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The portrait of an ideal e-commerce collaboration

Overhead shot of Miller's Professional Imaging employee working on a photo compilation

A customized wedding album. A unique, aluminum-backed landscape print. A one-of-a-kind Christmas ornament. From professionals to hobbyists, every shot matters. And every shot tells a personal story. Miller's Professional Imaging understands. Miller's is the largest professional lab organization in the United States, based in Pittsburg, Kan. The family-owned business provides print services to professional photographers, shipping more than 2.5 million orders annually – each with sentimental value well beyond the cost.

"It's our mission to make the highest-quality products, faster than anyone, with the highest level of service," says Paul Rotter, Miller's marketing coordinator. "So if goods arrive in a damaged box or delivery is unreliable, those promises fall on deaf ears."

As Miller's grew, shipping became more complex and critical. So the company reevaluated its transportation relationships. "We're a profit-sharing company," Rotter says. "Employees knew shipping costs were rising. We had to manage logistics better and improve service to a very demanding audience."

Added Shipping Coordinator Russell Taylor: "Service is our No. 1 priority. We won't jeopardize that for price."

UPS not only brought competitive rates and the power of one highly integrated air, ground and international network; it also raised the bar with operational consultation and innovative – and unexpected – marketing insights and third-party providers.

Looking at the bigger logistics picture

UPS helped Miller's optimize small-package and express envelope handling at its loading dock. Now, dedicated employees carefully load trucks to minimize handling and improve how packages are sorted and routed through UPS's network. This helps packages that aren't rigidly packed maintain their integrity throughout delivery.

But it was the "final mile" of delivery where UPS really helped Miller's keep its promises. Miller's switched its less urgent shipments to UPS Mail Innovations®, a high-volume mailing service provider that improves efficiency and cuts cost. "Delivery times with Mail Innovations are far superior," Taylor adds.

UPS was just getting started. "Using industry insights and our own proprietary research," says Brandon Johnson, a UPS marketing manager, "we showed Miller's what today's mobile-centric customers expect: flexible shipping, predictable time windows and alternate delivery locations outside the home."

With UPS My Choice® service, which has more than 25 million members, Miller's customers get alerts the day before a UPS package is to be delivered. They can plan their schedules or change when or where the package arrives. So a photographer who's on location can reroute a package to another address. Or customers in apartment complexes will know their customized holiday cards won't be left at the door. Plus, customers can ship or send packages to a UPS Access Point® location – a convenient network of more than 24,000 global neighborhood businesses such as coffee shops, delis or dry-cleaners – then securely pick them up on their schedule.

Miller's also wanted to enhance its e-mail communication. "It's a big revenue driver," Rotter says. "We wanted more personalized customer e-mails. UPS knew we were researching providers, recommended Listrak and even introduced us to the Listrak team. UPS's recommendation meant a lot."

Listrak, a digital marketing automation platform for online and omnichannel retailers, is one of many UPS Ready® partners. It's a group of third-party businesses that provide services companies need to expand, improve efficiency and deliver great service. This includes shipping and order management, accounting/financial help and marketing services like e-mail, SEO (search engine optimization) and website optimization.

Savings and benefits come into focus

With UPS integrated into its shipping logistics, web and e-mail operations, Miller's can save money and provide a better customer experience. The company had estimated savings of $2 million in the first year. And the new order-processing system reduced losses and damage, especially during the critical holiday season, which decreased reprinting and reshipping costs.

In just six months, 15 percent of Miller's volume was going to UPS My Choice members. Since those customers now have more control over deliveries, Miller's customer service reps spent a lot less time on WISMO (Where is my order?) calls.

"I've really enjoyed working with UPS," says Rotter. "We still meet monthly with different UPS experts to discuss ways to enhance both shipping and marketing. We feel like we're always getting better."

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