Providing delivery and parcel tracking information is important to the vast majority of customers, according to the IMRG UK Consumer Home Delivery Review 2013.
There are two ways that online retailers can proactively anticipate their customer’s need for information, clarity and certainty about their delivery… without a call to customer services:
- Provide the a tracking link information about how to access tracking information on the despatch email
- Offer a ‘Track your delivery’ facility in the self-service screen in My Account
The dispatch confirmation email is the first step in delivery, as this is when the customer finds out that their package has been despatched, and the actual carrier or courier that is being used for delivery.
To be effective, the dispatch email must provide the following pieces of information to help with parcel tracking:
- Dispatch date: the date when it was shipped
- Expected delivery date
- Carrier/delivery method
- Tracking number for the delivery
- Instruction as to how to find the tracking information for the parcel
Online delivery tracking
With technology of carriers and retailers much more flexible now there are a few possible options to help customers to track a parcel.
1. Provide the customer with a website address of the carrier’s parcel tracking page and the tracking number of the parcel/delivery for input by the customer. Here is an example of Cotswold Outdoor, who provides instruction to the customer as to how they can track their parcel after dispatch:
The advantage of this approach is that it is dead simple to implement from a technology perspective as it relies on two pieces of information: the tracking number and where to go to input the enquiry. All the hard work is done by the consumer to do the enquiry.
When using this approach, it is worth making sure that the details that you provide the customer match what is on the carrier website in order to avoid customer comfusion. For example, Cotswold Outdoor refer to the parcel tracking number as a Tracking Number, however UK Mail refer it as a ‘Consignment Number’. Does a consumer know what a Consignment is?
2. Provide a single URL that automatically goes to the exact parcel tracking page of the carrier website. This avoids the customer having to work out how to use the carrier website. Asos does this well through by providing a Track This Order link on both its emails and in the My Account section of customer self-service. This takes the customer directly through to the carrier website:
3. Allow the customer to track the parcel from the ecommerce retailers own website. Many of the larger retailers do this including Amazon, Tesco and John Lewis.
For the retailers that get it right, it enables tight control of the overall customer experience and provides a better online customer service.
What is the best way to offer parcel tracking information to your customers?
Your ecommerce systems capabilities, the technology that your carriers use for parcel tracking and your customer needs in relation about delivery will determine which methods are available to your business for providing parcel tracking to your customers.
There are advantages in using the carrier website in that the information is likely to be the most up to date and it is the simplest way for the retailer to offer parcel tracking without much complex technical integration.
The main disadvantage of relying on carrier websites to present tracking information is that it may not be the most intuitive (and let’s face it, carriers processes were not originally designed with a retail customer in mind!). Also, setting up of a link to a carrier website is not a ‘set and forget’ option; an eye must be kept to ensure that if the carrier changes how the website is accessed that the links on the emails and customer self-service are updated accordingly.
Bringing it into your branded area on your website can be a challenging and costly process, that requires and understanding of how carriers operate. Also this approach relies on a technical integration that enables parcel tracking information to be shared from the carriers (directly or via a carrier information broker) and also the ability to translate the parcel information sent by the carrier into a consistent meaningful message for the customer.