For the 100 retailers that allow shoppers to make a return at the physical Happy Returns stations, their customers now have more than 2,500 locations to make an in-person return.

Return service vendor Happy Returns announced today that shipping service provider FedEx Inc. will now accept returns from retailers in the Happy Returns network at most of its locations. The expansion to more than 2,000 FedEx locations increases the number of Happy Returns kiosks, called Return Bars, by 400%, up from the initial 500 locations. The FedEx shops will have the service available by the end of October.

When a shopper goes to make a return from a merchant, she receives a QR code and instructions on where she can drop off her return. She goes into that physical location, either a FedEx store or another retailer with a Return Bar, and looks for the Happy Returns sign. A store employee scans the QR code and takes the unboxed product from the shopper. The return takes less than a minute, and the shopper receives her refund immediately, the vendor says. FedEx then ships back all of the Happy Returns products to one of the vendors’ two regional processing hubs, where the returned products are then redistributed back to the retailer.

More than 2,000 FedEx locations will now accept returns via Happy Returns.

More than 2,000 FedEx locations will now accept returns via Happy Returns.

Currently, “dozens” of retailers house Happy Returns’ Return Bars, such as Cost Plus World Market and Paper Source, as well as mall operators Simon Property Group and West Field Group, Happy Returns CEO and co-founder David Sobie says without revealing an exact number of retailers. The benefit for these merchants is increased foot traffic, as a consumer may go into a location to make a return and then browse the shop.

FedEx, however, is not a retailer looking to increase foot traffic. But offering the service will get consumers more familiar with FedEx and its brand, says Ryan Kelly, vice president of global ecommerce marketing at FedEx.

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“We feel that by working together with Happy Returns, we can help make the returns experience better,” Kelly says. “Additionally, consumers will be getting more acquainted with making returns through FedEx Office.”

About 100 retailers use Happy Returns as their return service vendor, including Revolve Group Inc. (No. 99 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Top 1000), Rothy’s (No. 196), Everlane Inc. (No. 259), Jaanuu Inc. (No. 617), Huckberry (No. 1633 in the 2020 Digital Commerce 360 Next 1000), American Giant (No. 1245), Public Recreation, Mack Weldon (No. 1096), Betabrand Inc. (No. 669) and Steve Madden Ltd. (No. 545).

A shopper shows a QR to make a return at a location that accepts Happy Returns.

A shopper shows a QR to make a return at a location that accepts Happy Returns.

Brands that don’t operate stores, or have a small store foot print, benefit from using vendors that offer return-in-store services because it provides a physical location where shoppers can make a return for free without having to print a label and re-package the product. In a Digital Commerce 360 and Bizrate Insights survey of 1,052 online shoppers in March, 19% of shoppers say they find it frustrating when they can’t return an online purchase to a store. The top concern, at 52%, was having to pay for return shipping.

In a Digital Commerce 360 real-world shipping test of 56 online orders from 46 retailers in July 2020, 67.3% of the orders offered free return shipping. Read more about the results in the 2020 Click, Ship & Return Report.

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In previous interviews, retailers have noticed other benefits of using Happy Returns. Shoe brand Rothy’s says allowing shoppers to make returns via Happy Returns reduced its returns rate and increased shopper conversion and lifetime value, says Heather Howard, vice president of operations and people, without revealing specific figures. Easy returns also help with customer retention, and repeat customers return less because they know their size and what their fit is, Howard says. And so, it’s all about ensuring that the first-time customer knows that returns are easy and hoping to build their loyalty over time, she says.

Plus, since Rothy’s started using the returns bar service in 2018, shoppers calling into its customer service center asking where their return refund has “significantly” decreased to almost none now, Howard says. The retailer has not reduced the number of call center employees, but it has not needed to hire more staff as sales continue to increase for Rothy’s, Howard says.

In anticipation of increased returns this holiday season, other merchants are looking to expand their returns services. Consumers are expected to return $280 billion worth of global ecommerce orders—30% of all purchases made during the season—predicts ecommerce software provider Salesforce.com Inc.

Staples Inc. recently announced that it is going to accept returns from other merchants in a program similar to Happy Returns, but with returns service Optoro Inc.

Craig Grayson, vice president of print and marketing services at Staples (No. 8),  hopes the added services will attract more and new consumers into its stores, but it is not looking for an exact increase. It’s first focusing on offering the additional service to shoppers instead of focusing on the “short-term additional transaction,” he says about incremental purchases.

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“Will those customers, likely at some point, drop the item off and shop the rest of the store? Absolutely. If that happens, then that’s fantastic,” Grayson says.

In case you missed it, please tune in to our October 27th webinar broadcast  – Turn your return policy into sales growth, with Don Davis, Editor-at-Large, Digital Commerce 360 and Ryan Kelly, VP Global E-Commerce Marketing, FedEx for a 30-minute lively discussion on the latest returns challenges and solutions.

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