Walmart forecasts online shopping surge as it pursues rival Amazon

Walmart is preparing to launch Mobile Express Returns- an innovative industry-first experience tha

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Returns remain a huge area of competition for the country's two biggest online retailers.

The first change will come next month, when customers will be able to start the return process on Walmart's app.

Besides, Amazon has also started the same program of reruns at Whole Foods stores across the US, after acquiring the grocery chain in August.

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Wal-Mart's US e-commerce chief Marc Lore is among the company executives slated to address shareholders this week at its annual investor day. "We're equipping our associates with training and technology so they will continue to innovate in our stores, clubs and through eCommerce to find ways to deliver an enjoyable shopping experience for our customers that is easy, fast, friendly and fun".

Walmart had redoubled its efforts to integrate stores and digital, introducing initiatives such as offering shoppers discounts if they pick up an online order in a store, and introducing express lanes for drug prescription pick-up and merchandise returns.

To be sure, none of Wal-Mart's retail peers have made a similar promise - receive a refund without bringing an item back - of such a large scale.

Amazon's $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods earlier this year was, in part, to give the company some storefront real estate.

Walmart forecasted that its profit for its 2019 fiscal year would increase by approximately 4% over what was expected for its adjusted earnings of between $4.30 and $4.40 a share for its year ending January of 2018.

In a day of presentations to analysts, Walmart on Tuesday kicked things off by reiterating financial guidance for the year of $4.18 to $4.28 earnings per share, and its plans to allocate an additional $20 billion to its share repurchase program, according to a company statement released prior to the event.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc shares rose $1.82 (+2.26%) in premarket trading Tuesday. Earlier this year, Walmart announced that it was teaming up with Google to launch voice-activated shopping through Google Assistant.

It's true, e-commerce players like Amazon don't have as vast a physical footprint as retailers like Wal-Mart, Target and Costco today.

In the second quarter, 62 per cent of all USA internet users visited Amazon, a "remarkably high number", according to Wells Fargo & Co. analysts, illustrating just how deeply the company has penetrated the online market. In groceries, Wal-Mart already is the leading seller in the USA, and derives over half its US revenue from this category of goods.

Wal-Mart, which is battling Amazon for market share, has been investing in its online business and letting customers pick up online orders at its 4,700-plus stores.

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