Are Walmart’s associates about to become its best customers?

Discussion
Photo: Walmart
Mar 10, 2022

Walmart is looking to add 1.6 million new members to its Walmart+ subscription plan.

Chris Cracchiolo, SVP & GM Walmart+, wrote in a company blog post yesterday that the retailer is adding all of its full- and part-time employees working in stores, distribution and fulfillment centers to the delivery subscription plan for free. The annual plan normally costs $98.

“This new associate benefit is not only our way to say thank you for all they do, but it’s also so associates can use our membership, tell us how it’s going and ultimately speak to customers about it from personal experience,” wrote Mr. Cracchiolo.

It’s not clear how many of the retailer’s associates are currently members of Walmart+. Walmart has not publicly disclosed its membership count, but outside party estimates have put the number between 11.5 million (Consumer Intelligence Research Partners) and 32 million (Deutsche Bank).

The retailer has been running an Exclusive Access event in recent weeks to provide Walmart+ members with Black Friday-like savings on popular products. A 30-day free trial offer seeks to bring in new members who may be intrigued at the prospect of deals not available to the general public.

Walmart+ members receive free grocery delivery and shipping on online orders, plus gas and prescription drug discounts.

RetailWire reached out to other retailers that offer subscription plans — Amazon.com, Best Buy, Kroger and Target — to see if employees were offered free memberships as a term of employment.

An Amazon spokesperson, who did not directly respond to the query, sought to reframe the conversation.

We’re proud to offer an average starting wage for front-line employees of more than $18 per hour in the U.S. and comprehensive benefits for full-time employees,” he said. “These benefits include health, vision and dental insurance; a 401(k) with 50 percent company match; up to 20 weeks paid parental leave; Amazon’s Career Choice program, through which the company fully funds the cost of an employee’s college tuition, including classes, books and fees; Amazon Care, which offers the best of virtual care and in-person healthcare services; and Amazon’s Resources for Living program, a free mental health benefit offering services and support for employees, their families and their households.”

Other retailers contacted by RetailWire had not responded at the time of publication. The post will be updated if responses are received.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you make of Walmart’s decision to offer free Walmart+ memberships to its store, distribution and fulfillment center employees? Do you expect other retailers to do the same with their subscription plans or will they take an approach similar to Amazon?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"All retailers are in a battle for talent, and especially frontline staff, so increasing pay, benefits and perks like free memberships will become more common."
"It is a very nice perk for employees, but more than that it adds 1.6 million customers with the wave of a wand."
"This has to be one of the most cost efficient employee benefits I’ve heard about. Which makes it surprising it wasn’t offered by Amazon long ago."

Join the Discussion!

28 Comments on "Are Walmart’s associates about to become its best customers?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

This sounds like a nice perk for employees, and a good way for Walmart to increase membership numbers. When you think about it, why not? And even after the employee leaves the company, they still might decide to maintain their membership for a fee. All retailers are in a battle for talent, and especially frontline staff, so increasing pay, benefits and perks like free memberships will become more common.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Little is being written about laborers as consumers but it is one of the big trends I’m following in 2022.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Employees.

Bob Phibbs
BrainTrust

Both.

David Naumann
BrainTrust

Offering Walmart+ for free to Walmart employees is a smart employee recruitment and retention strategy. In the challenging labor market, providing more perks to employees will help companies recruit new employees. While Amazon may be an exception, I suspect other brands will offer free membership plans to their employees.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

At $98 per year or more, Walmart can’t lose! This is a multi-faceted initiative that will improve employee loyalty, employee’s personal experience with the products they sell, and may cause a permanent uptick in sales. Brilliant!

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust
Richard Hernandez
Merchant Director
8 months 29 days ago

Of course – Walmart employees should be part of their Walmart+ program. Who better to talk about the products they sell than the actual employees? I was surprised to read that Amazon employees do not automatically have the Amazon Prime program.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

In the ongoing hiring battle, a creative benefit like this will be a win for Walmart. It will also drive sales and word of mouth among the huge number of Walmart associates. This may be too much for Amazon and other competitors to ignore.

Brian Delp
BrainTrust
8 months 29 days ago

Walmart is doubling down on its subscription plan here and showing that it is committed to growing it. In the recent financial results management danced around questions regarding membership growth, which likely indicates it has stalled. The addition of the Spotify partnership as well as internal offer are sure to give a significant boost to those figures for the next release. At the very least, it’s securing some good PR.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

A free subscription to Walmart+ is definitely a nice perk for Walmart employees, it’s also a solid way to build word of mouth. Walmart is on a positive perception roll!

