Walmart.com is launching a new way to checkout, targeting customers who don’t have credit or debit cards…or money in the bank for that matter. The company is now allowing customers to buy online and pay with cash. The change reflects the current economic conditions in the U.S., as Walmart states (citing FDIC figures) that one in four U.S. households is “unbanked” or “underbanked” – meaning they rely on cash for their purchases.
In addition, Walmart says the majority of its own in-store transactions are cash or debit, and only 15% are paid for using credit cards.
In a survey, the retailer said that over two-thirds would opt for using cash as an online payment mechanism, if available.
The way Walmart’s new system works is like this: shoppers can browse for items as usual on the website, and then add them to their cart and process to checkout. But during the checkout process, the option to “pay with cash” will be provided as an alternative to credit or debit cards now. After selecting that option, the customer then receives the order number on a confirmation page and an email receipt, which they then take to any local Walmart store or Neighborhood Market where they pay for the item.
Of course, this seems to necessitate printing out the order form, which makes us wonder: hasn’t Walmart heard about the exorbitant cost of printer ink? I mean really, how about an SMS text message instead? Now that would be innovative. Are these shoppers supposed to go to a FedEx/Kinko’s or something?
[Update: Walmart reached out to let us know that customers don’t have to print out the order confirmation after all, all they need is their order number. That’s now how the original description which they sent to us explained it exactly, but it makes a lot more sense. Whew! Still, an SMS would be cool.]
The reserved item has to be paid for in 48 hours, or it’s returned to stock. Products can also be shipped to a shopper’s home, if they choose, following payment.
An introduction of a system like this at the world’s biggest retailer points to hole in the market that could have been, or could still be, filled by a technology startup. For example, Dwolla’s cash-based payment network works with both online and brick-and-mortar merchants, but has the limitation of needing to have a bank account if you want to add or remove funds from your Dwolla account. Another startup, PayNearMe (formerly Kwedit), more closely resembles Walmart’s system by allowing shoppers to buy online, then pay offline with cash.
Of course, in many developing markets, paying with cash is nothing new – that’s how most bills are paid. But in the U.S., the option to “pay with cash” at checkout is something of a novelty, and in Walmart’s case, it’s a hopeful push to improve the bottom line in its online biz, something which pales in comparison with Amazon’s massive success in this area.