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How Walmart Customer Loyalty Rose to the Top — and Stayed

See how the Walmart CRM strategy has propelled the brand to retail loyalty supremacy — and what you can learn from their efforts.

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Does Walmart have a loyalty program? Until the fall of 2020, the answer was no. But even the introduction of Walmart+ doesn’t give the full picture of what’s propelled the brand to retail loyalty supremacy. Long before the loyalty program was born, the Walmart CRM strategy, customer service strategy and customer experience efforts were working together to build the kind of customer loyalty any retailer would envy.

In fact, when customer.com’s Retail Customer Brand Loyalty Study asked consumers where they tend to shop exclusively for particular needs, Walmart stole the top spot from Amazon back in 2019 — pre-Walmart+ — and has stayed there ever since. InMarket research supports our findings, showing Walmart leading its list of retailers with above average consumer loyalty.1

We dissected the retailer’s approach to glean insights on how these factors continue to drive Walmart customer loyalty success.

How does the Walmart+ loyalty program work?

A company press release from September 2020 says that Walmart+ “…brings together in-store and online benefits to save customers money and time like no other retailer can.”2 In the release, Walmart CCO Janey Whiteside stated that, “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.”

Like Amazon Prime, Walmart+ is a pay-to-join program with a cost of $12.95 per month or $98 per year — considerably less than Prime’s 2022 regular member pricing of $14.99 per month or $139 per year.

For the price, Walmart+ members get unlimited free delivery from the brand’s 4,700 stores — including 2,700 stores that offer delivery “as fast as same day.” They also get free shipping (with no order minimum) for online orders. Additional Walmart+ loyalty program benefits include fuel discounts, prescription discounts, early access to special promotions and events, and access to tools designed to make shopping faster, such as the Scan & Go touch-free payment feature.

How else does Walmart create value for its customers?

Amazon famously boasts that customer obsession, not competitive focus, is one if its four guiding principles. Keeping this value top-of-mind in all they do has helped propel their popularity.

Likewise, all Walmart customer loyalty efforts stem from a corporate-wide dedication to the customer — in this case, providing value to customers in the true monetary sense of the word.

Forbes notes that, in founding the store in 1962, Sam Walton had one simple goal: to “help people save money so they could live better.”3 Nearly six decades later, the chain remains true to that mission in everything it does, helping to cement customer loyalty.

As Forbes goes on to note, by saving people money, Walmart helps make available funds for them to do other things (like pay for childcare or car repairs). That brings people back to Walmart and ultimately helps the profit-loss statements. Wins all around.

Takeaway #1: If you don’t have one, create a mission or core purpose for your company. Make sure it’s focused on the customer and the gaps you can fill in their lives. Then keep it front and center in all you do.

How do Walmart customer service strategies boost loyalty?

In the Walmart+ press release, Whiteside also said, “We know shopping should fit customers’ needs, not the other way around.” And Walmart continues to evolve its offerings to meet a variety of customer needs — again, with a focus on saving money, as well as an emphasis on convenience.

For example, customers who are not Walmart+ members can still choose from multiple shipping methods. Besides standard paid shipping, this includes:

  • Free next-day delivery to certain ZIP codes or free two-day shipping for more than 2 million items — both for orders above $35
  • Free 3- to 5-day shipping for orders of $35 or more
  • Free standard shipping for items not marked two-day delivery

Walmart also offers the popular purchase online/pick up in store feature, with handy self-serve Pickup Towers in stores. The store has also extended the service to third-party sellers offering items through the online Walmart marketplace.

In addition, Walmart now offers express two-hour delivery and the InHome program, a paid service that provides customers with unlimited fee-free and tip-free delivery of groceries (and soon prescriptions) inside your garage or even put away in your kitchen.

Of course, Amazon also offers a variety of shipping options, including free delivery for Prime members and in-person pick up through its Hub Lockers, Counter, Kohl’s and at a limited number of Rite Aid stores. But with a TechCrunch.com article noting that 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart,4 we think they get the win in this convenience scrimmage.

Takeaway #2: Pay attention to your competitors — in particular, what they’re doing to win and keep customers. Steal what you can — what makes sense for your organization and your customers. Then look for gaps they’ve left that you can fill.

How do financial services help build Walmart loyalty?

In line with the company’s focus on saving customers’ money, the Walmart CRM strategy includes offering three cash-back rewards cards. These build brand affinity by allowing customers to not only save money, but also make money shopping with the retailer.

The Walmart MoneyCard is a prepaid debit card that offers 1%, 2% or 3% cash back on purchases made with the card at Walmart.com, Walmart stores or Walmart fuel stations. Customers can deposit cash to the card or associated mobile app multiple ways, including paycheck direct deposit. They can also withdraw cash, write checks, send money to other participating cards, earn interest on money stashed on the card, and use the card or app to pay bills.

The Walmart Rewards Card and Capital One Walmart Rewards® Card are both standard cash back credit cards. The Walmart-branded card can be used only for Walmart purchases, with 5% cash back on Walmart.com and 2% cash back on Walmart store purchases. The co-branded card can be used anywhere that MasterCard is accepted and gives 5%, 2% or 1% cash back depending on where the card is used. Both cards also have an introductory offer of 5% cash back in Walmart stores for 12 months when using the card with Walmart Pay (see below).

Walmart extends its value by participating with Fetch Rewards, a mobile app with 13 million active users. Among other features, Fetch allows users to earn points through purchases from any store (including Walmart) or restaurant, and redeem the points for rewards, including Walmart gift cards.