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

With higher prices for food, gas and almost everything else, it’s a no-brainer. We’ve been Prime members forever and Walmart knows they have some catching up to do. The Walmart shopper is looking for anything that can help and this will.

David Spear
BrainTrust

This is a great move by Walmart for many reasons, but the one I like the best is it allows employees to actively use the service, understand its strengths/weaknesses and provide feedback to enhance it. Secondarily, employees can evangelize the service to friends, family and other networks. Will others follow in offering this type of service for free to associates? Perhaps, but every retailer is different in how they offer benefits to their employees.

Liza Amlani
BrainTrust

Walmart employees are already its best customers and with added perks and benefits, they will be loyal for a lifetime.

Such a smart move from Walmart – investing in their people, offering them a living wage, benefits, and so much more will not only retain them but keep them customers for life. They will speak highly of the brand and how Walmart treats their employees to their families and communities. The reach of this messaging and loyalty has no barriers. I love it and I’m here for it.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

I cannot see any downside to this program. The one benefit the company will receive with this is that employees will have the opportunity to voice their experiences and also suggestions. I believe they will talk with friends and customers about the program, and will review it and suggest ideas based on their experience. Can’t lose.

Doug Garnett
BrainTrust

It’s a smart way to give something of value to employees. The added cost to the company is less than the $98 given variability in use. And it is good for employees to have experience in the program.

Mohamed Amer, PhD
BrainTrust

Brilliant move by Walmart! Reward your employees by removing the financial friction associated with the subscription service. This move helps keep the Walmart associates’ spending within Walmart while creating an advocacy base to raise awareness of the program. In addition, given retailing’s high turnover, there is a high likelihood that former Walmart employees will choose to continue their subscription in a paying capacity.

Lisa Goller
BrainTrust

As inflation hammers groceries and gas, Walmart saves employees money on frequently-bought essentials. This timely gesture injects goodwill into Walmart’s employee experience.

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

Brilliant. Nice perk for employees, good karma for Walmart. And they don’t have to fret about going shopping when their shift is over. They can, like the rest of us, let their fingers do the walking.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Aha! You just dated yourself!

Paula Rosenblum
BrainTrust

🙂

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

2.2 million employees is a big number. This a big deal for both the Walmart team and the company overall. I think it’s a nice perk that may help retention because it shows the Walmart values their employees. For Walmart — that’s an awful lot of new subscribers. I think it will make a difference.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

This is a no-brainer. The real question is, why did it take so long?

I imagine at an employee meeting some employee way in the back of the room, cautiously raising their hand and suggesting this. And the leaders in the front of the room looking at each other and thinking, why didn’t I think of this?

It is a very nice perk for employees, but more than that it adds 1.6 million customers with the wave of a wand.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

This has to be one of the most cost efficient employee benefits I’ve heard about. Which makes it surprising it wasn’t offered by Amazon long ago. And I’m not saying that Amazon doesn’t have a great program. It sounds like a terrific package. So whether it’s the Walmart program or the Amazon program, it’s great to see frontline employees be offered strong overall packages that start with a living wage and then add additional benefits.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Walmart employees can and should be Walmart customers, too.

The membership is a nice perk. I’m surprised this wasn’t made available to the employees before. Regardless, this is a nice benefit, along with a competitive wage and nice benefits.

I’ve written in the past about Ted Levitt’s concept that the function of a business is to get and keep customers. I’d update that today to include employees. Get your employees and keep your employees. It is good for the bottom line and for customers. Offering more perks to employees will get them excited about working for the company and better engage with their customers.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

Shades of Henry Ford! Pay workers five dollars a day so they can afford to buy the cars they make. The idea of making employees and customers one and the same isn’t new, but it still makes good sense.

Michael Day
BrainTrust

Good move and 1.6 million is nice big number. This move is consistent with what both Sam’s Club and Costco have been doing for many years: offering free membership as an employee perk.

Harley Feldman
BrainTrust

Great idea! It will add new customers to Walmart+, it is a nice employee perk and Walmart will get better feedback from the employees who want the company to do better. As Walmart expands this free subscription to its employees, it will become an employee perk that other retailers will likely follow.

Anil Patel
BrainTrust

I feel Walmart’s free membership to employees is a good way to boost both employee productivity and customer interaction. Customers (non-employees) will get a better response since employees would empathize more and solve the roadblocks more efficiently, thereby increasing conversions, memberships and fostering meaningful relationships.

No, I don’t think other retailers will adopt similar subscription approaches. This model might not necessarily align with the brand strategies and adopting forcibly may not make sense. Otherwise, almost all brands have certain benefit programs, and retailers will keep upgrading those perks and allowance. However, in case they want to experiment with their allowance initiatives or create hype among customers, this model is a good way.