This year could mark the end of National Returns Day. But that’s not a bad thing.
UPS predicts a 23% increase in returns this week when compared to the holiday season a year ago, marking the eighth year in a row with a record increase. There’s one big difference, however: UPS expects holiday gift return packages to be evenly distributed throughout the week, creating the first National Returns Week, instead of a single day.
“No matter how you look at it, returns are a growing and important part of e-commerce. In the last 10 years, returns have tripled and UPS has been leading the technology and logistics every step of the way,” said UPS Chief Marketing Officer Kevin Warren. “We take returns seriously at UPS because it’s serious business. We’ve even built dedicated services that are focused squarely on the returns experience.”
This year, UPS expects a record-setting returns week, five back-to-back days of near record returns. The week of Jan. 4, UPS anticipates 1.75 million returns are expected to be entered into its system each day, for a record-setting total of 8.75 million return packages. That’s a 23% increase compared to the highest return volume week in the 2019-2020 holiday season.
The altered pattern is driven primarily by the acceleration of e-commerce adoption, with full year 2020 forecasts shattering expectations as more customers stayed indoors and turned to e-commerce due to the pandemic.
According to research conducted by Optoro, before the pandemic, 66% of consumers preferred to return goods to stores and 34% via a shipper. But by October, the number of consumers returning online purchases via a shipper had increased to 60%.
“With the rise of e-commerce, returns are becoming a more consequential factor in a consumer's decision about where to spend their dollars, and we're seeing more consumers checking return policies and options before they even make a purchase,” said Tobin Moore, co-founder and CEO of Optoro, a returns solution that helps retailers process and manage returned and excess inventory.
But, for UPS, it’s not just about sheer volume – it’s about the consumer and business experience with returns. Research from the company’s UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study shows that nearly 3/4 of shoppers surveyed said the overall returns experience impacts their likelihood to purchase from a retailer again.
“We take returns seriously at UPS because it’s serious business,” UPS CMO Kevin Warren said. “We’ve even built dedicated services that are focused squarely on the returns experience.”
It’s all about making the return experience simpler and more efficient. For both business customers and consumers this includes:
- Digital Returns – UPS has recently begun offering merchants an option that allows consumers to return their purchases via about 5,000 UPS Store locations by showing a QR code on their mobile devices.
- Consolidated Returns – Select merchants are offered the ability to accept consumer returns without packaging. This makes the process more streamlined and easier for both consumers and retailers.
- UPS Returns® Exchange —With this option, a driver simultaneously picks up the return item in exchange for the replacement item delivery.
- UPS Returns® Plus – This allows the merchant to send a driver to deliver a return label and pick up the return package from any address.
- UPS Printed Labels – Merchants can include a printed return label right in the box. They also have the option to allow their customers to receive an emailed return label directly from UPS.
Consumers can rely on UPS for choice, control, convenience and flexibility in the returns process:
- UPS offers 20,000 UPS Access Point Locations that will accept returns. This is including 5,000 The UPS Store locations, as well as thousands of Michaels, Advance Auto Parts and CVS retail locations.
- Consumers have control and visibility over their returns by using an electronic portal, UPS Returns Manager, making the process convenient.
To be sure, returns will likely extend beyond the week of January 4.
According to a survey conducted by Ware2Go, UPS’s on-demand fulfillment and warehouse company, more than 90% of Americans surveyed plan to do post-holiday shopping online.
Shipping carriers like UPS anticipated elevated peak volumes this holiday season, and, with the post-holiday shopping season following, we can expect to see those volumes push well into January,” said Ware2Go CEO Steve Denton.
By the numbers…
- UPS will experience a record-setting returns week, five back-to-back days of near record returns. The week of January 4, UPS anticipates 1.75 million returns packages will be entered into its system each day, for a record setting total of 8.75 million returns.
- Returns are expected to soar 23% from the 2019-20 holiday season peak week.
- The 2019-2020 holiday season was the first year UPS experienced multiple high volume returns weeks. This largest week occurred prior to Christmas, with 1.6 million returns processed each day.
- The largest-ever single returns day – a 24-hour period of returns entering the UPS system – was January 2, 2020, with 1.9 million returns.