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Walmart Debuts Subscription Service, Amazon Gets Drone Approval

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Retailers are developing new strategies in an effort to one up each other in the battle for delivery advantage.

Walmart will launch Walmart+, a membership service that could help it better compete with Amazon Prime.

The service, to debut Sept. 15, will cost $98 per year or $12.95 a month, and provide members with unlimited free delivery from stores, fuel discounts, and access to tools designed to make shopping faster. The company also plans to add more benefits for members in a variety of services and offerings in the future.

“Walmart+ will bring together a comprehensive set of benefits where we see the greatest needs from our customers and where our scale can bring solutions at an unprecedented value,” said Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer, Walmart.

Unlimited free delivery was previously known as Delivery Unlimited—a subscription service allowing customers to place an unlimited number of deliveries for a flat yearly or monthly fee. Current subscribers will automatically become Walmart+ members.

Additionally, subscribers will unlock Scan & Go in the Walmart app, a faster way to shop in store. Using the Walmart app, customers can scan their items as they shop and pay using Walmart Pay for a quick, easy, touch-free payment experience.

These benefits come in addition to the retailer’s existing customer offerings like Walmart’s free curbside pickup, NextDay delivery, and two-day delivery. Walmart will continue to have delivery options with a per-delivery transaction fee, allowing customers to choose the service that’s best for them.

“We know shopping should fit customers’ needs, not the other way around. We have always been a champion for the right item at the right price, but now it’s more than that. We have the right shopping solutions at the right time, too,” said Whiteside.

At Amazon, the retailer advances its delivery solutions by winning Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to operate its Prime Air delivery drones, reported Nasdaq (Aug. 31).

The approval gives Amazon the all-clear to begin commercial deliveries in the U.S. under a trial program. The clearance was granted after the FAA evaluated the technologies and concluded they are safe.

“We will continue to develop and refine our technology to fully integrate delivery drones into the airspace, and work closely with the FAA and other regulators around the world to realize our vision of 30-minute delivery,” said Amazon VP David Carbon, who oversees the drone effort.

The clearance gives Amazon the ability to further test and develop its technologies in real-world settings.

Meanwhile in the UK, Marks & Spencer (M&S) purchased a 50% share in Ocado—meaning its full food range can now be purchased online for the first time, reported The Independent (Sept. 1).

It was announced in February that Ocado was launching the delivery partnership with M&S and parting ways with Waitrose after 20 years as its delivery partner.

Previously, only M&S’s party food was available for delivery to some UK locations, while 130 of its food and household items could be ordered on Deliveroo. With M&S’s range added to its offering, Ocado says it boasts a selection of over 50,000 products, which it claims is “double that of the next largest grocery retailer.”

Six thousand of these are M&S items, while the rest are Ocado branded or from big-name brands. The retailer promises the new affordable range will be the same price or cheaper than the Waitrose items.