Walmart changes online return policies, lowers shipping rates

While Walmart doesn't break out online sales between its marketplace and its own distribution, there's plenty of evidence that its marketplace, founded in 2009, has been picking up steam of late, according to research from eMarketer.

Although Walmart's marketplace, like its e-commerce operations in general, is still playing catchup, sellers are keen on it as a way to diversify their sales. With possibly the world's most efficient distribution network and a vast number of physical stores, Walmart is an attractive partner, and more Amazon marketplace sellers are looking on it as a way to expand. More than a third (36%) of sellers in a survey of 1,200 Amazon sellers conducted by Feedvisor said they plan to sell through Walmart this year, up from 29% in 2017. Many also plan to expand to other channels like eBay, Shopify and their own websites, too, although eBay is losing ground, according to Feedvisor's report.

Returns are a vexing cost of doing business online, where the already complex and expensive logistics of e-commerce are even worse. The value of retail returns last year rose 53% from 2015 to $400 billion, and the growth of e-commerce is stoking that, according to returns and overstock supply company B Stock. Returns of brick-and-mortar purchases tend to hover at 8%, while e-commerce returns can reach as high as 15% to 30%, according to CBRE, which says that the likely value of online holiday returns last year was $32 billion, up from 2016's estimated $28 billion.

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