- Walmart announced Tuesday it will expand two-day shipping to "millions of additional items" sold by third-party sellers on Walmart.com.
- In addition, the retailer will allow consumers to return marketplace items purchased online to any Walmart brick-and-mortar location, and Walmart will ship the item back to the seller.
- Walmart said the two changes will roll out in November "just in time for the holiday season."
Walmart's changes to shipping and returns are another step for the retailer toward a customer-centric supply chain and experience.
"Fast" and "free" are the magic words for consumers when it comes to e-commerce deliveries, and Walmart's expansion of free two-day shipping on orders over $35 caters to this desire. While online retail sales are growing steadily, most consumers prefer to return goods in store rather than ship them back to the seller.
"Regardless if the item is shipped by Walmart or a third-party, marketplace seller, we know [customers] expect the same, seamless shopping experience," Scott Hilton, Chief Revenue Officer for Walmart eCommerce U.S., said in a blog post announcing the changes.
The timing of Walmart's changes is bound to stress the supply chain, as faster shipping and in-store returns will roll out in the heart of peak season. Trucking capacity is squeezed, and the holiday season coupled with demand for two-day shipping will only exacerbate the crunch.
Reverse logistics has also been challenging for retailers, and e-commerce has made returns an even bigger headache. In some cases, the cost to ship an item back and restock it is twice as much as selling the item in the first place.
Despite challenges, retailers have no choice but to cater to consumer desires if they want to stay afloat in the marketplace.
If all goes smoothly, Walmart's in-store returns may give it a leg up over Amazon, which lacks a strong brick-and-mortar presence. "With 90 percent of Americans living within 10 miles of a Walmart store, we think this is going to be a real game changer for our customers," Hilton said.