UPS Testing Customer Pickup in New York and Chicago

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By Mike O’Brien | Multichannel Merchant

UPS announced this week it launched a trial program in mid-July that allows consumers to pick up parcels from 172 retail locations in Chicago and New York. The company hopes the program will be as successful as its European pickup operations, and do better here than tests of the model by companies like Amazon and Walmart.

While the customer pickup program initially just involves physical handoff of parcels at retail stores, UPS in October will test out pickup lockers at select locations in Chicago, where customers will be given a PIN to retrieve their package.

The program, called UPS Access Point, follows a model used successfully by UPS in Europe since 2012 through its acquisition of Belgian company Kiala. That program started in Spain, France and the Benelux countries and subsequently expanded to the UK and Germany; there are now more than 12,000 UPS Access Point locations in Europe.

In January, the U.S. program will be expanded to include the 4,400 UPS stores as pickup sites.

A pickup location program addresses the perennial issue of security for items left off at inconvenient

times when customers aren’t around to receive them. But time will tell if it’s embraced as enthusiastically in the U.S. as it has been in Europe. Amazon in June announced “click and collect” locker stations at two subway locations in London, joining several other retailers, while eBay this  month is expanding the service to 650 Argos department stores in the UK.

Using UPS Access Point, a driver leaves a note directing a customer to a nearby pickup location after an unsuccessful delivery, and the customer just needs to present a valid ID to get their package. Starting in 2015, they can request direct shipment to a nearby Access Point when ordering an item online, provided the merchant has enabled the service, or drop off a package for shipment if it has a UPS label.

The UPS Access Point locations in New York and Chicago are at places like supermarkets and convenience stores that open early, close late and are open on weekends. In Chicago, they’re located on the north side, in western neighborhoods and near suburbs, while in New York they’re in The Bronx and now expanding into Brooklyn.

Those using the UPS My Choice service, which has 10 million members, can use it to direct a shipment to a pickup location and get delivery notices via text or email. There will also be a UPS Access Point option prominently displayed on the company’s website.

Beginning in 2015, UPS My Choice members will be able to go online and have a delivery rerouted to a UPS Access Point location. The pay-to-reroute option is available today for a fee to UPS My Choice members who use the free version of the service; premium members can get unlimited reroutes and rescheduling for $40 a year.

If the tests go well, the company hopes to go broader domestically with the offering in 2015 and also include Canada.

“The key to this whole thing is creating ease of use and convenience for our customers,” said Alan Gershenhorn, chief commercial officer for UPS. He noted how 26% of consumers want delivery options beyond their residence, according to a comScore study commissioned by UPS that was released in June.