Retailers like Amazon and Kohl’s are also simplifying their refund and exchange policies ahead of the holidays.
Many happy returns!
Christmas has come early for Walmart shoppers, who will soon be able to return or exchange their online purchases in stores in just 30 seconds.
The retailer revealed its Mobile Express Returns plan this week, which streamlines the refund process into two simple steps: Initiating the return on the Walmart App, where customers receive a QR code; and then heading into their local Walmart and scanning that code at a fast-tracked Mobile Express Lane. The in-store leg of the return should take 30 to 35 seconds, reps told Moneyish, and refunds will be credited to the customer’s account as early as the next day.
“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,” Daniel Eckert, senior vice president, Walmart Services and Digital Acceleration, said in a statement.
The new express returns feature will roll out in early November for online purchases, and will expand to in-store purchases by early 2018 – just in time for the slew of post-holiday returns. UPS reported a record 5.8 million returns packages shipped back to retailers the first week of January earlier this year, peaking at 1.3 million on National Returns Day (Jan. 5) alone.
While stores have been upgrading their online shopping experiences with sleek websites and free shipping, they are now turning their attention to the after-shopping experience, as well, with free return shipping and in-store returns. It’s a shrewd move considering more than 63% of online shoppers take a retailer’s return policy into account before deciding whether or not to make a purchase. And offering free returns can boost online sales 357%.
“No matter what they’re shopping for, consumers just want the return process to be as painless as possible,” Julie Ramhold, Consumer Analyst with DealNews, told Moneyish. “It needs to be fast, so that they’re not standing in line for ridiculous amounts of time, and the return itself needs to be processed quickly as well. Shoppers don’t want to have to repeatedly check on the status of their return.”
And when it comes to shopping online, Ramhold noted that customers are looking for either free pickup from UPS or FedEx, or to return the shipment at no charge. Amazon, for example, lets customers print a label and then drop off the package at a local UPS to return for free.
And because online shoppers miss the tactile experience of being able to touch and test the merchandise, about one third of online purchases get returned – and in the case of clothing, up to 40% are sent back – compared to just 9% of in-store purchases. Plus, e-customers also report receiving the wrong item, or getting damaged goods or pieces whose color or appearance differ from what they saw online. Or some buy the same item in a couple of colors or items intending to keep one and send the rest back.
So now around 49% of retailers — including these 28 stores — offer free return shipping. This includes Zappos, which was among the first stores to feature this free two-way shipping, even giving customers an entire year to return their clothing and shoes.
But the problem with e-returns is that they are slowed by snail mail; customers can wait weeks for a retailer to receive and process the returned item before issuing the refund. So more retailers — including these 50 stores — are letting online shoppers return their items in-stores, to save the hassle of shipping.
One of the newest additions to this list is Amazon, which will start letting customers return Amazon items in 82 Kohl’s stores across Los Angeles and Chicago for free this month. Customers using the Amazon Returns service can even use designated parking spots near the Kohl’s entrance to drop off their duds. Amazon has also started offering in-store pickup and returns drop-offs in Whole Foods stores since its $13.7 billion deal to buy the upscale grocery was approved last month.
Tech startup Happy Returns has also built a network of 40 “Return Bars” in malls and shopping centers in 14 cities where shoppers can bring in their returns from a growing list of retailers, including Tradesy, Everlane and Eloquii, and get an immediate refund on their item while Happy Returns handles the rest.
“With the recent announcement that Amazon will be accepting returns at Whole Foods, as well as the increasing demand by shoppers for free return shipping, retailers know offering a frictionless and even delightful return experience is quickly becoming a must-have to remain competitive,” said Happy Returns cofounder David Sobie in a statement.
And Ramhold notes that Kohl’s online orders are “a breeze” to return. “Take the item and the order slip into your nearest store, and they’ll handle it with (few) questions asked,” she said. “And as long as your return was made on a Kohl’s Charge or major credit card, the store can also look up your purchase within a 16 month time frame, which means a receipt shouldn’t be necessary.”
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