Returns drop-off: It’s about the journey, not the destination

When it comes to returns drop-off locations, consumers value shorter distances over brand loyalty.

Surprise, surprise—online returns are continuing their growth in 2024. While holiday ecommerce spending topped $221 billion in 2023, online retailers are bracing for an estimated $82.1 billion worth of that merchandise to come back to them this peak season.

We’re starting off the year with a refreshed look at where consumers prefer to go to send back ill-fitting sweatshirts, unwanted gadgets, and matching pajama sets.

Return drop-off locations, ranked

Key takeaways:

  • Consumers’ stated drop-off location preferences have barely changed during the past few years. Pandemic or not, we still see a dead heat between UPS and the post office for the #1 spot.
  • Retail locations experienced a slight decline in popularity, whereas parcel lockers saw a modest increase in their ranking. Like the post office and UPS, FedEx's ranking remained largely unaffected.

Given the lack of movement between the post office and UPS for first place, we decided to settle the tie with a round of tie-breaker questions focused on distance.

Breaking the postal/UPS tie

Key takeaways:

  • When we introduced distance into the equation, it became obvious that consumer preference correlates much more closely with distance than brand loyalty.
  • This is hardly a shock, as one of predominant themes that has emerged from BOXpoll consumer surveys in the post-pandemic years has been convenience. Online shoppers are increasingly busy, and their ecommerce decisions consistently tie back to saving time and effort. (Saving 10-20 minutes round trip? Great. Avoiding running the errand at all by scheduling a pickup? Even better.)
  • With 34,000+ postal locations nationwide—significantly more than any other returns provider—it’s highly likely that most consumers have a post office nearby.

BOXpollTM by Pitney Bowes, a weekly consumer survey on current events, culture, and ecommerce logistics. Conducted by Pitney Bowes with Morning Consult // 2200 US consumers surveyed December 2023. © Copyright Pitney Bowes Inc.