With the COVID-19 pandemic already stoking online order volume, Walmart aims to ramp up e-commerce sales even more this holiday season by removing the $35 shipping minimum for members of its two-and-a-half-month-old Walmart+ customer benefits program.
Walmart said Wednesday that, starting on Dec. 4, Walmart+ members will receive free next-day and two-day shipping on items shipped by Walmart regardless of the dollar ring for their Walmart.com order. The Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer noted that online orders carry the same everyday low pricing as in stores, and delivery from Walmart stores on items like groceries will still require a $35 minimum order.
Walmart+ launched on Sept. 15. The program offers members unlimited free delivery from stores, fuel discounts and an array of shopping tools for $98 per year or $12.95 a month. Walmart+ incorporates Delivery Unlimited, a subscription-based grocery delivery service launched last fall that offered customers unlimited free deliveries on orders of $30 or more for an annual $98 fee or a monthly $12.95 fee.
“It feels like a life hack is needed now more than ever, and Walmart+ is here to help,” Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer at Walmart, said in a statement. “No other membership allows customers across the country to get everything from gingerbread cookies and eggnog to holiday decorations and toys delivered for free as soon as the same day. Walmart+ is designed to make life easier, giving customers an option to not have to sacrifice on cost or convenience.”
Walmart said it’s also expanding the number of locations where Walmart+ members can use their fuel savings to include all 500-plus Sam’s Club fuel stations. As a result, members now have access to fuel discounts of up to 5 cents per gallon at more than 2,500 Walmart, Murphy USA, Murphy Express gas stations.
Other Walmart+ benefits include Scan & Go touch-free payment, which enables users of the Walmart app to skip the checkout line by scanning items with their smartphone while shopping and then pay using Walmart Pay. Walmart+ delivery service is available for more than 160,000 items, ranging from technology and toys to household essentials and groceries. The program includes a 15-day free trial period.
Walmart noted that Walmart+ benefits are available via more than 4,700 U.S. stores, including 2,800 stores that offer delivery, reaching 70% of the nation.
“Customers have been clear; they want this benefit,” Whiteside added. “Being able to toss an item into your cart, regardless of the total, and check out right away lets them knock little things off their to-do list in no time.”
For the fiscal 2021 third quarter ended Oct. 31, Walmart U.S. e-commerce sales jumped 79% versus a year ago, contributed about 570 basis points to comparable-sales growth of 6.4% excluding fuel.
“We also launched Walmart+, and we’re excited to have that important piece of the puzzle in place. We launched it with an initial set of benefits that we know are important to our customers,” Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon told analysts in a conference call on third-quarter results. “Over time, we’ll evaluate the program against our broader set of assets with the aim of improving the value proposition and deepening our relationship with customers, including earning a greater share of wallet.”
In the call, McMillon described Walmart+ as one component of an omnichannel “ecosystem” still being developed by Walmart. “These parts are connected, and I do think Walmart+ can be helpful in a lot of ways over time,” he said. “The information that we’ll have about customers, and the ability to personalize, I think we’ll be able to serve them better. And both sides — the stores and e-commerce — will come to life in a way that helps make Walmart+ even stronger.”
The National Retail Federation projects 2020 U.S. holiday online sales to grow by 20% to 30%, reaching $202.5 billion and $218.4 billion. For the first time, the number of online Black Friday shoppers topped the 100 million mark, rising 8% from 2019. The number of online Saturday shoppers climbed even more, up 17%, NRF said. Online-only shoppers rose by 44% for the entire holiday shopping weekend, reaching 95.7 million.