Walmart, like Amazon, is also expanding its financial services offerings. This includes the Walmart Pay app, which allows customers to purchase items with their phones. Funds can be loaded to the app from the customer’s credit cards, Walmart gift cards or debit cards. Walmart also offers reloadable debit cards, money transfer services, check printing, check cashing, money orders and in-store bill payment to more than 20,000 billers.

Takeaway #3: These Walmart CRM strategies show that retailers can build strong, profitable customer relationships by finding new and different ways to meet a variety of customer needs. And that doesn’t have to mean financial services. Providing valuable information, setting up personalized alerts and notifications, and offering niche clubs are just a few additional ideas that can help you ramp up loyalty. Read more here.

How do education and innovation improve the Walmart customer experience?

As any retailer knows, a great customer experience starts with a great team of employees. Walmart has focused attention on improving employee morale in several ways. For instance, in September 2021, Walmart raised its minimum starting wage to $12 an hour — still less than competitors Target, Costco and Amazon minimum wages of $15, $16 and $18 respectively, but above Walmart’s earlier $11 rate.5

Walmart also emphasizes employee education, including paying 100% of college tuition and book costs. Through the Walmart Academy, associates can participate in self-paced e-learning modules to learn retail skills that support both great customer experiences and associate advancement. Available at more than 200 locations, the Academy incorporates augmented reality, AI, virtual reality and in-store practice into lessons.

The retailer also developed its Me@Walmart app expressly to help associates with their job. Features allow employees to manage their schedule, use a voice assistant for getting product information and more.

Walmart customer loyalty and customer experience are also pushed along by brand innovation. For instance, Walmart stores have moved to a nearly human-free checkout process. Customers can use the Scan & Go app or self-checkout, with the goal of speeding checkout times and giving customers more control over the shopping experience. (A few staffed checkout lanes remain for customers with special needs.)

Walmart has also been testing new store designs. In 2020, improvements focused on “wayfinding,” signage and integrating the online and offline experience earned Walmart a finalist spot in the Retail Design Institute’s Store of the Year awards. Pretty prestigious for a brand perhaps best known as a big box discounter.

Now, Walmart is taking a lead from Target’s 2017 redesign in a pilot test at its Springdale, Ark., incubator store by incorporating more visual merchandising. For instance, they’re standing up vignettes that put products into lifestyle contexts. And they’re adding more digital retail innovations. That includes integrating QR codes to quickly and easily provide customers with more product information or broader selections to shop than what’s available in store. And they’ve dotted the store with interactive screens that demonstrate features and benefits of nearby products.

Takeaway #4: Even if you have a dedicated, loyal base, don’t rest on your laurels. Treat your employees well, never forgetting they’re critical to customer satisfaction and loyalty. And never stop brainstorming and implementing improvements and innovations that work to build customer interest, engagement and loyalty. If you have a loyalty program, take our free 5-minute assessment to get ideas that could help you move the needle.

How to Follow the Walmart Customer Loyalty Lead

Although it may not seem encouraging that a retail giant continues to rank tops in customer loyalty, there are lessons to be gleaned here for retailers of any size. Having a mission that matters to both your organization and your customers, and following through on it in every aspect of what you do, is a great place to start. Then keep the ideas churning and don’t be afraid to break out of your own box and experiment a little. Yes, it takes time and resources. But when the payoff can be leaps forward in customer loyalty (and thus long-term profitability), the investment is well worthwhile.

If you’re ready to push your customer loyalty to new heights, connect with CCG. Our retail marketing experts have specialized in helping businesses grow and maintain profitable customer relationships for more than 40 years. We offer a full slate of retail marketing solutions, as well as special services such as our Loyalty Program Effectiveness AppraisalTM and Statistical Loyalty Program OptimizationTM — all designed to help you maximize your customers’ loyalty. Schedule a free consultation or call 303.986.3000 today to get started.

Sources

1 “Q2 2021: Retail Loyalty Report,” InMarket Insights, published August 2021, https://bit.ly/3LpOARJ, accessed March 29, 2022

2 “Walmart Introduces Walmart+,” Walmart press release, posted Sept. 1, 2020, https://corporate.walmart.com/newsroom/2020/09/01/walmart-introduces-walmart, accessed April 1, 2022

3 “Why Wal-Mart Is Winning in a Losing Industry,” Louis Efron, Forbes, posted May 31, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/louisefron/2017/05/31/why-wal-mart-is-winning-in-a-losing-industry/?sh=60a40a3744d5, accessed April 1, 2022

4 “Walmart’s Marketplace Items Get Free 2-Day Shipping, In-Store Returns,” Sarah Perez, TechCrunch, posted Oct. 22, 2018, https://techcrunch.com/2018/10/22/walmarts-marketplace-items-get-free-2-day-shipping-in-store-returns/, accessed April 1, 2022

5 “How much do Target, Walmart and other big retailers pay entry-level workers?” Michael Tedder, The Street, posted Dec. 16, 2021, https://www.thestreet.com/investing/how-much-target-walmart-big-retailers-pay-entry-level-workers, accessed April 1, 2022

Sandra Gudat

Author Sandra Gudat

Sandra Gudat is CCG’s president & CEO. Considered a pioneer in the field of customer marketing, she has a diverse background in consulting, database marketing, advertising, retail and business management. She is a frequent speaker on customer loyalty marketing and developing customer-centric policies

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