For a long time, most people were just not that interested in online grocery shopping. But that all changed with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, when ordering online groceries for delivery — and allowing someone else to pick out your produce and meat — suddenly became a lot more palatable to shoppers.
According to one survey from May, 52% of American consumers said they'd purchased groceries online in the past 12 months, and overall online grocery sales are expected to rise 40% in 2020. What's more, online grocery sales are being forecast to account for over 20% of all grocery sales by 2025, up from less than 3% in 2019.
As more customers turned to online grocery shopping, retailers and delivery services have stepped up their promotion of subscriptions that include unlimited free grocery delivery. Amazon Prime, for instance, now has free grocery delivery available for most subscribers, and services like Instacart and Shipt nudge customers into signing up for subscriptions for around $100 a year with unlimited delivery too.
As of September 16, Walmart is giving its own grocery delivery subscription an upgrade, with the launch of Walmart+. Here's how the new service compares to Amazon Prime and other options with fast free grocery delivery.
Walmart Plus Online Grocery Delivery: Is It Worth the Money?
Walmart+ costs the same as Delivery Unlimited — $98 annually, or $12.95 per month — and both subscription services offer free unlimited grocery deliveries for members, provided each order meets the $35 minimum purchase requirement. Non-grocery purchases can be placed at the same time as grocery orders, so it should be easy for most customers to hit that $35 purchase threshold to qualify for free delivery.
Walmart+ includes new services and perks that Delivery Unlimited didn't have. Namely, Walmart+ members get access to the "Scan & Go" feature in the Walmart app, which lets you scan and purchase items while you're shopping in Walmart stores — thereby allowing you to skip the normal checkout process (but you do have to finalize payment at self-checkout stations). Walmart+ also gives members 5% back on fuel purchases at Walmart gas stations, including Murphy's USA and Sam's Club locations.
If you're already a Delivery Unlimited member, you'll automatically be switched over to a Walmart+ subscription. There's no downside to the change. If you felt like Delivery Unlimited was a good deal for your household in the past, then Walmart+ will provide you with even more value.
As for potential new members, is a Walmart+ subscription worth the money? Perhaps. If you were previously on the fence about a Walmart Delivery Unlimited subscription, the additional perks with the new service may make Walmart+ seem like it's now worth the fee. But, realistically, the differences between Delivery Unlimited and Walmart+ are pretty negligible.
Walmart says that the "list of benefits will continue to grow over time" for Walmart+ subscriptions. Overall, at least for the time being, Walmart+ seems like only a minor upgrade from Delivery Unlimited, rather than a genuine game changer in online grocery delivery.
The good thing is that you can test out the service for free for yourself. You can sign up for a free 15-day trial of Walmart+ as soon as it officially launches on September 16.
Amazon Prime vs. Walmart+
Amazon Prime costs more than Walmart+, but subscribers undoubtedly get quite a bit more with Prime too.
For most people, Prime costs $119 annually, or $12.99 per month, after a free 30-day trial. (Students and people with valid Medicaid or EBT cards may be eligible for Prime at half price.) Amazon Prime subscribers get free two-day (or faster) delivery on most non-grocery Amazon purchases, as well as fast free delivery via Amazon Fresh or Whole Foods for qualifying grocery orders (typically $35 or more).
In addition to free shipping, Amazon Prime members get unlimited free photo storage, special discounts at Whole Foods Market, and free unlimited streaming of movies, TV shows, and music, via Prime Video and Amazon Music. It's the free streaming services that really set Amazon apart from competing online grocery delivery subscriptions options.
Why might someone prefer Walmart+ over Amazon Prime? Walmart's annual subscription fee is cheaper, of course. More importantly, Walmart made its name in retail for offering cheap everyday prices, and your weekly grocery bill will generally be much cheaper at Walmart compared to Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods. The new features from Walmart+ — "Scan & Go" in stores and 5% back on gas — obviously provide Walmart's online grocery shoppers with additional value too.
Target Shipt vs. Walmart+ vs. Amazon Prime
Shipt, the online delivery subscription service owned by Target, is another big player that online grocery shoppers should think about in the same breath as Amazon Prime and Walmart+.
Shipt is known mainly as a grocery delivery service, but the perks aren't limited just to online groceries. Shipt subscribers can get free same-day delivery for orders of $35 or more from several different participating retailers, including groceries from Vons, Ralph's, and Pavillions, and other kinds of goods sold by retailers like Office Depot, Petco, and CVS. You can use Shipt for fast free delivery of almost everything sold by Target too, including groceries.
Shipt costs $99 per year or $14 per month, after a four-week free trial. On the downside, there are fewer "extras" with Shipt: Members don't get any free streaming services or special discounts on gas, like you would with Amazon Prime and Walmart+, respectively.
Also, prices on Shipt orders are sometimes higher than what you'd pay in the store. "When ordering from select retailers, a small service fee will be added at checkout," Ship explains. The fee might only add an extra 30 cents to a $2 grocery item, but that markup can certainly equate to a big difference if you are ordering groceries online regularly.
Best Free Shipping Deal — With No Subscription Fee
Before signing up for a new subscription, check out our compilation listing the best online grocery delivery services for even more good options.
Also, bear in mind that if you are mainly looking for free shipping for routine non-grocery purchases, it's probably not necessary to pay any subscription fee. Amazon, Walmart, and Target all offer free shipping on many orders that reach a minimum purchase requirement, with no subscription needed. However, the main tradeoff with this kind of free shipping is that delivery is typically slower than what members of a paid subscription service get.
Amazon, for example, offers free shipping with purchases of at least $25 of qualifying merchandise, with no Prime membership required. But non-Prime members get free shipping in a window of five to eight days after the order is completed, compared to two days or less with Prime delivery.
Walmart's free shipping option with no subscription has a higher minimum purchase requirement ($35) but it is faster than Amazon, with two-day delivery.
Target's free shipping deal is arguably the most generous of all: Holders of the Target RedCard credit or debit card get free two-day shipping, with no minimum purchase, on most items sold by Target, plus an extra 5% off all Target purchases. Alternately, Target customers who aren't using a RedCard get free two-day shipping with a minimum $35 purchase.
Many non-perishable pantry items, like crackers and jerky, can also usually be ordered with these free shipping services that don't require a subscription. However, for most traditional groceries — including fresh produce and meat — you'll need to either pay a delivery fee for each order or cough up for a subscription that includes unlimited free grocery delivery.