After parting ways with Amazon last year, FedEx is now jumping deeper into ecommerce returns, much as Amazon did with Kohl’s last year, by adding Happy Returns bars to more than 2,000 FedEx locations, adding to 500 of them at various retailers including 300 Walmart stores.
How returns are handled is fast becoming a differentiator and key competitive advantage for retailers and ecommerce companies, as partnerships like this continue to be struck to address the growing pain point and customer hassle. Friction-free is the order of the day, as well as a contactless experience.
Through this new partnership, unboxed returns will be accepted from 150 different retailers and ecommerce pure plays who use Happy Returns, including Rothy’s, Everlane, UNTUCKit, Revolve, Steve Madden and Draper James, when the program launches at the end of October.
“We feel that by working together with Happy Returns, we can help make the returns experience better,” said Ryan Kelly, Vice President of Global Ecommerce Marketing for FedEx. “Additionally, consumers will be getting more acquainted with making returns through FedEx Office.”
David Sobie, founder and CEO of Happy Returns, said this will give his company more than 2,600 locations for dropping off and processing returns, adding 68% of Americans will be within 10 miles of one. This gives the company roughly one-third of the Amazon returns network, which has 7,500 locations including Kohl’s and UPS stores, but puts it ahead of Optoro, which will soon be able to process returns at 1,000 Staples locations.
“There’s a big shift to contactless returns, and our QR code system addresses that,” Sobie said. “FedEx is an essential service, so their locations wouldn’t close if there were further pandemic-related issues.” He added there were 700 Happy Returns bars prior to COVID-19, and 600 have since reopened or are in the process of doing so at campus bookstores, office buildings, shopping malls and other retail locations.
Customers who initiate a return at one of the partner retailers are directed to a branded Happy Returns portal, which generates a QR code they scan at the dropoff location while remaining socially distanced. Returned items are then shipped in reusable totes to a Happy Returns processing center for disposition.
Between Happy Returns’ growing network, Amazon’s returns centers in Kohl’s stores and the new Optoro and Staples partnership, American consumers are getting used to the convenience of ecommerce returns in store vs. having to ship them back.
“Everyone is concerned with contact in physical retail, and the QR code system makes it faster and safer, which is also important for our location partners,” Sobie said. “Associates are concerned with contact and rightly so. This is meant to make our transactions that much more efficient, by requiring the QR code. We’re leaning into the idea of the contactless experience.”