One of the key goals for delivery operators is first-time delivery success. While some view it as merely a cost-saving exercise, for others it’s also important from a sustainability and reputation point of view. Tracking, especially real-time tracking (or close to) is just one of the tools, next to alternative delivery locations, that delivery companies use to try to eradicate the much-hated “sorry we missed you” process if the recipient is not at home to receive the parcel.
Investing in tracking makes a lot of sense from the perspective of consumer expectations – 88% of all cross-border shoppers in a recent cross-border e-commerce study by IPC reported that they followed their parcel’s progress via notifications or tracking via app or dedicated webpage. Of those consumers who used parcel tracking for their most recent cross-border e-commerce purchase, 26% were extremely satisfied with this, 30% were very satisfied and 31% were satisfied.
When looking at the four main export markets, the proportion that was extremely satisfied with parcel tracking was just 21% when the item was sent from China. Satisfaction was much higher when the item was sent from Germany (31%), the UK or the US (both 28%).
Tracking satisfaction was lowest for Wish purchases due to their low-cost delivery methods that have basic tracking. While tracking satisfaction was 21% for Alibaba purchases and 24% for eBay purchases, it was a significantly higher 33% when the purchase was made on Amazon. It is clear then that there is still significant work to be done to improve customers’ satisfaction with tracking and make sure that it helps to increase first-time delivery success.
What you’ll learn
This article tackles tracking, how it has changed in the recent years and how exactly it works with different designated operators and couriers in key markets. Many posts and other delivery providers offer excellent tracking tools, which aim to reach the consumer-focused goal of ‘real-time’ tracking. This article discusses examples of tracking best practice from three perspectives: postal operator, courier and e-retailer.
What shipments are tracked?
Tracking barcodes can be found in bpost’s communications (My bpost app, e-mail or sms), on the receipt from the Post Office and on the note the delivery staff left in the letterbox. To track a shipment, users need to enter the complete barcode on Track & Trace or in the My bpost app or simply scan it using a combination of the My bpost app and a smartphone camera.
The bpost app allows users to:
- Follow all parcels
bpost parcels are added in the app automatically. Users can add parcels from other postal services by entering or scanning the barcode
- Receive notifications
Users can monitor the status of all their parcels or decide which parcels they want to monitor the status of
- Sign For Me
Users can activate the free service that delivers registered mail directly to their letterbox
- Create a shipping label
Users can create a shipping label in the app at an affordable price. Labels can be then printed at home or in a Post Office or Post Point nearby
Here’s a demo of what the app can do:
In the UK, thanks to its Predict & Follow My Parcel services, DPD provides customers with a one-hour delivery window, so they don't have to wait in all day for their parcels. Not only will customers receive a one-hour delivery timeslot, but they'll now also be able to track the progress of their parcels on a map as DPD drivers make their way to the delivery addresses. DPD Follow My Parcel will:
- Display the location of the DPD driver in relation to the delivery address
- Show the position of the customer in the DPD driver's overall delivery queue
- Notify the customer when the DPD driver is just 15 minutes away
- Give the customer the option to reschedule their delivery or have their goods delivered to a neighbour
- Display the parcel's tracking history
Amazon has been one of the leaders in shortening delivery times for over two decades, but until recently it did not have a great record for delivery tracking. This changed a few years ago in the UK and the US with the introduction of live tracking for selected deliveries done via Amazon Shipping. In Belgium, where both Amazon.de and Amazon.fr have been active for years, Amazon Shipping was introduced in 2022 and the e-retailer’s delivery arm offers a robust overview of key tracking events (example below). It also notifies the recipient when the delivery driver is a few stops away from the recipient.
Using Amazon Map Tracking, users can follow the progress of selected dispatched packages in real time on a map. Amazon will notify the user if they can track their package. If Amazon is delivering an order to a confidential address, such as a wish list or gift address, they will disable map tracking to protect the privacy of the recipient.
Amazon Map Tracking is available via Track Package from “My Orders” or the dispatch confirmation email. On the day of delivery, users can see the map when the driver is getting close to the final delivery.
Map tracking allows users to arrange to be at the property when the package is due for delivery or to nominate a safe place for the delivery. Amazon delivery staff can also call the recipient from their doorstep if they do not answer the door, as first-time delivery success is especially important to the Amazon delivery contractors and the e-retailer itself.
USPS Tracking service provides end-to-end item tracking and is available for most domestic mail products that are large enough and that are addressed to domestic locations, plus international locations such as Army Post Offices and Diplomatic Post Offices. Tracking for USPS items is available via the mobile app, USPS MOBILE or via the website, https://tools.usps.com/go/TrackConfirmAction.
Stages of USPS tracking
USPS Tracking Statuses include:
- USPS has received the electronic transmission of the manifest shipment information from the sender
- In Transit to next facility
- Out for Delivery - the package has left the delivery office with a carrier, and delivery is intended on that day
- Delivered - the parcel has been delivered and a delivery scan recorded the time and date of delivery
Below, you’ll see the examples of a tracking page from the USPS mobile app and from the tracking webpage of the USPS. 
Tracking is key to IPC e-commerce solutions
Within the INTERCONNECT, IPC’s end-to-end e-commerce network, there are three service levels. For two of them, Standard and Premium, track and trace during the transit process, from sending to delivery is guaranteed. While tracking is a key feature for the end-consumers’ satisfaction during a regular delivery scenario, it is even more important when there are customer queries.
Queries which relate to cross-border items are resolved through the IPC’s Global Customer Service System (GCSS). Tracking of items and receptacles either avoids the need for international queries to be sent to foreign posts by resolving the customer question directly or, they indicate where the query should be sent exactly.
GCSS displays tracking events within the query and, updating the query with the latest new tracking events in bold red text while the investigation is ongoing (see the image below). It also uses the data associated with these events (EMSEVT but also ITMATT) to pre-populate GCSS inquiries and speed the resolution of customer queries. In cross-border e-commerce, item and receptacle tracking are key contributors to positive customer experience.
 https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=GU9B4LE26DKWVQTN; Some carriers don't use map tracking.