UPS Launches Returns Processing Tool for SMBs

Looking to simplify operations for small- to medium-sized merchants and drive new business for itself, UPS this week launched Returns Manager, a tool that allows shippers without their own returns infrastructure to make the process smoother and easier for their customers.

Returns Manager, available this week in the U.S. and in 43 other countries by Aug. 28, gives shippers the ability to pre-authorize returns shipments for specified accounts, a consumer-friendly returns process similar to major retailers, access to data on return codes and a way to provide return labels without including in outbound packages.

The free tool is accessed within UPS’s online shipment tracking function – online or via its app – and uses a rules engine based on parameters set by the shipper. Customers can have a return label emailed to them, or can have it scanned from their phone at a UPS store.

“It gives shippers visibility into inbound items, and they can connect to a customer’s order history using the tracking tool,” said Derek Banta, director of mobile and digital engagement for UPS.

Banta said shippers of all sizes can benefit from the tool, especially if they don’t have the IT infrastructure in place to handle returns smoothly. “For those focused on the consumer experience, a lot of them have a good returns policy, but if they’re lacking in infrastructure, this is a great bridge for them to make it seamless for the customer.”

How a company handles returns is a critical component in sales and customer loyalty, especially with Amazon setting the expectation bar so high. The most recent reporting by the National Retail Federation found Americans returned $260.5 billion in merchandise in 2015, or 8% of all purchases. UPS’s own 2017 Pulse of the Online Shopper study found 75% of avid online shoppers have created returns, with many of them basing purchase decisions on a merchant’s return policy.

An estimated 30% of ecommerce orders are returned, compared to 9% for physical stores, according to Invesp.

“If I’m depending on the online space for my business, I better have a friendly returns process or make it easy for buyers to be aware of it on the front end,” Banta said. “When they have a bad experience, they tell a lot more people than when it goes right.”

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