In the fight for shoppers’ holiday dollars, retailers are increasingly touting perks like free shipping and easy returns.
Walmart said Tuesday it’s expanding two-day shipping and in-store returns to many items sold by third parties on its website next month, just ahead of the busy holiday shopping season.
The move comes as Amazon and Target, two top retail rivals, have been improving their own shipping perks to convince shoppers to pick them over the competition. When it gets down to the last minute, shoppers who procrastinate later this year will be flocking to the retailers that can get items to them fastest before Christmas.
And after all those packages have been opened, many consumers will be heading back to stores to return unwanted gifts and are looking for as painless of an experience possible. Some $90 billion worth of goods was returned last holiday season.
For the past two years, Walmart has offered free two-day shipping on millions of items on its site without a membership fee, on orders of $35 or more. This latest step will add “millions of additional items” to this perk, according to Walmart. The retailer currently has more than 75 million items available for sale on its website. It doesn’t break out how many of those are sold by Walmart versus third parties.
The discount retailer also on Tuesday confirmed the steps it’s taking to making returning products sold by third-party sellers even easier, which is starting to roll out this month. CNBC reported these expected changes in August.
Shoppers will now be able to print out a return label directly from Walmart’s website and mail unwanted items back to sellers, the company said. Or, they can bring a package back to the services desk at Walmart locations, and Walmart will mail boxes back to sellers. Walmart said it will make this option available at all of its 4,700 stores.
“A great product return experience is a top contributor to overall customer satisfaction and repeat purchases,” Scott Hilton, the chief revenue officer of Walmart’s e-commerce division, said in a blog post.
For comparison, Target earlier this year began offering its credit-card holders free two-day shipping. The retailer’s REDcard also takes 5 percent off all purchases. Target shoppers without the credit card can still receive free two-day shipping with a purchase of more than $35, similar to Walmart. Amazon meanwhile offers free two-day shipping for Amazon Prime members, which costs $119 a year.
“Retailers realize they are fighting for convenience,” Rod Sides, head of Deloitte’s retail practice, told CNBC. “At the end of the day, they have to bring everything to you.”