Walmart is allowing postpaid customers to upgrade their phones online and receive the new phones by mail. It’s the latest attempt by the retailer to boost consumer electronics sales.
Walmart is enabling online upgrades to qualified AT&T customers first, and plans to make the service available through more carriers in the coming months. Each carrier will have a “shopping experience” on Walmart’s Website, the company said in a news release, which will offer customers the ability to select Apple and Samsung devices, and sign up for payment plans. Customers can then activate the device by phone after receiving it in the mail.
Walmart said it’s also expanding its team of wireless experts to an additional 600 stores by the holiday season. In total, more than 3,000 Walmart stores will have dedicated wireless experts to help with postpaid sales across the major U.S. carriers.
Jeff Moore, principal analyst at Wave7 Research, believes the addition of wireless experts to more stores could help Walmart’s postpaid sales.
“This is a significant development that puts Walmart back in the ball game at the low end of postpaid competition,” he told FierceWireless in an email. “Most customers stopped thinking about Walmart for postpaid sales years ago, as Walmart reps and systems were incapable of providing good service to postpaid customers.”
Postpaid activations dwindled to a tiny percentage of total activations, he added, but in the last couple of years, “postpaid sales have bounced back somewhat, thanks to the presence of dedicated reps from third-party vendors, such as T-ROC, OSL, and Premium.”
Still, Moore said Walmart has long been a major player in prepaid, pointing to TracFone’s Straight Talk brand and Walmart Family Mobile as two popular prepaid brands sold exclusively at Walmart.
He added that it’s no surprise AT&T would be the first carrier to support online upgrades, citing Wave7 Research from last summer indicated “robust, new promotional energy” coming from coming from AT&T prepaid at Walmart.