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Real-Time Tracking is the Future of Last Mile Delivery

Customers enthusiastically take advantage of real-time tracking tools and features when they’re made available.

A report published by Bettermile in cooperation with Consumer Code has revealed the growing importance of real-time tracking to the last mile parcel delivery industry. The report examines the current state of live tracking services provided by major German carriers as well as selected startups within the space. The report consists of key insights from real-life tests and simulations as well as a Germany-wide online survey, addressing the essential questions related to availability, consistency, accuracy, and quality of the live tracking services provided by different carriers.

The results of the Real Time Tracking Report 2023 (link) were unambiguous about one thing in particular: real-time tracking is rapidly gaining importance in the B2C parcel delivery space. This transition is already well underway. Fully 64% of receivers in Germany expect real-time tracking to be available for every parcel they receive. These features also display an astonishing level of buy-in, with a staggering 94% of respondents stating that they use it at least occasionally, and 63% taking advantage of the service for almost every package they receive. Very interestingly, the report also identified an emotional aspect to live tracking, with receivers reporting an increased sense of efficiency, control, and excitement when using the service.

The Methodology

The researchers employed two primary approaches (real-life tests and an online survey) and combined the results of each to compose the report. The real-life tests featured a “mystery shopping” technique in which over 100 parcels were sent to locations throughout Germany utilizing various delivery services. These services included GLS, DHL, DPD, Hermes, Amazon, Glocally, Urbify, Instabox and Liefergrün. These real-life tests allowed the researchers to monitor the real-time tracking process up-close. Secondly, an extensive online survey collected quantifiable feedback about users’ behaviors, expectations, and impressions from more than 1,300 participants.

onboard terminal tasks

Key Findings

The study revealed several important aspects of real-time tracking. Over 90% of receivers actively utilize live tracking at least sometimes, with more than two-thirds almost always relying on it. More than 60% of receivers made use of it three or more times on the expected delivery day to repeatedly check on delivery status. Interestingly, the study identified three distinct approaches to live tracking, ranging from dynamic time windows, vehicle location, and number of stops remaining all the way down to pseudo-real-time features like static ETAs with limited time window information.

This study is not the first to reveal such tendencies. Results from Dropoff’s 2021 annual consumer survey indicated that 88% of respondents said that the ability to track shipments in real-time was important to them.

The implications of these findings are important for all parcel carriers, not only in Germany but likely worldwide. For consumers, live parcel tracking is increasingly becoming an expected hygiene factor in the B2C delivery space, practicality necessitating its integration into carrier services. The study also underscored an interesting emotional dimension to the service, with live tracking contributing significantly to receivers’ sense of satisfaction and joy during the delivery process – an enhanced experience.

The ability to track deliveries with precise, down-to-the-minute updates, instills in receivers a sense of flexibility and control. Simply stated, customers feel more involved, more secure, and ultimately more satisfied by the delivery process. Indeed, real-time tracking offers carriers the unique opportunity to provide a sense of joy and fun in the delivery process, an area of B2C contact that has been relatively sterile and emotionally neutral in the past. Carriers need to be cautious, however: disruptions and failures in live parcel tracking information can rapidly “burst the bubble,” transforming excited anticipation into frustration and dissatisfaction.

The study also identified two distinct approaches to Real-Time Tracking among the various delivery services in the study. Some carriers, including DHL and GLS, were identified as best practices due to their high reliability, timeliness, and excellent user experience. Startups generally lagged behind incumbents in terms of live tracking features, with limited vehicle location information and a consistent inability to meet their customers’ expectations.

The Future of Real-Time Tracking

The report emphasized the need for modern, engaging user experience in the parcel delivery space. To drive receivers’ engagement, carriers must employ clear communication and tempting calls to action. Additionally, detailed and accurate visualization of vehicle and parcel locations can optimize the receivers’ live tracking experience without unduly burdening already-busy drivers.

Done right, real-time tracking can offer dramatic improvements in customer engagement, in a sense “gamifying” the delivery process by allowing customers to virtually take part. Due to the high cost of failure – frustrated, unsatisfied recipients – this is a high-risk, high-reward proposition.

The report underscores the significance of live tracking in the modern parcel delivery industry. Since its inception, the ability to track parcels in real-time has rapidly become expected by receivers, compelling carriers to step up. As the industry continues to evolve, staying ahead of the curve and receivers’ expectations will increasingly require carriers to offer accurate, modern real-time tracking on all deliveries. For carriers seeking to stay relevant and increase market share, real-time tracking is no longer optional – it’s expected.

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