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The Digital Era of Returns Has Arrived

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When it comes to returns, consumers have long sought outside-the-box solutions — and greater convenience tops the wish list. While this offers upside for shoppers, it’s entirely possible merchants will benefit even more.

The UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper survey highlights how returns have become a fundamental part of the online customer experience, with an ability to influence consumer loyalty and drive repeat sales.

Additional research captures strong opinions among online shoppers:

  • 77 percent want an easier solution to return packages
  • 73 percent say returns are their least favorite part of shopping online
  • 58 percent say they’re not satisfied with the current returns model

No box, no label

These pain points come as no surprise. Consumers consistently request more convenient drop-off locations for returns. They want to return items for free, and they dislike the hassle of dealing with a shipping box (or even a label).

Finally, consumers want a refund ASAP — instantly, in fact. What shopper doesn’t value simplicity?

As a result of the pandemic, nearly seven in 10 retailers have relaxed returns policies or considered relaxations. Clearly, coronavirus has forced us all to reimagine every aspect of retail — returns are no exception.

This is why UPS, long a pioneer in the smart management of returns, is now broadening its portfolio with a literal outside-the-box solution: no-box, no-label returns.

Any consumer with a return going to a participating merchant can simply walk into The UPS Store with an applicable return — apparel, footwear, accessories and non-fragile items — and drop it off at the counter. UPS handles the rest.

It’s that simple for merchants to accelerate sales by removing major friction points and barriers from the returns process for consumers.

What’s more, this offering aligns with evolving consumer expectations: No wasted time, minimal personal contact.

With new and different ways to buy online, we need equally creative ways to make returns. In an age where everything is digital, UPS makes it simple for consumers to handle the process from their smartphones.

What’s in it for merchants? Expect a better customer experience (with improved Net Promoter Scores, fewer service calls and happier consumers) and greater visibility into returns, which will bolster planning, storage and even savings.

A glimpse into the future

Let’s take a look into the returns experience of the future:

Your customer gets a mobile (QR) code from the retailer receiving the return. The shopper then drops by The UPS Store — with more than 4,900 locations, it’s a 10-minute drive for 85 percent of the U.S. population.

Store staff places the return into a polybag, then UPS ships it to the retailer’s warehouse. Your customer quickly exits with return confirmation and a refund credit.

The no-box, no-label solution also addresses another growing concern among consumers — sustainability. This new era of returns will, of course, reduce cardboard waste. Emissions could also decline, as consumers eliminate long drives to stores to return purchases.

UPS has always blazed trails in the science and practice of returns. National Returns Day set the bar for showcasing how returns create loyalty, drive repeat sales and reinvent the customer experience.

A boxless option that helps businesses accelerate e-commerce sales while satisfying consumer needs marks another important returns evolution. It won’t be the last. UPS already has new concepts in trial and on the drawing board.

But rest assured that UPS no-box, no-label returns sets today’s modern standard — and will fuel our innovations of tomorrow.

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Longitudes explores and navigates the trends reshaping the global economy and the way we’ll live in the world of tomorrow: logistics, technology, e-commerce, trade and sustainability. Which path will you take?

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