Walmart used to be the big cheese on the retail landscape. Then along came Amazon, and with it, its Amazon Prime membership program, giving the latter company dominance in the online sales arena. Now Walmart is making a move to put a dent in that dominance: Sources tell Recode the company is working on its own membership service called Walmart Plus, which is a rebranding of sorts of its $98-per-year Delivery Unlimited grocery delivery service. A Walmart spokeswoman confirmed to CNBC that the company is working on the program, which will reportedly start a test run as soon as March. Recode says there will likely be a big differentiator: perks that Amazon is simply unable to offer, like discounts on gas and prescription drugs; Amazon doesn't have gas stations or in-store pharmacies.
Recode notes Walmart is hoping that its most loyal shoppers will stick with Walmart's fresh groceries—not take advantage of Prime's delivery of Whole Foods or Amazon Fresh groceries, which often cost more than Walmart's—even if those shoppers also subscribe to and use Prime for other products. To tie in to the membership service launch, there may also be a re-upping of Walmart's discontinued Scan & Go cashierless service, which allowed shoppers to make in-store purchases without ever waiting in line. Placing orders on Walmart Plus via text messaging may also be in the mix. It's not clear if the $98 fee will remain in place, or if Walmart will test different price points. (Read more Walmart stories.)