A report says Walmart+ membership has remained within the range of 11 million to 11.5 million for the past three quarters. Walmart to add streaming Paramount+ video

Walmart+, the paid loyalty program Walmart Inc. launched in September 2020, hit a plateau at about 11 million members in the quarter ending in July 2022, according to a report from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners LLC (CIRP), a Chicago-based market research firm.

The 11 million members represent roughly 22% growth compared with 9 million members a year earlier, in July 2021. But that membership level is flat compared with the previous quarter. It also represents no growth since the start of 2022, says Michael Levin, partner and co-founder of CIRP.

Levin says Walmart+ membership has remained within 11 million to 11.5 million customers. Previously, the program had grown steadily.

Walmart+ adds streaming video

Today, Walmart announced it would offer Walmart+ members a Paramount+ Essential Plan at no additional cost. Walmart+ will remain $98 a year or $12.95 a month.

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On its own, the Essential Plan, which allows subscribers to stream programming with limited commercial interruptions, costs $49.99 annually or $4.99 per month. Current Walmart+ benefits also include free shipping for online orders, discounts on gasoline, first access to special promotions and events and a free six-month subscription to Spotify Premium, the ad-free tier of the Spotify music streaming service.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that Walmart was talking with Paramount, Disney, and Comcast about adding one of their streaming video services as one of the benefits for Walmart+ members.

In April 2020, Walmart (No. 2 in the 2021 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000) sold Vudu, its video-streaming business, to Fandango Media LLC, a digital network and online movie-ticket service. NBCUniversal Media LLC, part of Comcast Corp., owns Fandango.

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“It’s a good start for Walmart+, but they have far to go in video — and music, I suppose — entertainment to begin to compete with Amazon Prime, which of course not only has a wide range of channels, but also its own exclusive features,” CIRP’s Levin says.

25% penetration rate

The CIRP report says the Walmart+ penetration rate was 25% for the quarter ending in July 2022. That means 25% of Walmart.com customers CIRP surveyed reported being members. That penetration was only a slight increase from the previous quarter.

“It’s not clear why Walmart+ has stalled, at least based on our data,” Levin says. “It seems to result to some extent from slow growth in Walmart.com, which has languished as Walmart has welcomed customers back to in-store shopping.”

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Could help retain members

Levin says Amazon Prime Video is a “core offering” of Amazon Prime, the paid loyalty program run by Walmart’s rival, Amazon.com Inc. But he says Prime Video is more important for retaining existing Prime members than attracting new ones.

“Walmart might consider using music and video in the same way,” Levin says. “Those media benefits become part of a range of features, though, so they’d need to fit in logically.”

However, because the two retail behemoths have different business models, it makes sense that their loyalty programs would differ, he added.

“I can see how Walmart+ might not be as material to Walmart Inc. as Amazon Prime is to Amazon, but only because Walmart.com …  is small relative to Walmart, and even a little neglected,” he says.

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However, Walmart “certainly could use a good membership and loyalty program like Walmart+. Most other major ecommerce businesses have something similar,” Levin says.

CIRP bases its findings on surveys of 500 U.S. subjects who made a purchase at Walmart.com in the period from May-July 2022.

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