Walmart Plans to Revolutionize the Absolute Worst Part of Online Shopping

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People enter and exit Walmart in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Customers exit a Walmart store in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Oct. 11, 2017. In November, Walmart Mobile Express Returns will launch to help customers return online items. Tina Russell/The Penny Hoarder

Think about the last time you walked into a store to return something. How long did it take?

Walmart is hoping to bring the whole process down to just 30 seconds.

Walmart Mobile Express Returns will launch in November to help customers return items bought online. In-store purchases will be served on the system in early 2018.

“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 — whether they are shopping in stores or at Walmart.com,” said Daniel Eckert, senior vice president of Walmart services and digital acceleration, in a release.

The express system will only work for items shipped and sold by Walmart, although the company is working to expand it to include purchases made from third-party sellers.

How Walmart’s 30-Second Returns Will Work

Received an item that isn’t quite right for you? Use the Walmart app to select the item you want to return. Then head to the store and use the mobile express lane at the customer service desk. Scan the QR code displayed on the card reader using the Walmart app, then hand the item to an associate.

The mobile express lanes already offer access to quick prescription pickup and money transfer orders, two services Walmart sped up earlier this year.

You’ll see your refund the next day, instead of having to wait until Walmart receives your returned package.

Walmart even says that starting in December, customers returning select items will be able to get a refund through the Walmart app without going to the store. “Select household items such as shampoo and color cosmetics” will be first, meaning that Walmart will simply take the loss on products you’ve already opened but don’t like.

The Next E-Commerce Battle: Returns

Walmart says making a return at its stores used to take five minutes. Since Walmart knows that 90% of Americans live within 10 miles of one of its stores, it only makes sense for the retailer to get more people into its locations by making the worst part of online shopping easier.

Other retailers like Amazon make it easy to send back a return, but customers must often wait in post office lines to get a receipt proving they’ve handed over their package. Amazon has teamed up with Kohl’s to allow its customers to drop off returns at some Kohl’s locations, which likely have more convenient locations and hours than the good old USPS.

According to Invesp, about 30% of products ordered online get returned, but less than 9% of in-store purchases make it back to the store. Invesp also points out that about half of online retailers offer free return shipping.

Customers have grown accustomed to ordering what they want and getting it fast — and being able to send it back without much questioning if they don’t like it. But the convenience eats away at retailers’ profits, which could eventually get back to customers in the form of higher prices.

Lisa Rowan is a senior writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.

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