Walmart Reinvents the Returns Process as Amazon Tries to Play Catch-Up
Walmart is marrying the power of the Walmart App with its brick-and-mortar retail stores and hoping to slash returns from what used to take roughly 5 minutes to 30 seconds.
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Shoppers today are demanding that every aspect of their experience be quick, easy and free of friction.
That’s why Walmart is transforming retail with unique, technology-powered offerings like Online Grocery Pickup, Pickup Towers, Mobile Express Money Services and free two-day shipping without a membership fee.
Walmart is now focusing its attention on returns, with the introduction of Mobile Express Returns – an innovative, industry-first experience that combines Walmart’s more than 4,700 locations with the Walmart app to make returning an item fast, easy – and maybe even a little enjoyable.
The new simplified returns process will be available starting in early November for items sold and shipped by Walmart.com, followed by store purchases in early 2018. Walmart is also working to create a similar streamlined returns process for items sold by third-party sellers on Walmart.com.
“We know that returning an item and waiting for a refund, especially for a product purchased online, isn’t always seamless, so we’ve completely transformed the process for our customers – whether they are shopping in stores or at Walmart.com,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president, Walmart Services and Digital Acceleration, Walmart U.S.
“By leveraging our physical stores and the Walmart app, we’re changing the returns game in ways that only Walmart can do. Throughout the year, we’ve added features to our app to make it an even more powerful, time-saving tool for our customers shopping online and in our stores; Mobile Express Returns is our latest enhancement.”
Using Mobile Express Returns, customers can complete the returns process in just two simple steps:
- Initiate the Return: Using the Walmart App, select the Walmart transaction and item(s)* to return and follow the prompts to start the return process.
- Finish the Return at the Store: At the store, fast-track through the line via the Mobile Express Lane** at the Customer Service Desk. Scan the QR code displayed on the card reader with the Walmart app, and then hand the item to the associate.
*Certain restrictions may apply.
**Express Lanes are available in the vast majority of Walmart stores.
That’s it! Refunds will be credited to customers’ payment account as soon as the next day, and they will no longer have to send off their product and wait days for an online return to be credited. Given 90 percent of Americans live within 10 miles of a Walmart store, it’s never been faster or easier to make an online return.
Additionally, as early as December, customers returning select items will see an option in the Walmart app allowing them to instantly receive their refund without even making a trip to the store to physically return the item. This offer will initially be available on select household items, such as shampoo and color cosmetics, with other items to be added over time.
This is the third Mobile Express offering announced this year by Walmart and comes at a time when the retailer is doubling-down on innovation within the app to deliver a more integrated shopping experience. Mobile Express Money Services is now available chainwide and Mobile Express Pharmacy will be available nationwide later this year.
In addition, according to a study by InfoScout, Walmart Pay now ranks as the No. 2 mobile wallet, despite launching chainwide only 16 months ago, and now offers customers instant access to their Walmart credit card. Walmart expects to roll out, even more, app features that make shopping faster, easier and more convenient in 2018.
As reported by CNBC, e-commerce players like Amazon don't have as vast a physical footprint as retailers like Walmart, Target and Costco today.
Nonetheless, Amazon is making strides to grow its brick-and-mortar presence so that customers have more places readily available to them to make returns. Kohl's, for example, has agreed to open its doors to Amazon, promising to fulfill the internet giant's returns at more than 80 of Kohl's department stores.
Amazon has also started processing returns at Whole Foods stores across the U.S. after it acquired the grocery chain in August.
Related Article: E-commerce Returns Are the New Normal
Excerpt from “Keeping Up with the Retail Consumer” e-Book
The Impact of E-Commerce on Retail Supply Chains
Further up the distribution chain, as e-commerce volumes grow, so will the need for more logistics space
According to the industrial real estate firm Prologis, “e-commerce users require 3x the logistics space, or more, as compared with brick-and- mortar” due to a variety of factors, including the need to carry a broader variety of SKUs, the need to carry greater levels of buffer stock, the allocation of space for returns processing, and the fact that individual order picking, packing and shipping direct to consumers requires more space than store distribution.
From Prologis’ perspective, “Retailers will continue to proceed along the arc of e-commerce fulfillment requirements, initially growing within existing distribution networks, then leveraging-multi tenant facilities and 3PLs to scale and ultimately requiring dedicated facilities. As online retailers reach sufficient size and scale, fulfillment models will emphasize proximity to major population centers, allowing for faster delivery times, higher service levels and greater flexibility in the supply chain.”