Walmart has now joined Amazon in offering a half-price membership for people receiving government assistance.
The retailer announced last week the launch of Walmart+ Assist — a half-price ($6.47/monthly or $49/annually compared to $98 annually) offering of its Walmart+ membership for participants in SNAP, WIC, Medicaid and other qualifying government assistance programs.
To make Walmart+ more enticing, the retailer announced Tuesday the new option for its subscription members to book getaways through WalmartPlusTravel.com, which is powered by Expedia Group, and earn Walmart Cash, including 5% cashback on hotels, vacation rentals, car rentals and activities bookings; 2% cashback on all flights; and a blended rate of Walmart Cash on vacation packages.
Benefits under Walmart+ include free shipping and grocery delivery, gas discounts and video streaming with Paramount+ and Pluto TV and the scan-and-go shopping feature. Walmart allows members to pause their Walmart+ membership one month at a time at the end of their current billing cycle.
With over 3,500 supercenters and more than 360 discount stores stateside, Walmart can leverage its large brick-and-mortar presence in the U.S. with its e-commerce benefits under its membership, using its stores as centers for online order fulfillment.
Amazon has a similar version of Prime called Prime Access, which is available for $6.99/month instead of $14.99/month. Prime Access allows members to share certain benefits with other adults in their household.
Both Prime Access and Walmart+ Assist offer the same benefits as the full-priced versions.
Walmart’s offering comes on the heels of Amazon last fall unveiling a hub called Amazon Access for discounts, affordability programs and other features such as Prime Access, which the retailer had newly renamed.
With inflationary pressures and the ending of a temporary boost to SNAP benefits squeezing SNAP shoppers’ budgets, Walmart’s new discounted offering appears to be a move to capture impacted budget-conscious consumers.
Walmart has remained tight-lipped about sharing its number of Walmart+ members. As of October 2022, Walmart had an estimated 59 million Walmart+ subscribers, while Prime had an estimated 182 million individual subscribers — roughly 23% and 70% shares, respectively, of U.S. consumers, according to Pymnts.
The discounted memberships are a way to increase the number of members while tapping further into SNAP consumer spending, Neil Saunders, managing director of retail for GlobalData, wrote in an email.
“Both Walmart and Amazon want to cast their nets widely and include as many people as possible in their membership programs. Even at a discounted rate, this raises revenue directly,” Saunder said.
SNAP is worth around $90 billion a year to food retailers, meaning Walmart and Amazon both want to maximize their appeal to SNAP consumers, Saunders said.
Walmart captures over a quarter (25.5%) of SNAP-eligible shoppers’ grocery dollars annually, putting it ahead of Kroger (in second place), Albertsons (fourth place) and Amazon (14th place) in the past year, according to consumer data insight company Numerator. Nearly 97% of SNAP shoppers purchased groceries at Walmart in the past year, spending an average of $2,290, while 46.3% shopped at Amazon, spending an average of $236, per Numerator.
For some SNAP participants, Saunders said that these discounted memberships are appealing because of the savings on things like delivery or, in the case of Walmart, on gas and provide video streaming.
“For those living in areas where grocery provision is sparse, having free delivery for online orders can be a real benefit and help with food security – especially because Walmart in particular has a very comprehensive food offer,” Saunders said. “However, a lot of people on benefits don’t use online for their groceries and some will see membership of programs, even at a discounted rate, as unnecessary or unaffordable.”
While Prime is more comprehensive, Walmart+ could be more appealing to people receiving government assistance, Saunders said, because Walmart’s program is more focused “on securing value for money and getting bang for their buck in terms of groceries.”
“For Amazon, there will be a small [membership] boost but, in relative terms, it is not that significant because they already have such high penetration in terms of Prime membership,” Saunders said. “The gains could be more significant for Walmart as its program is smaller and the chain is already a destination for those looking to save money on food. There is probably a greater affinity between those on benefits and Walmart.”