Trucks on the move: UPS bracing for record returns

Quimby Mug Bayou Florida Headshot
Updated Dec 29, 2016

-mobile0c9a66-assets-img-media-UPS_Package_Car_Las_Vegas_high_resUPS vehicles and their drivers had already been hard at work before Christmas, and now the shipping giant reports that holiday business is still booming thanks largely to record returns through online retailers who have made the return process easier.

Whether it’s that wacky tie from Uncle John or that porcelain paper weight from Aunt Gertrude, gift returns through UPS will hit an all-time with 5.8 million gifts going back to retailers during the first week of January.

National Returns Day, when most UPS return packages are sent back to retailers, will reach a new peak of 1.3 million on Thursday, January 5. That’s up roughly 30 percent from last year. All told, returns shipped through UPS during the first week of January are expected to increase 15 percent over last year.

“Online shoppers want the same level of choice, control and convenience making their returns as they do making their purchases,” said Teresa Finley, chief marketing officer for UPS. “UPS helps retailers provide shoppers with a satisfying returns experience while managing rising returns volume and the complexities of providing a seamless omnichannel shopping experience.”

According to the UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study, online shoppers are seeing the improvements that retailers have made to returns programs over the last five years. Between 2012 and 2016, consumers consistently reported fewer issues paying for returns shipping (decreasing from 66 percent to 50 percent), paying restocking fees (decreasing from 43 percent to 27 percent), and experiencing a delay in receiving credits or refunds (decreasing from 41 percent to 27 percent).

 â€śWhile returns can’t be eliminated, an easy to use returns experience should be one of several retail strategies to enhance customer loyalty and manage the cost of returns processing,”continued Finley. According to the UPS study, 70 percent of online shoppers made an additional purchase when they returned an item to a store and 45 percent made an additional purchase when processing their return on the retailer’s website.

The returns process begins with including the necessary returns paperwork or instructions for the customer to effortlessly complete the transaction. Online shoppers report the best returns experience includes free returns shipping (60 percent), a hassle-free returns policy (51 percent), easy-to-print return labels (44 percent), timely refunds (42 percent), and a return label in the box (40 percent).

“Retailers are continuously improving their returns programs,” continued Finley. “The next great opportunity is to unlock the value of these returned products through a sophisticated reverse logistics program.”

According to the National Retail Federation, merchandise returns cost U.S. retailers more than $260 Billion in lost sales. UPS recently formed a strategic alliance with Optoro, a technology company that helps retailers and manufacturers manage, process and sell returned and excess inventory. Together, the companies provide a one-stop shop reverse logistics solution that combines UPS’s operational and logistics expertise with Optoro’s software platform that maximizes recovery value and reduces environmental waste.

UPS’s portfolio of technology-driven returns services that helps retailers deliver the experience shoppers desire includes:

·         UPS Access Point locations offer secure, convenient delivery and returns through more than 26,000 local retailers, secure lockers, and The UPS Store locations in North America and Europe;

·         UPS Print Return Labels can be included in outbound shipments to simplify the returns process;

·         UPS Electronic Return Labels can be emailed to consumers directly from UPS to improve their returns experience;

·         UPS Returns Plus allows the merchant to send a driver to deliver a return label and pick up the return package from any address; and

·          UPS Returns Exchange is when a driver simultaneously picks up the return item in exchange for the replacement item delivery.