Wal-Mart takes cash for online purchases

Wal-Mart (s wmt) is a huge physical retailer but it’s got even more stuff for sale online. But people without a credit or debit card, found it hard to make online purchases from Walmart.com. Now, the retailer is taking a big step to address this audience by accepting in-store cash payments for online goods. It says it will be the first major retailer to offer this form of cash payments for online transactions.

The method reminds of PayNearMe (see disclosure below), a service which I just wrote about that lets underbanked people pay for things online by using cash at a 7-Eleven. Wal-Mart’s Pay with Cash system gives people a cash payment option when they check-out at Walmart.com. A buyer who uses this option will receive an order number and an email receipt with that number, which they can take to their nearest Wal-Mart store. They will have 48 hours to to present their order number and pay with cash. The purchased items then gets shipped to the address they specified while checking out online.

This helps Wal-Mart address the 25 percent of households that are unbanked and underbanked, meaning they don’t have access to a bank account or credit card. Wal-Mart’s customers are even more reliant on cash: Wal-Mart said that just 15 percent of transactions are made with a credit card while the rest are conducted with cash and cash equivalents like a debit card. In a survey, more than two thirds of Wal-Mart customers who self-identified as “underbanked” said they would likely use cash for online purchases if they could.

“Many of our customers shop paycheck to paycheck and are looking for more ways to purchase items online but don’t have the means to a credit, debit or prepaid card,” said Joel Anderson, president and CEO of Walmart.com in a statement. “Our new ‘Pay with Cash’ offering is designed just for them.  It makes it easier for our customers to shop the way they want, where they have access to a broader product selection at Walmart.com coupled with the convenience of payment and shipping as they want.”

The system is simple and makes a lot of sense for Wal-Mart. There are a lot of people who don’t have the types of payments tools many take for granted. But I think it also shows how a retailer can get the most out of their online and offline sales channels. By accepting payment in store for online transactions, Wal-Mart makes its physical stores even more important and demonstrates how the two channels can work together to boost transactions.

Disclosure: PayNearMe is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.