Walmart is simplifying returns for customers bringing merchandise bought online through Walmart.com back to the store.
Starting in November, customers using the new Mobile Express Returns service will be able to initiate a return in the Walmart app before heading to the store.
When arriving at the store, customers will be able to use the new Mobile Express lane in the customer service area. After scanning a QR code with their phone, customers just hand over the package to the Walmart associate. The associate verifies the contents and the return is then complete.
Walmart expects the whole process to take about 30 seconds. That’s three times faster than the previous average time it took to process an online return of one minute and 30 seconds, and five times faster than the five minutes it took before Walmart simplified the process with new technology for associates. These time figures don’t include time spent waiting in line, which is drastically reduced with the new Mobile Express lane.
Starting in December, Walmart says some items, like select personal care products or damaged items, won’t even need to be returned to the store. Since the store would likely dispose of it anyway, Walmart will let customers keep the item and process the refund for the item instantly. As for customers that might abuse this perk, Walmart isn’t worried.
“We have technology to help those things,” Daniel Eckert, a VP at Walmart and head of Services and Digital Acceleration for Walmart US said, alluding to the system being able to identify and limit abusers.
At launch next month only items bought online that are sold and shipped by Walmart.com will be eligible for the service. Walmart plans to bring it to items bought in-store by early next year, and to items sold by third-party sellers online at some point.
Mobile Express is a growing brand of app-based services, which also includes the Mobile Express Money Services and forthcoming Mobile Express Pharmacy.
Walmart’s ambitions come into focus with the new return initiative as it seeks to leverage its enormous network of stores as it becomes a bigger player online by launching two-day free shipping and pickup services. With its more than 4,700 stores in the US, no other chain in America can come close to Walmart and it means 90% of the US population lives within 10 miles of a Walmart.
As Walmart moves online, however, its online competitors are moving offline. Amazon especially is making large bets in the physical world, the most notable of which is its $US13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods. In comparison, Whole Foods has only 400 stores. Department store Kohl’s also recently announced a small partnership with Amazon to accept returns in some Kohl’s stores.
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