Walmart is simplifying the process for customers returning merchandise bought through its website in 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.
At a Mobile Express lane in a store’s customer-service area, a customer will scan a QR code with their phone and hand over the package to a Walmart associate, who verifies the contents and completes the return.
Walmart expects the whole process to take about 30 seconds. That would be one-third of the average time it took to process an online return, and one-tenth of the time it took before Walmart simplified the process with new technology for associates – not including time spent waiting in line, which Walmart expects the new Mobile Express lane to reduce drastically.
Walmart says some items, like select personal-care products or damaged items, won’t even need to be returned to the store starting in December. Since the store would most likely dispose of them anyway, Walmart will let customers keep the items and will process a refund instantly.
As for customers who might abuse this perk, Walmart isn’t worried.
“We have technology to help those things,” said Daniel Eckert, the head of services and digital acceleration for Walmart US.
At launch next month, only items sold and shipped by Walmart.com will be eligible for the service. Walmart plans to include items bought in-store by early next year, and those sold online by third-party sellers eventually.
Mobile Express is Walmart’s growing brand of app-based services, which include the Mobile Express Money Services and forthcoming Mobile Express Pharmacy.
Walmart’s ambitions come into focus with the new return initiative – in addition to its two-day free shipping and pickup services – as it seeks to leverage its enormous network of stores to become a bigger player in online retail. Walmart has estimated that 90% of the US population lives within 10 miles of one of its more than 4,700 stores.
As Walmart moves online, however, its competitors are moving offline. Amazon especially is making large bets in the physical world, the most notable being its $13.7 billion acquisition of Whole Foods, which has only 400 stores. The department store Kohl’s also recently announced a small partnership with Amazon to accept returns in some Kohl’s stores.