UPS is piloting a new returns service with a few pre-selected retailers that allows consumers to return items shipped via UPS by placing them in their own mailboxes for pickup by the U.S. Postal Service® (USPS).
Known as UPS Returns® Flexible Access, the offering uses the USPS Parcel Return Service® combined with UPS's own delivery network to allow retailers to provide their customers with increased convenience in returning items. Consumers in the pilot program receive special package labels that allow them to leave a UPS Returns® package in their own mailbox or other location for their postal carrier to pick up. They also can drop the package off at their local Post Office™ or in postal collection boxes.
Once a returns package arrives at the local post office, a UPS driver picks it up and transports the package back to the retailer via the UPS ground network.
The combination of USPS options with the traditional UPS access channels - The UPS Store®,UPS drop boxes, UPS customer centers, third-party retailers (Office Depot, Staples, Authorized Shipping Outlets) and UPS drivers - creates the most extensive network of package pickup options available to the consumer today.
"This is a potential game-changer for consumer-to-business returns," said John Sutthoff, UPS vice president of global marketing and supply chain strategy. "UPS already offers the industry's most extensive returns portfolio and adding the unmatched convenience of allowing consumers to use the U.S. Postal Service's more than 160 million access points - including their own homes - creates an unparalleled returns service."
Among retailers participating in the pilot is Buy Seasons, Inc., the world's largest retailer and supplier of costumes, accessories, seasonal décor and party supplies on the Internet. The pilot is expected to last about five months. UPS will work closely with the pilot customers and the USPSto determine when and if the service will be made available to other retailers on a more widespread basis.
"Working with UPS on this extension of Parcel Return Service brings together the best of both companies, leveraging the Postal Service's unparalleled reach to every address in the United States," said Jim Cochrane, vice president of Ground Shipping for the Postal Service. "The added value of high visibility and the convenience of the most extensive network of drop-off and pick-up options available in the consumer market today make this service unbeatable."
According to a study by Forrester Consulting commissioned by UPS, online retailers with generous returns policies have a competitive advantage over those retailers who install "gates" in their process. The study found that companies with more generous policies, in the long term, have the ability to grow sales, generate loyalty and drive incremental revenue for retailers with a web presence. In fact, 81 percent of consumers contacted for the study agreed with the statement, 'If an online retailer makes it easier for me to return a product, I am more likely to buy from that retailer.'
UPS's current returns portfolio offers shippers several advantages to meet their specific requirements, including:

  • The industry's most extensive returns label generation and delivery options. Last year, the company introduced international UPS Returns, allowing customers to efficiently return purchased items from 98 countries or territories around the globe. The service is available within the UPS Shipping Tool, an application program interface (API) that enables customers to integrate them into their own Web sites and enterprise applications.
  • Better time-in-transit than traditional returns consolidators.
  • A consistent, reliable transportation network.
  • Visibility and tracking of in-transit returns for both the retailer and end-customer.

The new returns service is not the first example of UPS working with the USPS for the benefit of mutual business customers. Since 2001, UPS Mail Innovations has helped companies more efficiently and effectively move mail while achieving the maximum postage savings possible.