Wal-Mart Stores Inc. wants to improve one of the most fraught and friction-filled shopping procedures: returns.
Following in the footsteps of its Mobile Express Money Services, the retail giant said it will launch in early November Mobile Express Returns.
The service combines Wal-Mart’s more than 4,700 store locations with the Wal-Mart app to make returning items sold and shipped by walmart.com faster. Store purchases early next year and will be eligible for Mobile Express Returns, and the retailer is working to create a similar streamlined returns process for items sold by third-party sellers on walmart.com.
Consumers initiate a return on the Wal-Mart app by selecting the transaction and item or items they wish to return. They follow the prompts to start the process. At the store, consumers fast-track through the line at the customer service desk via the Mobile Express Lane. With the scan of the QR code displayed on the card reader by using the Wal-Mart app and the product hand-over to an associate, the procedure is finished.
Returns previously took an average of five minutes, according to the retailer. Then, associate-based technology was deployed, cutting the time to 1.5 minutes. Mobile Express should reduce to 30 seconds the time it takes to make a return. Refunds are credited to shoppers’ accounts as quickly as the next day.
“We know that returning an item and waiting for a refund, especially for a product that was purchased online, isn’t always seamless, so we’ve completely transformed the process for our customers,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president, Wal-Mart Services and Digital Acceleration, Wal-Mart U.S. “By leveraging our physical stores and the Wal-Mart app, we’re changing the returns game. We’ve been adding features to our app and Mobile Express Returns is the latest enhancement.”
As early as December, Wal-Mart will introduce an option in the app that will give consumers a refund instantly, without the need to visit a store or physically bring back products. The offer will initially be available on select household items, such as shampoo and color cosmetics, with other products to be added over time.
“At times, returning select items at the store just doesn’t make sense,” Eckert said, adding that “keep it” products are difficult for Wal-Mart to handle and hard for customers to bring to stores. “An example is floor cleaner ordered from walmart.com that leaked,” Eckert said. “I’d have to put it in a plastic bag, and the store would have to dispose of that liquid correctly. We anticipate this program will [eventually] encompass returns for third-party marketplace sellers. But with tens of thousands of sellers that put products though our site, it’s a little more complex.”
The “keep it” option will be reserved for customers who aren’t abusing Wal-Mart. “We have the technology to detect those who want to take advantage,” Eckert said, adding that there are other rewards the retailer can reap. “This will save customers time, and we hope it will also save associates time so they can serve customers rather than just processing something.”