By Sruthi Ramakrishnan
(Reuters) - Wal-Mart Stores Inc said on Monday it would speed up the process for in-store returns of items bought on its website, just ahead of the busy holiday season, as it looks to steal a march on e-commerce giant Amazon.com.
Wal-Mart has been increasingly using its more than 4,700 stores to provide hassle-free shopping on its website - by offering services that allow customers to pick up products ordered online as well as make returns in store.
The new service aims to drastically reduce the time taken to return an item bought online, as the company battles Amazon's aggressive moves to establish its own brick-and-mortar presence.
Under Wal-Mart's Mobile Express Returns, starting in early November, customers can, for the first time, use the retailer's app to initiate a return.
The process can then be completed at "express" lanes in a store by scanning a QR code and handing over the item, eliminating the need to wait in queues.
The new process reduces the time taken for returning products at stores to as little as 30 seconds from five minutes previously, said Daniel Eckert, head of Wal-Mart's U.S. services and digital acceleration business.
The new returns process also allows customers to get refunds as soon as the next day. Some items, including shampoo and color cosmetics, will be eligible for instant refunds even without the products being returned in store, then company said.
Wal-Mart said it planned to extend the new process to items bought in its stores by early next year, and is working on a similar returns policy for items bought from third-party sellers on Walmart.com.
Wal-Mart is investing $2 billion into its online business and has snapped up a number of popular online retailers since last year, including Jet.com.
The retailer's shares were up 1.3 percent at $80.02 on Monday.
(Reporting by Sruthi Ramakrishnan in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)