Amazon Aims to Ease eCommerce Headaches With Box-Free Returns

Amazon hopes to add more convenience for its eCommerce customers by offering box-free returns.

“We understand that finding a box and tape, and printing a label for a return can still be a hassle,” the company said in a news release Thursday (Dec. 29). “Now, most Amazon returns are easier than ever with no box required. After getting a QR code from the Amazon Return Center, items can simply be handed to an associate without a box or label, and they will pack and ship it for free.”

The news comes at the close of a year that has seen the eCommerce giant’s stock price drop by 50%, and at a time when consumers are returning less merchandise than they purchase online.

Amazon said in the release customers can return eligible products at its physical stores across the United States.

Customers can walk in, show their QR code, and hand the product off to a staff member. The service is also available at AmazonFresh Pickup and Amazon Hub Locker+ locations “but customers will need to bring their items in a box or box it up using the provided materials,” the release stated.

The program is also available at select 1,150 Kohl’s stores, select Whole Foods markets and nearly 5,000 UPS Store locations around the country, according to the release.

“Most items fulfilled by Amazon will qualify for a free return option,” Amazon said in the release. “For customers who prefer to choose a packaged drop-off option, that choice will remain in addition to other options, some which may require a fee. All return options will be clearly shown in the Returns Center to ensure customers can select the available option that best suits their needs.”

Amazon will begin 2023 around half as large as it was a year ago, seeing an all-time high in 2021 and a three-year low in 2022.

“While the staggering $900 billion, 50% contraction in Amazon’s stock over the past 12 months is its first negative annual return since 2014, and its largest percentage drop since falling 79% during the dot-com bubble pop in 2000, the path to its present trough has been strewn with efforts and innovations aimed at righting the ship and restoring investor confidence,” according to PYMNTS.

This week also saw reports that the online merchandise return rate is projected to fall from 20.8% in 2021 to 16.5% in 2022. According to the National Retail Federation and Appriss Retail, that makes this the first year in which the online return rate is equal to the overall merchandise return rate.

The overall merchandise return rate — which includes online and brick-and-mortar sales — is also expected to be 16.5% in 2022. That’s about the same as the 16.6% return rate marked in 2021, even though retail sales are expected to climb between 6% and 8% year over year.

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