How Do You Turn Track-And-Trace Information into a USP?

Parcel delivery services and web stores are presenting new mobile apps for the ultimate customer experience. Their apps keep us informed of where orders are, minute by minute. But to be able to provide customers with a valuable service, these apps should…

Parcel delivery services and web stores are presenting new mobile apps for the ultimate customer experience. Their apps keep me informed of where my order is, minute by minute.

For example, I’ve already received 21 track-and-trace messages about one single shipment I’m expecting from the US. My first thought is: it actually is possible to be wrong 21 times (and indeed, the package still hasn’t arrived). But more than anything else, I found myself wondering when the package would actually show up.


Thanks to the Internet of Things, customers – both in B2C and in B2B – are better informed than ever: 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But is the customer really any better off? My smartphone and my iPad are bursting with apps that are unwilling to communicate with each other. The information that I get is ‘push’ and not linked to my actual information needs at that moment. In fact it’s basically worthless to me; I just sit there and wait until my package finally arrives from the US. So how do you turn track-and-trace information into a unique selling point (USP)?

Customer journey

Before you start building apps, you need to think about what a particular app is supposed to offer the customer during his ‘customer journey’. I want the delivery to take place where and when I want it. And I also want to be able to change those parameters. I want to be able to set up a reminder and then be reminded at the last minute.  I want to be able – also at the last minute – to authorize the lady next door to sign for my new MacBook.

The new app that has come out with, Booking Now, understands that. Even as I am travelling across town, the app can tell me, based on my location, which hotels that match my profile are immediately available. That’s all I need to know.

The same thing holds for business receivers, too. An engineer wants to be able to return a service part that he ordered if it turns out he doesn’t need it any more. He wants to see if another service part is still in stock in the city hub and to know how fast he can get that part. In eldercare logistics, the in-home caregiver wants to know if Mrs Baker’s medications and meals have arrived. The retailer wants to know – to the minute – when the shipments will arrive, so that he can arrange for capacity to hang the new collection in his store in time or else postpone the delivery by one day if that works out better. The installer wants to receive materials at the construction site just in time, without having to walk to the gate four or five times to check.

Enrich data

Track-and-trace data are poor. Enrich that data with open data from other sources. Those could include traffic data, so that you can give a precise time of delivery. Or offer delivery options so that you can deliver the package to my favorite pick-up point after all. And tell me immediately which products are currently on sale there and when it won’t be busy. And describe the fastest way to get there by car or by public transport. To be able to provide valuable information, you are clearly going to need information from others as well.


A bunch of separate little apps aren’t of much use to the receiver. Information is valuable to me if the information about all my orders can be integrated with other systems such as my inbox and my calendar.

That is certainly the case in the B2B market. There, it’s all about seamless integration with the inventory system in the store, the in-home eldercare provider’s scheduling, the installer’s information system and the engineer’s service applications. That kind of situational-awareness information can help them work more effectively.

Generic apps with poor track-and-trace messages are hardly a good proposition from the parcel-delivery services. In fact, they are worthless. Information only becomes a USP if it fits in with a specific target group’s customer journey. That information needs to be enriched with data from elsewhere, and you need to be able to use all of it, via APIs, in the systems that you work with all day long. That’s how track-and-trace information will become a USP.

Walther Ploos van Amstel.

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