Very soon, you’ll be able to sign up to clip and redeem digital discounts at Walmart. So does that mean the world’s largest retailer is finally giving in and launching a loyalty program and digital coupon platform that it has long resisted?

Not quite, but a newly-announced partnership with Ibotta could be the next best thing.

The retailer and the cash-back app have joined forces to make Ibotta grocery and household offers available on Walmart’s own website and app. Just clip, shop, and all earnings will go directly into your Walmart account, where you can apply your balance toward future Walmart purchases.

It’s something of a combination of several things you may already be familiar with – Walmart’s old Savings Catcher program, Kroger’s current Cash Back Rewards program and, of course, Ibotta itself.

Ibotta first experimented with making its offers available directly on a retailer’s own properties, when it and Checkout 51 linked up with Kroger-owned stores back in 2018, as first reported by Coupons in the News. Cash Back Rewards “makes the rebate experience seamless,” Kroger’s digital coupon provider explained at the time, by allowing shoppers to get cash back directly into their Kroger account for a discount on future purchases.

Walmart at the time was offering Savings Catcher, a different kind of program but with the same end result – cash back deposited into your Walmart account that you could apply to future purchases. In the case of Savings Catcher, Walmart would automatically compare its prices with local competitors, and refund you the difference if the competitors’ prices were lower. But Walmart ended Savings Catcher in 2019, saying its goal was “to offer upfront, consistent low prices to the people shopping our stores.”

That’s why Walmart has long resisted anything resembling a loyalty program or digital coupons – it has always preferred to let its everyday low prices speak for themselves, without dangling members-only offers like loyalty discounts or digital coupons, which could only serve to undercut its message of offering the best prices possible to everyone.

Shoppers “don’t have to be in a certain special group” to save at Walmart, Walmart’s then-Chief Financial Officer Charles Holley said back in 2013. “We believe that all of our customers deserve the lowest price possible, not just certain customers.” Besides, he added, loyalty programs and digital coupons can be “very expensive programs, and we don’t think that serves everyday low cost and everyday low price.”

But that was back when relatively few retailers had digital coupon programs. Now, almost everyone does, and digital coupons are becoming more popular than ever. So Walmart risked getting left behind by refusing to get on board with offering digital discounts that shoppers increasingly want.

So enter Ibotta.

Instead of building out a digital coupon platform from scratch, the Ibotta partnership allows Walmart to simply host existing Ibotta offers on its own sites. And instead of having shoppers cash out their savings to a PayPal account, Walmart can give
out rebates in the form of credits for future purchases, that will keep shoppers coming back and buying more.

And Ibotta gets to please its manufacturer clients by getting their offers in front of many more shoppers, who may not currently use Ibotta but do shop at Walmart.

“Walmart has been an innovative leader in retail for six decades, and we are honored to work with them on this program and to be their exclusive third-party provider of digital item-level rebates on Walmart platforms,” Ibotta founder and CEO Bryan Leach said in a statement.

As for the timing on when this will launch, neither company is saying just yet. So keep an eye on Walmart’s website and app – because soon, for the first time, saving money on individual items at Walmart will be only a click away.