One of the biggest motivations for shopping online is free shipping. Almost 9 in 10 consumers say free shipping would induce them to shop more online, according to a 2016 Future of Retail study by marketing firm Walker Sands.
Stores have been taking notice. Expensive shipping may become a thing of the past, thanks to subscription services such as Amazon Prime, in which members pay an annual fee to secure free shipping on all their eligible purchases.
Now, Wal-Mart is taking aim at Amazon’s loyal following with a program that offers free two-day shipping.
What does Wal-Mart offer?
At Walmart.com, free two-day shipping is available on eligible orders of $35 and above without having to pay a membership fee. Look for items with the green “2-Day Shipping” logo. Wal-Mart says millions of products qualify. The program is available in the contiguous United States.
For items that do not qualify, customers can get free three-to-five day shipping on orders of more than $35. For more information about shipping options, visit the online help page. Marketplace and freight orders count toward the order threshold, but shipping costs and times vary.
In 2016, Wal-Mart launched a pilot program called ShippingPass, a membership program that customers signed up for to receive unlimited two-day shipping for $49 per year.
The retail giant, which has canceled the program, says all active ShippingPass members will receive a full refund for their subscription.
How does it compare to Amazon Prime?
Wal-Mart’s biggest competitor in the shipping space is Amazon Prime, which is well-established and costs $99 per year or $10.99 per month.
Prime offers members multiple shipping options, including free two-day shipping nationwide on more than 50 million items, free same-day delivery by 9 p.m. on more than 1 million items in select areas, and free two-hour delivery on some products in select metro areas via its Prime Now option. (Note that you’ll need to order at least $35 worth of eligible items to get free same-day shipping and have to meet a minimum order threshold for free two-hour delivery.)
Prime offers more than fast shipping. Members also receive access to movie streaming, photo storage, Prime Music streaming and 30-minute early access to time-sensitive sales called Lightning Deals.
Things to watch out for
Before signing up for Amazon Prime, keep in mind that:
- Not all items are eligible. Not every purchase you make will qualify for free, fast shipping. Consider the types of items you regularly buy.
- Your subscription will renew automatically. If you take no action, your subscription will renew automatically after a year. You’ll need to sign in to your account to opt out of the renewal if you wish to cancel.
- You should figure out if you’d get your money’s worth. Determine the value of this subscription in your life. Consider the number of purchases you’ll make in a year. Would you accumulate enough in shipping costs to more than offset the membership fee?
What it means for you
For loyal Wal-Mart shoppers, free two-day shipping with no membership fee is a welcome change.
But for those who want a comprehensive online shopping experience — including options for free same-day and two-hour delivery in some metro areas — Amazon Prime remains a good choice, especially with features such as streaming music and movies.
One more thing to consider: You also can get free shipping from Amazon without a Prime membership. Orders of $35 or more of eligible items or $25 or more of eligible books qualify for free shipping. Delivery will occur five to eight business days after all the items are available to ship.
Updated Feb. 10, 2017.