Frustrating Walmart Marketplace

Two years we noticed that many customers were not happy with the Walmart marketplace. In the article titled “Walmart marketplace struggles to meet customer expectations” we showed that the number of negative reviews was higher than that of competing marketplaces: “Average rating for top sellers on the Walmart marketplace is 3.9 out of 5. By comparison, top sellers on both Amazon and eBay have an average rating of 4.9 out of 5. Most of them are nearly perfect at 5 out of 5 if not for a few slip-ups.”

Shoppers were unhappy with shipping times, returns, having to contact individual sellers, etc. In an unprecedented move Walmart removed the option for buyers to leave reviews after a purchase a few months later after the article. This made it impossible to gauge the shopper satisfaction, but it didn’t improve it.

CNBC broke the news last week that Walmart is working on fixing this. Walmart is finally addressing the flaw which existed since the marketplace inception in 2009.

“Starting this fall, customers buying items from third parties on Walmart.com will be able to print shipping labels directly from the website and clearly see the return policies for individual items online.”

Lauren Thomas, CNBC

Walmart marketplace now

The Walmart marketplace is frustrating because it is two different experiences sharing one website. The marketplace allowed Walmart to grow the catalog over 75 million SKUs, but it was never integrated into the Walmart ecosystem. When buying online from Walmart itself customers could return items to any of the stores, but not when buying from the marketplace. When not happy with the item or price customers could call Walmart, but not when buying from the marketplace - they would have to email the seller instead. Recently Walmart launched kiosks in their stores allowing to browse all products on Walmart.com, except for the marketplace items.

This happens when marketplaces are added as afterthoughts to existing retail websites. In theory any retailer could launch a marketplace, but in practice they rarely work since the customer experience ends up being very different. It’s hard not to bring up Amazon, but the reason why the Amazon marketplace has scaled so well is because most customers don’t know it’s there. Thanks to the FBA warehouse infrastructure it made buying on Amazon consistent. Walmart doesn’t offer that, but services like Deliverr and others have recently stepped up to solve it.

Walmart marketplace expected

The marketplace customers want is one which blurs the complexity of it. Customers don’t want to have to deal with the sellers individually; as far as customers are concerned the marketplace is simply a regular retail website. Some marketplaces like Etsy don’t need to follow this because there a seller is distinct and many buyers want a relationship with them. On Walmart, eBay, or Amazon none of that matters. They just want to buy their products and get them like they usually do.

Walmart has now came to realize this and said “Our customers expect a consistent and easy experience regardless of whether an item is sold by Walmart or a marketplace seller.” The changing returns experience is the first step. The company even went as far as to say “We have a big opportunity to use our 4,700 stores across the country to make marketplace returns even easier.” Both customers and marketplace sellers have been asking for this for years.

Walmart needs to listen faster.

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Juozas "Joe" Kaziuk─Śnas

Founder of Marketplace Pulse, Joe wears multiple hats in the management of Marketplace Pulse, including writing most of the articles. Based in New York City. Advisor to other startups and entrepreneurs. Occasional speaker at conferences.

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