Until now, when online Walmart shoppers were offered a substitute item for an out-of-stock product, the customers were automatically charged for the lower-priced item. But soon, if the recommended substitute costs more, shoppers will have to pay the higher price.
That’s according to a leaked internal memo sent to Walmart store managers last Friday, according to a report from Business Insider.
“Moving forward, customers will now pay the list price for specific substitution items made on their order,” the memo obtained by Business Insider states. “Customers and members will receive updates about this change in the Walmart app at various points in their shopping experience.”
Supermarket News couldn’t immediately reach Walmart for comment.
The new policy is expected to go live in the coming weeks, published reports said.
“As we continue to expand our popular online pickup and delivery service, we’re giving our customers more control of how and when items are substituted, including enhanced preferences and the ability to approve or reject substituted items,” a Walmart spokesperson told Best Life. “This flexibility is an important part of how we continue to give our customers more control over their pickup and delivery experience.”
Walmart doesn’t foresee much of a pushback from shoppers over the new pricing policy, Business Insider reported. “There will be a bit of a transition period,” the spokesperson told Insider, “but overall, this is pretty common.”
The new policy is the standard practice across the retail industry, used by companies such as Whole Foods Market and Instacart, according to Business Insider, which added that traditional retailer Kroger is a “notable exception.”
Meanwhile, Walmart for more than a year has used artificial intelligence-based technology to help its personal shoppers and customers make smarter substitutions for out-of-stock products.
The solution is designed to help identify the next best item for a customer if the product they initially ordered isn’t in stock, Walmart said when announcing the technology in June 2021. Deep-learning AI considers hundreds of variables — size, type, brand, price, aggregate shopper data, individual preference and current inventory, among others — in real time to determine the best next-available item. Customers then are asked to approve or reject the substituted item. The decision is fed back into learning algorithms to improve the accuracy of future recommendations.
Since deploying the AI solution, customer acceptance of online grocery substitutions had climbed over 95%, Walmart noted at the time.