Walmart may leverage its physical stores to facilitate returns of items sold by third-party marketplace sellers, according to CNBC, which could help it compete against Amazon.
Marketplaces are growing obsessed with returns as a way to improve conversion rates to boost sales growth. But that has the potential to harm sellers of low-margin goods, fragile items, or unique inventory such as antiques and collectibles.
Etsy has indicated it will begin tackling the issue of returns on its marketplace, and it's hard to see how sellers won't be challenged as a result, if eBay sellers' experiences are any indication.
It's not that most sellers don't want to ensure buyers are satisfied with their purchases, but there's a culture today in which shoppers feel it's okay to use items and then return them for full price when no longer wanted. And online sellers have seen it all - many simply want marketplaces to curb egregious behavior by buyers.
CNBC noted that Amazon has begun banning shoppers it believes return too many items.
It published the letter
Walmart sent to its 3P sellers about the Marketplace Returns Program it will launch in the fall. The retailer told merchants it will make it easier to manage returns, and importantly:
"As a seller, you will continue to be able to configure the return policy for every item you sell, including the settings for restocking fees, shipping carriers, return windows and shipping fees.
"You will also have the option to use our Returns Shipping Service, which offers special discounted shipping rates."
It didn't provide details about how it would use its 4,700 stores in the US "to make marketplace returns even easier." While that sounds like a possible win for sellers, it also has the potential to be a nightmare.
How well do you think Walmart clerks can handle returned goods - from making a determination about the validity of a return, to storing returned goods on behalf of merchants, and returning the goods to merchants?
Sellers have to deal with those issues when their FBA items are returned to Amazon fulfillment centers - and it remains to be seen if Walmart stores can handle these challenges any better.