Members get access to streaming video through Prime Video and to a streaming music service.

Walmart also reportedly plans to sweeten its deal with additional perks. According to Vox, those perks could include discounts on prescription drugs and gasoline at Walmart fueling stations.

Walmart has made no official announcement of its plans, but a company spokesman confirmed that a membership program was indeed in the works in a statement to Vox.

Prime’s rise

When Amazon launched Prime in 2005, few could see what a powerful force in the retail economy it would become. For an annual fee of $119 a year, members get free expedited shipping on their orders.

For many consumers, knowing that delivery won’t cost anything has made Amazon the go-to place to shop. When Amazon sweetened the deal with entertainment services, it almost became irresistible.

Amazon Prime currently has a global membership of more than 150 million and, besides the free expedited shipping, it offers same-day delivery from Whole Foods or Amazon Fresh.

Walmart in recent years has made Amazon its prime target. It has increased delivery services and made a point of saying that it doesn’t require a membership. In 2019, the retailer appeared to be making some headway.

A 2019 survey by First Insight, a retail analytics firm, found that 55 percent of consumers preferred shopping at Walmart rather than Amazon.com. That was an increase from 47 percent in 2018.

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