A service promises to slash the time shoppers wait for refunds for returned items from up to 90 days to just moments – and in time for the busy Christmas season.
Consumers are increasingly buying from online marketplaces, particularly on big annual sales events such as Black Friday.
At the same time, the shift to digital payments in store has accelerated in the past 18-19 months, largely due to the pandemic.
One in three consumers are now using a smartwatch or smartphone to make payments, Mastercard Australasia’s vice president of products and innovation Surin Fernando says.
“Retailers have really thought about omnichannel, and they’ve really thought about how to accelerate that buy online, pick up in store or even just digitise that in store experience,” Mr Fernando told NCA NewsWire.
But even with digital transactions, the refund process isn’t always simple and can take too long.
“We’ve also seen consumers really start to think ‘how can I buy multiple products and almost try before I buy?’ … and potentially return five of six dresses because they might not fit my look, my outfit, my colour choice.”
While the average time to secure a refund is currently five business days, it can be much longer.
That might not bother many people if the purchase price is minimal, but it can be a cashflow problem for larger transactions.
“I bought a lounge and it was fundamentally wrong, from a right chaise to left chaise for my living room, and it was a $3500 purchase … and it took me three weeks to get a refund on that,” Mr Fernando said.
He said his company had for the past two years invested in expanding its existing Mastercard Send service to “make that refund process as fast and as seamless and as hassle free as possible for consumers”.
It would be rolled out before the end of this year and promised to get cash back to consumers within seconds, Mr Fernando said.
Whether a retailer insisted on having the product back in their hands before they processed the refund or exchanged products varied but in some instances, a loyal, longstanding and valued customer could have it automated, he said.
“We’ve seen instances where that’s the type of really delightful customer experience,” Mr Fernando said.
A number of marketplaces also allowed customers the convenience of returning items to outlets such as newsagents that could then be verified, he said.
“Recently, I ended up exchanging an item and one of them was a full refund as well, and all I needed to do was provide the information in an online portal,” Mr Fernando said.
“I then took that email receipt through, which just had a code on it … and I actually dropped it off at a storage facility that was affiliated.
“The piece that really is the missing link for the consumer in most instances is ‘I’ve done all the work, I’ve filled the online form out or I’ve dropped the item off to a location or I’ve been able to get the item picked up by a logistics provider but what I really want is my money’.
“We’re bridging the gap to ensure the refund … is done quite instantaneously and seamlessly.”