Consumers are flocking to Wal-Mart Stores Inc.’s ShippingPass program since the retailer began offering a free 30-day trial for the two-day shipping program that costs $49 a year. Daily sign-ups have “more than quadrupled” this week compared with the week before, a spokesman for the retailer says.
Wal-Mart, No. 4 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, did not disclose the number of consumers who have signed up for ShippingPass but says, “We’re seeing that customers are craving fast, free shipping at a great value.”
Wal-Mart in May said it would offer two-day delivery via ShippingPass, a change from the program’s three-day delivery window. The change makes ShippingPass more comparable to Amazon.com Inc.’s Prime loyalty program, which costs $99 annually for two-day, same-day and two-hour delivery on eligible items. Prime also comes with other perks, such as streaming video and music. Wal-Mart’s program includes two-day shipping on eligible items with no minimum order, but it comes with no additional perks.
On June 29, Wal-Mart announced 30-day free trial memberships to ShippingPass in a blog post titled “Liberty and Low Prices for All,” by Fernando Madeiro, Walmart.com’s president and CEO. “Walmart is known for everyday low prices, and when we have a special price, it isn’t just for a fleeting moment,” he wrote. “Our rollbacks typically last 90 days or longer while supplies last. Starting July 1, and in the following weeks, you’re going to see some amazing items at great prices kicking in.”
Wal-Mart’s shipping program promotion came one day before Amazon (No. 1 in the Top 500) announced the date for this year’s Prime Day sale, a 24-hour event of deep discounts and more than 100,000 deals for customers who belong to Prime. Amazon has touted more inventory and better product selection for this year’s promotion, which is Tuesday. “In the U.S. we have nearly doubled the TV units compared to Black Friday and Cyber Monday combined,” Greg Greeley, vice president for Amazon Prime said on June 30. Amazon also says it will have more deals on toys.
Last year consumers flocked to social media to complain that the Prime Day bargains were disproportionately on unappealing items, likely merchandise Amazon and its marketplace sellers were looking to unload.
While not outright saying it’s competing with Amazon on Prime Day, Wal-Mart on Thursday said it has cut prices on thousands of products, including laptops, TVs and other consumer electronics. “We heard some customers might be waiting all the way until next Tuesday to save online. At Wal-Mart, customers don’t have to wait to save money,” Wal-Mart’s spokesman says.
Wal-Mart will roll out more deals on Monday, the day before Prime Day, and “continue to announce new ways to save this month,” the spokesman says.
Wal-Mart last year took direct aim at Amazon as Prime Day approached. It rolled out a new crop of online deals and lowered its free shipping order threshold to $35 several days before the July 15, 2015, event. At that time Madeira wrote: “We’ve heard some retailers are charging $100 to get access to a sale. But the idea of asking customers to pay extra in order to save money just doesn’t add up for us. We’re standing up for our customers and everyone else who sees no rhyme or reason for paying a premium to save.”
The retailer also tweaked Amazon on Walmart.com last year with a large banner saying “Dare to Compare. Top products. Lower prices. Check for yourself.” An asterisk next to the words “Lower Prices” denoted products priced at or below Amazon’s prices.