Returns have become more streamlined, which is a great development for both online shoppers and ecommerce stores, but one part is still causing a hiccup: shipping labels. Many consumers no longer keep a printer in the house, which means that it is a considerable inconvenience to print shipping labels. That’s why USPS is changing the game with their USPS Label Broker system.

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By allowing consumers to generate a USPS QR code on their phone, USPS is simplifying the shipping process for shoppers and letting post offices handle the logistics.

In this blog, we will cover:

  • Why existing returns shipping is restrictive
  • How to use the USPS Label Broker service
  • The sustainability angle & what this means for ecommerce merchants

Let’s start by looking at the limitations of many current return shipping services.

Why existing returns shipping is restrictive

The traditional way to process an ecommerce return was to use the paper form included with the delivered package, which often included a prepaid shipping label. This made it easy for customers to simply adhere the label to their package and organize delivery, but merchants quickly realized this was both expensive and bad for the environment.

Printing unnecessary shipping labels is a waste of resources. Even with high return rates, shoppers don’t use at least half of those labels. On top of that, the prepaid element meant they were losing money on every unused label. For small businesses especially, this wasn’t sustainable by any definition.

To avoid this, many merchants now ask their customers to print a shipping label when they initiate a return. This ensures that labels only generate when necessary, which is good for resource management—but this adds a task for shoppers, many of whom no longer own printers at home. The hassle of finding a local printing service can turn a regular return into a major headache.

One thing that nearly all customers do have, though, is a mobile phone. This is where the USPS Label Broker QR code solution comes in.

USPS qr code

How to use the USPS label broker service

USPS works directly with merchants on their label broker solution, so that each retailer can set themselves up in the system to safely store either prepaid or postage guaranteed labels. This means that the customer doesn’t need to worry about where the package must ship or whether to pay for shipping options like first class or priority mail. Everything is already preset.

Merchants can also use any discount bulk shipping rates or competitive pricing that they’ve secured, within the USPS label broker program. If they partner with a returns management solution like Loop, retailers can still leverage this integration while taking advantage of the USPS program; nothing needs to change about their returns service, except a more convenient way to access shipping labels.

When a customer initiates a return, they get a unique Label Broker ID, which the merchant can share via text or email for maximum convenience. This unique ID takes the form of a QR code, which a USPS retail associate can easily scan at any USPS location. Any kind of mobile phone is compatible with these codes, so it doesn’t matter if the shopper is using the mobile app on an Android or iOS device. For those customers who do have a printer at home, there is also the option to go to and print their own label themselves, if they prefer.

The customer then just needs to drop off their package with the U.S. postal service, at which point they will scan the barcode, print the label and get the package ready to ship. This allows the shopper to get on with their day, without driving all over town to find a participating post office or provider.

The sustainability angle: What it means for merchants

Printing returns labels for every single shipment is a waste of resources. Consumers are increasingly concerned about sustainability, and this means that merchants would be wise to demonstrate their investment into eco-friendly practices. While ecommerce is not always the most sustainable choice, consumers value when retailers make the effort to invest in sustainability.

This is where the USPS QR code service can be really beneficial, both for the planet and for retailers’ reputation. Not only do the QR codes eliminate the need for unnecessary shipping labels, but they ask customers to drop off their parcels with the postal service, rather than scheduling an individual courier pickup. This enables USPS to combine their packages into the most efficient bulk shipments, reducing carbon emissions without delaying their delivery. This is particularly helpful for international shipping, which is sometimes criticized for its impact on the environment.

Often, making the sustainable choice means taking a hit on the bottom line, but not in this case. Not only that, but merchants can tell their shoppers that they’re not only making their returns service greener, but also more convenient. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Learn how to integrate USPS returns with a streamlined returns management solution. Sign up for a Loop demo.