- Wal-Mart has launched a nationwide 30-day free trial of ShippingPass, a two-day shipping service priced at $49 per year that is widely viewed as the retailer's answer to Amazon Prime.
- The announcement marks a broad expansion of Shipping Pass after it debuted as a three-day shipping offer in a limited number of markets last year.
- Wal-Mart Shipping Pass lists about 7 million eligible products, compared to about 20 million available through Amazon Prime, but costs $50 less per year than Amazon's $99 annual Prime membership.
Wal-Mart still seems a bit tentative about its two-day shipping effort, describing ShippingPass as a pilot program more than a year after it launched on a limited basis. But it's not shy about its timing, announcing the nationwide expansion just hours before Amazon confirmed it will mount its second Prime Day on July 12: The sales event widely seen as a promotion to get users to sign up for Prime memberships, and Amazon said it added more new Prime members during last July's first Prime Day than on any other day.
It remains to be seen if ShippingPass can actually win any business away from Amazon, as research shows more than 90% of Amazon Prime members renew their memberships for a second year.
However, Wal-Mart would be smart at this stage to focus on its own service anyway. If the present age of retail is about improving the shopping experience and engendering customer loyalty, the retailer is in the early phases of rolling out a model that has worked very well elsewhere. Will ShippingPass work as well with Wal-Mart's evolving customer base as it did with Amazon's? If it's true that Wal-Mart is expanding its appeal to wealthier customers, that might be key to the success of ShippingPass.
If Wal-Mart can convert trial participants into full-year paid memberships at a rate of more than 70%, as Amazon has been able to do, ShippingPass will go a long way toward helping the company rebound from its recent earnings crunch. Then, Wal-Mart can start thinking about expanding its list of ShippingPass-eligible products... and trying to steal some of Amazon's Prime Day buzz.