Walmart’s Answer to Amazon Prime? Walmart+

In what appears to be its latest bid to compete with Amazon, Walmart is announcing a Prime-like membership service called Walmart+, a representative from the retailer confirmed to FN today.

According to Vox, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company has been creating the service over the past 18 months, with plans to begin testing it publicly as soon as next month. The program is expected to launch as a rebrand of Walmart’s existing Delivery Unlimited Service, where consumers pay $98 a year for unlimited same-day grocery delivery. A long-term goal of Walmart+ is to add more perks, such as prescription drug and fuel discounts as well as a Scan & Go service for speedy checkout, says Vox.

In the U.S., Amazon Prime currently costs $119 year. For that price, perks include unlimited next-day shipping on more than 10 million products and access to Amazon’s extensive catalog of TV shows and films. According to the Seattle-based e-tail behemoth, there are more than 150 million Prime subscribers globally.

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Amazon has the largest online retail sales market share of any company in the U.S. by far, according to an eMarketer report released this month. The e-tailer accounts for 38.7% of all retail e-commerce sales, and Walmart stands at a distant second with 5.3% market share.

If a large number of subscribers sign on, Walmart+ may have the potential to help the company gain a larger share of the online sales pie. However, the firm warned last week of slowing growth in its e-commerce category, forecasting a rise of about 30% for the current fiscal year, compared with 37% growth a year ago. Additionally, it posted its lowest online sales gains (35%) in nearly two years for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 31.

Over the past few years, Walmart has taken ongoing measures aimed at better aligning its brick-and-mortar and e-commerce channels. The company recently made the decision to combine its store and online product-buying teams. Within the past year, the firm has also chosen to fold its Jet.com retail, technology, marketing, analytics and product teams into its own online business, as well as to shut down its Jetblack personal shopping service.

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