With many consumers large and small finding that not everything Santa brought was exactly what they wanted, UPS said it expects to handle 4 million returns packages by the end of the first week in January, up 15% from 3.5 million in 2013. The company estimated this deluge of reverse logistics hit a peak of 800,000 packages on Jan. 6.
“As e-commerce continues to grow, simple returns services have become an essential part of the overall consumer shopping experience,” said Alan Gershenhorn, UPS executive vice president and chief commercial officer, in a press release. “Our research shows online shoppers care about returns convenience with 66% reviewing a retailer’s return policy before making a purchase, and 68% saying they would complete an online purchase if the retailer offered a free return shipping label.”
According to the 2014 UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper Study, done in conjunction with comScore, ecommerce returns are increasing: 62% of consumers said they returned an online purchase in 2014, up from 51% in 2012.
The growing comfort level of consumers with buying try-on items like clothing, accessories and footwear online is fueling an increase in ecommerce returns, said Bala Ganesh, chief marketing officer for UPS.
“It’s the overall growth in ecommerce, but also the type of products they’re buying online, including clothing,” Ganesh said. “Originally ecommerce tended to be things like consumer electronics so people knew what they were getting. But now they’re increasingly buying things that tend to have higher return rates.”
UPS is helping facilitate the returns process at its 4,400 UPS Stores, 38,000 drop boxes and now at 400 UPS Access Point locations – merchant sites with secure drop-off and driver pickup – in Brooklyn, the Bronx and Chicago. The Access Point program began as a trial this past fall and will be expanded nationwide in 2015, Ganesh said, while not specifying how many total locations are expected or in how many cities and towns. The UPS Stores have been folded in as Access Point locations as of this month.
“The consumer feedback has been very positive, based on the convenience of walking to a nearby store in an urban area and being able to seamlessly inject a package into the network,” he said.