It's been an interesting couple of weeks as industry giants Amazon and UPS both introduced new return shipping tools and policies that will have a big impact on merchants. Every type of shipper will want to watch these moves closely, especially consumer products and ecommerce businesses.
On the Amazon front, a new policy takes effect October 2nd which "automatically authorizes" returns for customers receiving orders through the fulfilled by seller shipping program. Almost as if on cue, UPS also announced a streamlined return shipping process this week to help customers easily print prepaid return labels.
It's well-established that customer demand is at the heart of these changes, shoppers buy more products when they have confidence in a free and simple return process. But how can vendors, worried about a loss of control, get in position to at least manage the impact of these policy changes, or better yet, find the upside?
UPS launching easier self-service shipping returns
UPS announced an August 14th launch date for their new returns management service, which rolls out first in the United States. Starting August 28th, the new service will become available in 43 additional countries.
The new return shipping process will use an updated UPS tracking page and email confirmations to allow customers to easily create return shipping labels, making the process simpler, and reducing the need for merchants to include preprinted return shipping labels in outbound deliveries. Customers will also have the option to print return labels at UPS stores for no additional cost.
Amazon returnless refunds and self-service returns
Amazon recently announced a policy change for seller-fulfilled shipments to allow easier customer return shipping, including online label printing and automatic refunds. This process has already been in place for orders fulfilled by Amazon, the big change here is that merchants will now follow the same rules.
Customers will be able to instantly print a prepaid return shipping label and, in some instances, receive "returnless refunds." The email policy change sent to merchants touted the benefits of the new program, including increased customer sales and improved customer loyalty rates.
Sales and loyalty improve with free and easy returns
There's plenty of research suggesting that easier returns do indeed significantly boost online sales. Online customers are also more loyal to vendors who offer free returns and sales can fall 74% or more for vendors who don't offer free return shipping.
But, on the flip side, the new policy has some businesses concerned about a flood of unmanaged returns, the lack of opportunity for merchants to intervene and help resolve customer issues before a return, or even the possibility of fraudulent returns.
Review your shipping policies, processes, tools
For merchants, there are a few ways you can prepare your operations for the new return shipping processes more effectively--or even to get in a position to benefit.
For starters, review your return policies and update your online statements to customers. Consider whether you'll continue to require customers to obtain an RMA before a return, for example, or if you'll simply accept the return, and update your published dates and terms to reflect your intent.
If you're not already using it, consider the Pacejet shipping integration with Amazon for seller fulfilled Prime orders. Faster, more predictable, and more efficient outbound deliveries can reduce returns and lower your costs to help offset any increased costs when returns do occur.
Consider whether you want to offer prepaid, preprinted return labels in your outbound shipments. Pacejet carriers like UPS, FedEx, and others offer this service, but you may no longer need it if customers can simply print return labels when needed.
Discuss your ideas with Pacejet, we're listening
Feel free to reach out to Pacejet to discuss the impact of returns shipping on your business and help us understand ways we can help.
For example, Pacejet has been considering offering a new branded tracking page for our shippers to use with their customers--allowing you to provide easy online tracking, support return shipping, but also control the customer experience to perhaps avoid a return. Let us know if a service like that would be valuable to your business!
Just use the contact us button below or our firstname.lastname@example.org email address. Good luck with the new changes, it's never a dull moment in shipping these days.
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