UPS Saturday delivery program.

A double-digit increase in online sales this holiday season is also expected to increase the number of returns, according to UPS, which said it is forecasting 1.3 million package returns for its “National Returns Day” on Thursday, Jan. 5.

This compares to 1 million packages returned last year by the carrier. Despite the large number of returns, the company said retailers are providing a better overall shopping experience and note that recent consumer surveys have shown the positive impact of these efforts.

For the week of Jan. 2, UPS said it expects to handle more than 5.8 million returns. In a statement today, Teresa Finley, chief marketing officer for UPS, said online shoppers “want the same level of choice, control and convenience making their returns as they do making their purchases.”

“UPS helps retailers provide shoppers with a satisfying returns experience while managing rising returns volume and the complexities of providing a seamless omnichannel shopping experience,” Finley added. Citing its own Pulse of the Online Shopper study, UPS said that online shoppers “are seeing the improvements that retailers have made to returns programs over the last five years.”

The report noted that between 2012 and 2016, “consumers consistently reported fewer issues paying for returns shipping (decreasing from 66 percent to 50 percent), paying restocking fees (decreasing from 43 percent to 27 percent), and experiencing a delay in receiving credits or refunds (decreasing from 41 percent to 27 percent).”

Finley said that while returns can’t be eliminated, “an easy-to-use returns experience should be one of several retail strategies to enhance customer loyalty and manage the cost of returns processing.” Returns can also trigger additional purchases. Finley said according to the UPS study, “70 percent of online shoppers made an additional purchase when they returned an item to a store and 45 percent made an additional purchase when processing their return on the retailer’s web site.”

UPS said the returns process resonates best with shoppers when it is simple, which means that is starts by including the “necessary returns paperwork or instructions for the customer to effortlessly complete the transaction.”

The study also found that online shoppers report the best returns experience when it includes free return shipping, hassle-free return policies and timely refunds, among other factors.

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