FedEx and Walgreens are partnering to make online returns more convenient, in a move that’s part of a growing trend where brick-and-mortar retailers cater to the needs of e-commerce shoppers in order to increase foot traffic at their stores. Under the new agreement, consumers will be able to drop off their online returns at thousands of Walgreens locations nationwide. They’ll also be able to print their return shipping label in the store, if need be.
The partnership involves the use of the FedEx Returns Technology platform, which allows online vendors and retailers to send customers a return code via email. The customer can then take that code to the participating Walgreens location to get their label printed for them.
FedEx says it’s providing the printing equipment, related technology and training materials to the Walgreens locations. However existing Walgreens store staff will be the ones who actually do the printing — not FedEx employees.
The new partnership is an expansion of an existing relationship between the two companies. In 2017, Walgreens announced a long-term alliance with FedEx to offer drop-off and pickup services at its U.S. stores. However, it did not actually assist with label printing — the packages would need to be ready to ship.
The new partnership addresses what remains one of the biggest challenges associated with shopping online. Many customers don’t have access to a working printer, or are out of ink or paper, which makes printing a return label a hassle. And studies have shown that consumers prefer to take their online returns to a store, rather than shipping them back themselves. In fact, as many as 75% of U.S. internet users said they would prefer that course of action, according to a study cited by eMarketer.
Brick-and-mortar retailers have been quick to capitalize on this trend to meet their own needs in terms of boosting foot traffic at a time when more of their customers are shopping from home.
Kohl’s, for example, recently expanded its partnership with Amazon, which allows customers to bring their returns to its retail stores across the U.S., after the program boosted revenue from the increased customer visits. Stein Mart also this year embraced the enemy with the installation of Amazon Lockers in nearly 200 stores. And, of course, major retailers accept their own online returns in their stores. Walmart also rolled out in-store returns for marketplace items last year.
“Our service offering with FedEx has been very well received by our customers, and implementing this latest technology in our stores will deliver even greater convenience to meet the needs of today’s customer,” said Richard Ashworth, president of operations at Walgreens, in a statement. “This is especially meaningful heading into the holiday season as more customers shop for gifts online and we’re able to offer safe, secure package pickup and drop-off services.”
Deal terms were not disclosed.
The move comes shortly after FedEx exited its ground and express delivery contracts with Amazon in order to focus on the wide range of e-commerce opportunities outside of the dominant online retailer, as well as the opportunity to serve international e-commerce retailers, it said at the time.
The new offering will begin rolling out in early November, ahead of the peak holiday shopping season.