UPS is launching a free online tool called UPS Returns Manager, that allows e-commerce merchants to customize return shipments according to their own policies and UPS research shows that many customers pay close attention to such policies.
The logistics giant said the tool, which launches next Monday in the U.S., and on Aug. 28 in 43 other countries, eases returns for consumers by allowing them to print return shipping labels directly from ups.com tracking (website and mobile) and from e-mail alerts. They also can print return labels at The UPS Store locations at no additional cost. Business customers, meanwhile, can manage return shipments without having to integrate new technology into their own IT systems.
Merchants who ship with UPS can take advantage of capabilities such as being able to administer authorized return shipments, set their service level, request a reason for return and see reports on their shipments. The outbound and return packages are linked in tracking, allowing for easy association of the two shipments. Merchants also can pre-authorize returns shipments for specified accounts.
Back in June, the 2017 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper Study showed that, among other things, 75% of avid online shoppers have shipped returns back to the retailer, and that many customers consider the terms of a merchant’s return policy when deciding whether or not to make a purchase. A report published by the National Retail Federation in 2015 suggests about $260.5 billion in merchandise sold by retailers in the U.S. in 2015 was later returned. That's about 8% of all purchases made in the U.S. that year.
The issue is particularly thorny for e-commerce sites, as data collected in 2015 and published by Invesp showed that at least 30% of e-commerce orders are returned, more than three times the return rate for brick-and-mortar stores.
Retailers would of course rather not see returns at all, but they may be a fact of retail life and just another part of the shopping process, according to other recent research from post-purchase solutions firm Narvar. Ultimately, the return process is by extension, part of an overall customer experience that retailers must strive to improve.
Some large retailers like Amazon understand that, and try to make the return process simple and not painful. Amazon has even begun insisting third-party Marketplace sellers bring return policies in line with the Amazon's, a move that has many sellers fuming.
Even for the big guys, returns are expensive, and made more so by practices like the inclusion of a pre-printed return slip in every package shipped to a customer. But some merchants can't even do that much, and may not be large enough to develop, communicate and manage an effective returns process on their own. This tool helps administer a returns program, but it also helps them by helping their customers. Making the process easier for them can help turn a potential negative into something that at least resembles good karma.