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UPS Announces New Services for Small Businesses

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  • Touting them as a continuation of its "aggressive rollout of innovative new services and solutions" aimed at helping customers, UPS has unveiled several new additions to its services.
  • The additions and upgrades are part of the company's plan to "speed time-in-transit and increase network capacity."
  • A drone delivery system named UPS Flight Forward is expanding to the University of California at San Diego and autonomous ground shuttle services will be tested in Arizona.

Small businesses that use UPS to ship their goods around the country have some new shipping features at their disposal, as the major shipping company unveiled several new initiatives that officials say will expand and modernize the service.

UPS Chairman and CEO David Abney said this latest batch of new features, described as a part of the company's concerted effort to "provide superior visibility, control, convenience and customer value versus competitor solutions," builds on last year's innovation.

"In 2019, UPS launched more new services and operational innovations than in any year in the company's recent history," he said. "We are demonstrating further bold action in 2020 as we embrace market trends, invest for growth, partner for added reach and develop unique capabilities using next-generation technologies."

While many of today's announcements deal with the company's overall capacity to ship products throughout the world, some new additions directly address the needs of small and medium-sized businesses. [Read related article: A Small Business Guide to E-Commerce Shipping]

When it comes to shipping items to residential addresses, the general rule of thumb has long been that Saturdays are slower and Sundays are a complete no-go in terms of deliveries. Starting this year, UPS is joining its direct competitor FedEx in enhancing its weekend network and pushing Sunday deliveries.

The company plans to double its Saturday and Sunday delivery volume this year. By doing so, UPS expects to reach "an additional 40 million U.S. consumers." UPS officials expect the company will meet consumer demands of having "Saturday and Sunday deliveries completed within one to three days from order placement," which falls in line with a recent industry study.

With this expansion of service, the company estimates that residential packages that would normally have made it to their destination on a following Tuesday would make it on Sunday. UPS also says it will be the "only integrated carrier providing Saturday pickup service for all service levels." As a result of the expansion, UPS Ground and UPS 3 Day Select "destined for the surrounding region" will come one day earlier for Monday delivery. Sunday pickup will be available by contract.

"Demand for faster delivery is a growing trend with the largest e-commerce shippers moving from two-day to one-day delivery," said Kevin Warren, UPS' chief marketing officer. "Our network enhancements and weekend services give our customers industry-leading choice, convenience and speed to market."

Along with its push into weekend delivery, UPS is adding to its extended hours initiative. Under the new plan, late-night pickup and local next-day ground delivery within 150 miles will expand from 85% of the U.S. population to 98%. This service is also available to "qualifying shippers" by contract.

Since e-commerce orders generally increase at night, UPS feels the extended hours service gives small businesses the opportunity to extend their shipping and handling timeframes.

"We're helping more B2B and B2C e-commerce shippers meet faster delivery expectations by giving them more time to fulfill customer orders," said Warren. "We will continue utilizing our vast delivery network more efficiently to give shippers the most coverage and faster delivery solutions, which reinforces our position as the provider of choice for e-commerce merchants." [Read related article: Shipping Rules and Regulations Your Small Business Might Be Violating]

The addition of approximately 1,500 Package Express Centers to UPS' network of pickup and shipping locations was included in today's announcements. This addition brings the company's total locations to more than 22,000 in the U.S. and 41,000 globally.

UPS officials touted the company's collaboration with Package Express Centers as a way to give small businesses a chance to compete in a larger service area – especially in rural cities and towns throughout the country.

"We are extending the reach of our UPS Access Point network into rural and super-rural locations, areas that have been underserved in the e-commerce era, which don't always have access to full-service shipping services," Warren said. "This collaboration will give these consumers much-needed choice, control, and convenience over their package deliveries and merchandise returns."

While Package Express Centers have provided UPS shipping services to small-town businesses for more than three decades, president Stephanie Hopson said the company has been testing the expansion of service at 50 locations in recent months.

"In some of these towns, anyone waiting on a package or needing to return a parcel will often feel out of luck and out of place due to a lack of options," she said. "We are excited to bring this UPS service enhancement to our network of businesses across the nation's heartland. This new UPS Access Point rollout will assist retailers, their communities and UPS customers by making their lives more convenient.

For small businesses that conduct their transactions through Square, UPS announced a collaborative effort with the popular e-commerce platform that will provide special perks to those businesses.

As part of UPS's Digital Access Program, this partnership will provide an easy way for small and midsized businesses to "grow their business with a professional e-commerce website and integrated tools." Along with easy access to shipping solutions that have been integrated into their payment solution, UPS officials said those same users will receive discounts of up to 55% for the shipping company's daily rates.

"UPS understands that making shipping seamless for small businesses is an essential ingredient to success and to growth," Warren said. "This collaboration gives Square's customers simple and affordable access to UPS's top-tier shipping services within the same familiar platform they're already using."

While many of today's announcements deal with making the lives of business owners easier when it comes to shipping, some ventured into the high-tech realm.

Some of the following upgrades may not have an immediate impact on small businesses, but UPS  believes their investment into these initiatives is worth including in a huge day of reveals.

  • UPS is adding more than 5 million square feet of automated sortation, as well as a $1.4 billion investment in Pennsylvania UPS locations.
  • My Choice for Business will expand to 30 countries and territories this year.
  • An international knowledgebase is being added to UPS.com in an effort to simplify cross-border shipping.
  • Continuous route optimization efforts using the latest version of ORION will reportedly save miles and fuel.
  • UPS Flight Forward, the company's drone delivery service, will expand to the University of California at San Diego hospital network.
  • Flight Forward is also partnering with Henry Schein to collaborate on "Drone Campus Delivery Programs."
  • UPS is planning an equity investment into electric vehicle manufacturer Arrival by committing to purchase 10,000 of its delivery vehicles.
  • This year, UPS is teaming up with Waymo to test autonomous ground shuttle services in Arizona.
Andrew Martins

Andrew Martins is an award-winning journalist with a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Ramapo College of New Jersey. Before joining business.com and Business News Daily, he wrote for a regional publication and served as the managing editor for six weekly papers that spanned four counties. Currently, he is responsible for reviewing tax software and online fax services. He is a New Jersey native and a first-generation Portuguese American, and he has a penchant for the nerdy.