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October 9, 2017

Walmart shopping app to challenge Amazon by speeding up in-store returns

by John_A

Why it matters to you

Anything that improves the online shopping experience — including when you want to return something — has to be a good thing.

When you consider that nearly a third of items ordered online end up getting returned, ecommerce companies need to ensure that the process of sending something back is as simple and straightforward as possible.

Walmart, which has been steadily building out its online shopping service to take on the likes of Amazon, is about to unveil a new system via its smartphone app that aims to expedite the returns process, Bloomberg reports.

Launching in November just as the busy holiday season moves into full swing, shoppers with an unwanted item bought online can hit the app to notify Walmart they no longer want it, and then head straight to the nearest Walmart store to offload it. Using the app to notify the store of their impending visit means the average time it will take to return an item will be cut from five minutes to just 30 seconds, with customers directed to a dedicated express lane for customer service. Funds will be returned to the customer’s account within 24 hours.

At launch, Walmart’s speedier returns service will only apply to items bought online, though it may be introduced for goods bought in stores starting in 2018. The service can’t be used for anything bought via its site from resellers and dealers, and customers will of course still have the option to return goods by mail within 90 days of receiving them.

Bloomberg reports that some items, such as shampoo and cosmetics, will be credited without the customer even having to hand them over, though the store will have to have a robust system in place to ensure no one abuses the process, an issue that hits rival firm Amazon from time to time.

Walmart: ‘Saving time is the new currency’

Commenting on the imminent launch of the new returns service, which is expected to be officially announced by the company on Monday, October 9, Walmart’s Daniel Eckert told Bloomberg, “We recognize that saving time is the new currency for customers, as much as saving money.”

Walmart’s effort to improve its returns process comes less than a month after Amazon announced a partnership with retail chain Kohl’s that allows Amazon shoppers to return items, for free, via one of 82 Kohl’s locations in Chicago and Los Angeles. If all goes well, Amazon could seek to expand the service to all of Kohl’s 1,100-plus stores across the United States.

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