How Walmart is Making Omnichannel Returns a Competitive Advantage with Mobile Express Returns

Walmart has been making one of shoppers' least favorite tasks - making a return - less of a hassle. Marrying the power of the hugely popular Walmart App with its brick-and-mortar locations, the world's largest retailer by revenue rolled out Mobile Express Returns - an omnichannel returns innovation that slashes the time it takes for customers to return an item bought online down to just 30 seconds - in November last year.

As leading online retailers like Amazon continue to innovate ultra-convenient on-demand delivery options and customer-centric returns policies, customer expectations for fulfillment have been forever altered. Shoppers today simply demand that every aspect of their experience be quick, easy, and as hassle-free as possible - and that includes making a return.

Walmart has been building out the ecommerce side of its business over recent years to rival Amazon's - and when it comes to returns, Walmart's expansive store network gives it a distinct advantage. With over 4,700 locations nationwide, 90% of Americans live within ten miles of a Walmart store. Now, Walmart is leveraging its huge physical presence to create a faster, simpler, and more convenient returns process no other retailer can match at present.

Mobile Express Returns

Using Walmart's Mobile Express Returns service, customers can complete a return in just two simple steps:

  • Step 1 - Initiate the return via the Walmart App. Customers simply select the Walmart transaction and the item(s) to return, then follow the on-screen prompts to begin the return process.
  • Step 2 - Finish the return at a Walmart Store. Customers fast-track through the line via the Mobile Express Lane - available in the vast majority of Walmart stores - at the customer service desk. They then scan a QR code displayed on a card reader with the Walmart app and hand the item to an associate who verifies the contents and completes the return.

It's as simple as that. No more messing around with postage and packaging and then waiting days for an online return to be credited - with Walmart's Mobile Express Returns, refunds are credited to the customer's payment account as soon as the next day.

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"We know that returning an item and waiting for a refund, especially for a product purchased online, isn't always seamless, so we've completely transformed the process for our customers," said Daniel Eckert, Senior Vice president for Walmart Services and Digital Acceleration. "By leveraging our physical stores and the Walmart app, we're changing the returns game in ways that only Walmart can do. We've added features to our app to make it an even more powerful, time-saving tool for our customers shopping online and in our stores; Mobile Express Returns is our latest enhancement."

Making Returns a Competitive Advantage

Today's consumers have high expectations about the ease and convenience of their shopping experiences, and returns are a particular pain point. This is especially true as the retail world evolves with the continuing ecommerce boom. Last year, a United Parcel Service (UPS) study - "2017 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper" - found that 75% of online shoppers have shipped returns back to the retailer, and many consider a merchant's returns policy when deciding whether or not to make a purchase.

When retailers are able to meet consumers' high expectations, they are not only in a better position to improve the overall experience but can also inspire more customer loyalty and create new revenue streams.

Walmart's Mobile Express Returns service is likely to be beneficial to the retailer in these terms - by getting customers into physical stores to return items bought online, they will likely pick up a few other products while they're there. And the same holds true with the Walmart App - by encouraging the use of the application to initiate a return, there's a chance Walmart can persuade the customer to buy something more.

Final Thoughts

As more and more customers are looking for easy and convenient shopping experiences, retailers like Walmart are striving to provide them through omnichannel strategies.

Walmart is in prime position to make its innovative returns policy a competitive advantage over the likes of Amazon, which of course doesn't have as vast a physical footprint. But Amazon is keenly aware of the need to keep pace and is making strides to grow its brick-and-mortar presence so customers have more places to make returns available to them.

Whole Foods stores, for example, which Amazon acquired in August last year, have started processing returns for Amazon's online shoppers across a network of around 400 locations. And Kohl's also agreed last year to fulfill the ecommerce giant's returns at more than 80 of its department stores.

There's no doubt that returns have become more important than ever before, and as consumer expectations increase, Walmart's move to make the returns experience a priority leaves Amazon with much ground to regain.

"This improvement to the return process combines the convenience and variety of online shopping with the ease of stopping by your local Walmart to pick up some milk," says Walmart in a blog post. "With Mobile Express Returns, we're bringing online and in-store purchases together to offer a convenience that just makes sense. We will continue to use our app and our stores together, making shopping even faster and easier for our customers."

You can hear Justin Schuhardt, Sr. Director, Ecommerce Supply Chain at Walmart, speak at Consumer Returns 2018 this October at the Sheraton Grand Nashville, TN.

Download the Agenda for more information and insights.

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