Amazon’s Prime program has been one of the most important drivers of shopping frequency and basket size; its main competitor, Walmart, is now launching a version with a few tricks up its sleeve.

In the great 2019/20 bland naming custom, the new service will be known as Walmart+, according to the tech site Recode, and for $98 per year (Amazon Prime costs $119), customers will get similar perks such as fast delivery for groceries and other items, but also discounts on fuel and early access to deals, a source told the site.

It’s not totally new news, as the company had planned to launch in March or April, but we all know what happened next, as the pandemic scuppered the planned trials. As it happens, Walmart saw sales smash records this year, but it continues to trail Amazon’s e-commerce business. 

Prime is well known and counts more than half of top-spending US families as members, huge brand awareness, and years of trying to appeal to lower-income customers with the introduction of the option to pay monthly since 2016.

For Walmart, it follows efforts to build a loyalty platform with, for instance, its Vudu streaming platform, which last year extended its video advertising offer.

While it’s tempting to fixate on all the ways that going toe to toe with Amazon is hard. The mention, however, of discounts on fuel is an area of great interest, since Amazon is not yet posting people fuel to fill up at home. Walmart’s strength is the set of services it offers in this scenario, even when its large physical footprint is taken as something of a weight for the company.

But Americans spend quite a bit more on fuel than the $98 it costs to become a member of Walmart+. It’s far simpler to ease an existing behaviour than to create a new one. In one key area, the retailer might have found a key foothold in the battle for American retail.

Sourced from Recode, WARC, Business Insider