Walmart Stores Inc. (WMT) continues to beef up its e-commerce capabilities, announcing Monday, Oct. 9, that it'll begin offering mobile returns, its latest new e-commerce offering as it fights archrival Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) for online shopping dollars.
Through Walmart's Mobile Express Returns, beginning next month, Walmart customers can use the retailer's app to initiate a return, completing the process by dropping the item off at any store's Mobile Express Lane and scanning the app's QR code.
The new mobile returns will be available first for Walmart.com purchases, with in-store purchases added early next year. Walmart also said it's currently planning a similar returns process for items purchased from third-party sellers on Walmart.com.
Additionally, beginning in December, for some items like shampoo and cosmetics, Walmart customers can be refunded on the app without needing to return the item to stores at all.
On a call with reporters, Daniel Eckert, senior vice president, Walmart Services and Digital Acceleration at Walmart U.S., gave the example of his recent purchase of floor cleaner at Walmart.com, which became damaged in transit and made for a messy, cumbersome return. Under the new return policy, he'd be able to immediately receive a refund, while the store wouldn't have to bother with processing a defective return.
There's "technology to help" prevent people from exploiting that returns policy. "We're offering that keep-it capability to our customers who aren't being abusive and we can detect those folks" who might be abusing the privilege, he said.
"We recognize that time has increasingly become the new currency in retail as much as saving money," he said, adding that "busy families" are a key market for the company.
Eckert described the policy as "a continuation of the strategy we've been articulating to the public" as it expands its technological arsenal. A year ago, Walmart paid $3.3 billion for e-commerce startup Jet.com, and it's also snapped up niche online retailers like Moosejaw, Bonobos and Modcloth. Since the Jet acquisition, the Bentonville, Ark.-based company has added free two-day shipping on many items, express lanes for app users and online grocery pickup.
In the first two quarters of 2018, Walmart's digital sales grew 63% and 60%, while overall global sales increased 7% and 12%.
Still, an increasing number of Walmart shoppers are also shopping at Amazon, according to Cowen analyst Oliver Chen, who nonetheless praised Walmart's proactive and aggressive efforts to improve "digital efforts which drive customer convenience and integrate store bricks and digital clicks."
Plenty of other retailers are also feeling the pressure.
Warehouse store chain Costco Wholesale Corp. (COST) announced last week that it has rolled out two food delivery services, a month after Amazon boosted traffic by slashing prices at Whole Foods. Meanwhile, Target Corp. (TGT) has expanded its next-day delivery services, as well as cutting prices.
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Editors' pick: Originally published Oct. 9.