Photo: Walmart | Amazon
Walmart+ has welcomed tens of millions of users in just a few years, but Amazon Prime remains America’s top digital membership program by usage. However, Walmart is not settling for second place.
The retail giant recently added a steep discount for customers on government assistance, reaching parity with Prime in this area, and now offers a host of travel benefits for all Walmart+ subscribers through a partnership with Expedia — something Amazon doesn’t yet match.
Each program’s exact number of subscribers is a closely guarded secret, but Walmart+ reportedly reached an impressive 59 million users, or 23% of the U.S. population, as of October 2022, according to data from PYMNTS. Yet it remains under the massive shadow cast by Amazon Prime, which had an estimated 182 million subscribers, or 72% of U.S. consumers, as of that time.
The gulf between the two is not surprising. Prime launched in February 2005 with a then-unprecedented value proposition, while Walmart+ was introduced in September 2020, over 15 years later. That said, the rapid takeoff of Walmart+ is a clear sign that the subscription service is resonating with consumers, and the escalation of offerings in each program shows that they’re both always on the search for a fresh advantage.
New features in one program have led to similar launches for its competitor. For instance, the two have both offered streaming content since Walmart+ added free access to Paramount+ as a way to compete with Prime Video.
Sometimes feature launches are closer together. In early June 2021, Walmart added Walmart+ Rx for less to offer discounts on common prescriptions. Amazon reportedly introduced six-month prescriptions for the equivalent of $1 per month for Prime members the next day, according to Bloomberg.
The Walmart+ partnership with Expedia was also a case of mutual escalation, though to a lesser extent. The new suite of travel offerings on Walmart+ includes a dedicated booking and support site in the form of WalmartPlusTravel.com; access to Expedia’s end-to-end customer service; and the ability to earn Walmart Cash rewards for airline trips, hotels, and other travel necessities.
While Amazon hasn’t introduced a full-fledged travel program to Prime, this year marked the first time Prime Day included special travel deals thanks to a partnership with Priceline, according to Reuters and other media reports. The deals only lasted through the shopping holiday, but the page remains accessible with a note acknowledging that the deal has expired.
Both subscriptions also diverge in some of the services offered. Each includes free delivery options among their core benefits, but in 2022, Walmart+ sought to one-up Prime with the launch of InHome direct-to-fridge delivery as an optional add-on.
Amazon holds the advantage for fashionistas, though. Prime members can use the Try Before You Buy program to physically try out items at home before committing to them, and while Walmart offers virtual try-ons, even Walmart+ members need to visit a brick-and-mortar store for the hands-on experience.
One of the biggest differences between the two retail giants is that Walmart doesn’t have an exact Prime Day analog. But this year’s Walmart+ Week just happened to coincide with Amazon’s famous shopping holiday, and it offered Walmart+ members exclusive access for the first 24 hours of the four-day event, according to Insider.
It’s clear that Walmart still has a lot of work to do to catch up with Prime’s sheer momentum. However, the steady expansion of Walmart+ benefits over the past three years shows that the country’s largest retailer will put in the effort to make its paid membership program No. 1 as well.