- Walmart has added another perk to its Walmart+ membership service: medication discounts.
- In a release Monday, the retailer said Walmart+ members can now access select medications at zero cost and thousands of others at discounts of up to 85%. With the program, dubbed "Walmart+ Rx for less," members can use the discount instead of health insurance at more than 4,000 Walmart pharmacies.
- A day after Walmart announced the program, Bloomberg reported that Amazon started offering prescriptions for Prime members at the equivalent of $1 per month with a six-month supply.
Walmart's membership service drew comparisons to Amazon's Prime before Walmart+ was made public. But for Walmart, any contrasts it can draw are likely more important than similarities, such as free shipping.
With Amazon offering drug discounts of its own through Prime in a duel announcement, that is one more perk shared between the membership programs.
More generally, though, Walmart's efforts in the healthcare space can be a competitive advantage against both the e-commerce juggernaut Amazon and other retail rivals. Walmart has been adding medical clinics and services to its locations, giving customers a reason to come to its stores, deepening its relationship with them and adding to the mountain of consumer data Walmart is amassing through its physical and digital footprints. Through Walmart's $4 generics program at its pharmacies, the retailer has been offering discount medications to customer since the mid-2000s.
Even as Walmart+ subscriptions grow and gain traction with customers, CEO Doug McMillon said in May, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript, that he doesn't think that "Walmart+ should be the primary focus at the moment for us with all these other opportunities," namely the rise in foot traffic and the retailer's stores following COVID-19 vaccinations and the growth of Walmart's e-commerce channel. On a previous earnings call, McMillon said that the quality of experience with Walmart+ was more important in the short-term than adding perks.
All that said, Walmart still has apparent ambitions for the Walmart+ membership. In the release announcing prescription perks, Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer for Walmart U.S., said that the company is "designing Walmart+ to be the ultimate life hack for our customers."
"It's been our commitment from the beginning to continue to grow the suite of benefits we offer Walmart+ members," Whiteside added. "We know we can use our size and scale to help simplify things for our customers in a way only we can."
For now, the sheer volume of perks tied to Amazon's Prime overwhelms competitors. Along with traditional shipping offer, Prime comes with a major media service, recently enhanced through Amazon's $8.5 billion deal to buy movie maker MGM. In addition, Amazon's Prime members get access to try-before-you-buy apparel service Prime Wardrobe, deals at its Whole Foods grocery stores and access to its Prime Day deals, among others.