Consumers are expected to return about 1.4 million packages to retailers on National Returns Day (January 3), an increase of about 8% from this time last year and considered to be the peak of the post-holiday returns season, according to a UPS press release.
UPS further stated that more than 1 million returns were shipped daily during December, part of the 750 million packages UPS was expecting to deliver between Thanksgiving and New Years Eve, almost 40 million more packages than it delivered during the same period last year.
Meanwhile, Walmart has introduced Mobile Express Returns, a capability that allows customers to use the Walmart app to initiate the returns process, which they can complete at the store through the Mobile Express Lane by scanning a QR code and handing their package off to a Walmart associate, according to the Walmart Today blog.
It's been one crazy holiday stretch for UPS and other shipping companies. As The Wall Street Journal reported, UPS was forced to draft many of its own office workers (even accountants, poor things) to help ensure deliveries would arrive before Christmas. Massive e-commerce growth was a big part of the reason shippers were overloaded with packages, but some companies also reported a shortage of seasonal employees, according to the Journal.
Now, consumers are getting ready to ship some of those packages back where they came from. Indeed, holiday gift returns are becoming an increasingly big deal, and it's not necessarily because people are getting worse at shopping for holiday gifts for their friends and families. One reason for the increase could be that retailers and their shipping partners have started to make it much easier and cheaper for shoppers and gift recipients to send items back.
UPS' own 2017 Pulse of the Online Shopper study backs up this notion. The study found that that about 75% of consumers have shipped returns back to retailers, a figure up from 68% a year earlier. The study also found that a retailer's returns policies and capabilities figure prominently in a consumer's shopping process.
For example, 79% of those surveyed said free shipping on returns is a factor they consider when first buying from an online retailer. In addition, 44% said the biggest issue they faced when returning an item purchased online is the cost for return shipping. Other studies, such as a recent one from Deloitte, have suggested that shoppers also want more time and flexibility to make returns.
Walmart is one retailer that has obviously gotten the message, with Mobile Express Returns setting a perfect example for how some retailers have focused on making the returns process easier and more convenient for their customers.
No retailer likes to see products returned, and increasing returns can play a major role in rising e-commerce logistics costs, as the experiences of Amazon and other retailers have shown. But making returns less painful for consumers can also create a positive customer experience, which could mean more revenue than returns in the long run.
This story is part of our ongoing coverage of the 2017 holiday shopping season. You can browse our holiday page and sign up for our holiday newsletter for more stories.