With rising e-commerce sales come a higher percentage of returns, presenting a challenge for shippers and haulers to ensure there is sufficient capacity and properly located fulfillment centers to handle reverse logistics. The National Retail Federation estimated consumers returned 13% of purchases during the most recent holiday season.
The latest “UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper” study found 75% of consumers have returned items to retailers, an increase of seven percent from 2016. During December, UPS said consumers shipped more than 1 million return packages to retailers daily. It labeled January 3 as “National Returns Day,” with an estimated 1.4 million packages sent back to businesses.
“While the day after Christmas use to be reserved for long return lines at department stores, the growth of e-commerce has changed when and how consumers return gifts,” said Alan Gershenhorn, chief commercial officer of UPS. “A customer-friendly returns program is now an essential part of any successful e-commerce program.”
To improve the process, UPS has added a Returns Manager system that allows e-commerce merchants to customize return shipments. In March, FedEx Corp. launched FedEx Returns Technology, which is aimed at providing companies with “complete visibility into returns.”
As part of the program, customers can drop off returns at 1,700 participating FedEx locations. Customers can also drop off pre-labeled FedEx Express and FedEx Ground shipments or returns at many Walgreens, Kroger, and Albertsons stores. Ryan Kelly, senior vice president of FedEx Supply Chain comments, “Returns have rapidly evolved into a critical factor second only to cost in satisfying today’s e-commerce customers.”