Walmart+ and the Power of Ecommerce Subscription Services

Amazon better watch its back. 

The company is the biggest ecommerce retailer in the U.S., and this success has been driven in large part by its Amazon Prime subscription service. This plan offers members benefits such as free two-day shipping, a discount on groceries from Whole Foods, and access to a large library of original movies and TV shows. 

Now, Amazon Prime is facing some stiff competition. 

Walmart, the biggest brick-and-mortar retailer in the U.S. (and it’s no slouch in the ecommerce department, either) released a comprehensive subscription service of its own September 15: Walmart+

What We Know About Walmart+

Walmart+ — or Walmart Plus, as it’s sometimes stylized — is a little less expensive than Amazon Prime at a cost of $98 per year (Prime is $119 per year). Given that price point and the fact that same-day grocery delivery is included in the package, this new program appears to be a rebrand of Walmart’s Delivery Unlimited service, which launched in 2019. 

The other perks of Walmart+ include:

  • Free unlimited delivery (minimum of $35),
  • Delivery slot reservations and open-slot notifications,
  • Discounts on fuel at Walmart gas stations and
  • A Scan & Go service that allows in-store shoppers to check out without waiting in line.

Prime members spend an average of $1,400 per year on Amazon, while the average non-member spends just $600 — so, it’s no surprise that Walmart is attempting to replicate this success with its own subscription service.

And the benefits of subscription services are certainly not limited to stores as big as Amazon and Walmart. Below, we’ll go over these benefits in more detail and show you how to set up a subscription service for your store. 

The Benefits of Subscription Services

The reason why subscription services are so effective is that they benefit both the business and the customer. 

Benefits of Subscription Services for Consumers

For customers, convenience is a big factor: They can have items they already know they want on a regular basis automatically delivered to their doorstep. They don’t need to worry about accidentally forgetting to place their order and then being forced to go without these items for a time.

These services usually offer special subscriber-only benefits, too. For instance, you may qualify for:

  • Secret promotions, 
  • Faster service and/or 
  • Member-only content.

And of course, this arrangement is also good for a business’ bottom line. 

Benefits of Subscription Services for Online Stores

Ecommerce success is all about eliminating hurdles: The more steps that the customer needs to take to buy something, the less likely it is that they’ll actually follow through and make the purchase. 

Just think about all the hoops a visitor to your site must jump through in order to just make a single one-time purchase. The typical customer journey involves:

Discovering your store through an ad or search result -> browsing through your catalog -> customizing items if options are available -> clicking “Add to Cart”’ for all the items they want -> clicking “Checkout” when they’re ready to check out -> adding their shipping and payment information -> and finally reviewing the order details one last time before they finalize their order.

That’s a lot of steps. And just because someone goes through that process on your site once, it doesn’t mean they will again. 

But with a subscription service, the customer only needs to go through the process one time to keep making the same order for months or even years, which leads to much more revenue for your store. 

This customer journey-streamlining effect explains how Amazon is able to generate more than twice as much revenue from its Prime members than its non-Prime customers. Other business benefits of subscription services include:

  • Make Your Business More Predictable: Subscriptions will make it easier to forecast future demand for your products, which will help you set your inventory levels to where you’re not in danger of stockouts but also not wasting much space on items that you won’t be able to sell in the near-future. 
  • Save on Customer Acquisition Costs: Above, we touched on the fact that getting customers to discover your site is the first step in the customer journey. This doesn’t just happen organically — you’ll need to go out and grab people’s attention with techniques such as search engine marketing and paid advertising. By switching to a more subscription-based model, though, you won’t need to rely as much on acquiring new customers, and these costs can be reduced. 
  • Save on Customer Retention Costs: When customers need to make each purchase manually, it helps to remind past customers to come back and buy from you again with retargeting ad campaigns. But that’s not necessary with subscription services. 

How to Set Up a Subscription Service

The easiest way to add a subscription service to your own store is to download and install an app that’s been designed for this purpose. 

Here are three subscription apps to consider:

ReCharge

ReCharge order page with a bag of colombian roast coffee
Image source: Shopify

ReCharge gives you everything you need to turn one-time customers into subscribers — you can use this app to add a subscription option to any product on your store, and it provides helpful dashboards for keeping track of your subscription activity.

Also, ReCharge is free for the first $100,000 in processed revenue. Once your revenue exceeds that level, you’ll need to choose between these two plans: 

  • Standard: $39.99 per month, plus 1% and $0.05 per transaction. In addition to subscription billing, other features include inventory tracking, customer email notifications and automated workflows.
  • Pro: $300 per month, plus 1% and $0.19 per transaction. Extra features include enhanced analytics and a theme engine for customizing the Customer Portal UI.

Keep in mind that this app was designed for Shopify, so if you’re using another ecommerce platform, you’ll want to search for an alternative.

Subscrimia

Subscrimia order page with a laundry cart item
Image source: BigCommerce

If you use BigCommerce, then check out Subscrimia. It’s also more affordable than ReCharge, as there’s no flat monthly fee. Using this app will simply cost you 1% per transaction, and its features include a customer portal, customer notifications and weekly reports.

But just as ReCharge is a Shopify exclusive, Subscrimia is a BigCommerce exclusive, so it might not be available to you.

Bold Subscriptions

Bold Subscriptions order page featuring a bag of dog food
Image source: Shopify

Finally, we’ll end on an option that’s available on both Shopify and BigCommerce: Bold Subscriptions. This app offers two pricing plans:

  • Essentials: $39.99 per month, plus 1% per transaction. Features include product swapping (customers can swap out items in a subscription for other items that you’ve pre-selected), dynamic discounts (you can offer a discount on the first order to increase conversions, or offer discounts on future orders to encourage retention) and support for over 20 payment gateways, including Stripe, Braintree and WorldPay.
  • Advanced: $199 per month, plus 1% per transaction. Extra features include priority support (you’ll receive dedicated support from Bold Commerce’s enterprise team), Build A Box (customers can create their own subscription boxes) and access to the Customer Portal API, which allows your developers to add extra customization and branding.

Set Up Your Subscription Service Today

There’s no reason not to offer a subscription option on your ecommerce store. It’s convenient for your customers, and it allows you to make more money. Everybody wins.

And once you get to the stage of actually setting up your subscription service, Bold Subscriptions, Subscrimia and ReCharge are all excellent apps that will allow you to do so quickly and effectively — the best app for your store will depend on your budget and which ecommerce platform you’re using.

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Adam Ritchie

Adam Ritchie is a writer based in Silver Spring, Maryland. He writes about ecommerce trends and best practices for Shogun. His previous clients include Groupon, Clutch and New Theory.