December 1, 2005, 12:00 AM

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Offering a returns service is part of APX Logistics` efforts to diversify its products. Its latest initiative in that regard is a hold-for-pick-up service in which the product is delivered to a local Post Office for pick-up by the customer. APX notifies the customer that the package is awaiting pickup and the customer has 10 days to claim it before it goes back to the retailer. It started testing the service in October with a consumer electronics company before rolling it out.

Among the additional services that DHL offers are arrangements with post offices around the world. "We have relationships with the postal services in 220 countries; that`s a huge differentiating factor for us," Marinkovich says. That`s especially important as online retailers become more sophisticated about selling and want to tap into the global market. "We can assist them in delivery around the world," he says.

Deciding which service to use depends on a number of factors, Marinkovich says--and they`re not related just to size. Among the considerations first of all are those related to the company`s operations, such as size of IT department and ability of staffers to implement shipping-related technology, company infrastructure for dealing with shipping and shipping-related, customer service issues and profitability. When considering shipping options, retailers should also examine the number of WIZMO calls they receive, the number of orders that need to be refilled due to bad addresses and then what those factors mean in terms of customer retention and loyalty. "Their focus should be to maximize the customer experience," he says.

That`s true of all online retailing initiatives, but especially of the last-mile efforts, where lack of direct control doesn`t have to mean a diminishment of the customer experience.

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