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Earning repeat customers with e-commerce order tracking

illustration of a person standing next to a large monitor. on the monitor is a shopping cart with a dollar sign in it and an arrow pointing to it

Rapid shipping and delivery is king to the e-commerce and omnichannel customer. The old chestnut of “Where’s my stuff?” has never been more applicable today in a world that’s still emerging from the lockdowns and supply chain disruptions of the pandemic. When merchants can coordinate order tracking seamlessly, it’s a way to win over customers and boost loyalty.  

Shipping details matter to the consumer because they want certainty and a frictionless shopping experience. Receiving timely information about their order not only builds excitement around their purchase but also reduces delivery anxiety. Not only do consumers want to know shipping costs upfront, but when they are searching for and buying products online the majority of shoppers—68% of adults polled in the Shopify eCommerce Market Credibility Study—want to know an estimated arrival date of their order.1

On the merchant’s website—before the shopper clicks the “Buy” button—communications about estimated arrival dates can start at the time of purchase when the consumer is selecting their shipping option. Post-purchase, timely and complete communications with the consumer about their order are essential. 

Provide all the shipping deets 

Consumers want real-time order status information available at their fingertips. E-commerce shoppers prefer to receive their order tracking information via email rather than SMS text, or other methods. While a typical retail-related marketing email may only achieve open rates of 10% to 20%, emails that involve tracking notifications can garner open rates between 50% to 80%, according to shipping management platform Malomo.2

Customer-centric merchants are using branded order tracking emails with real-time information, rather than merely sending plain emails that contain only basic order tracking information such as the parcel tracking number and estimated arrival date. Another best practice is keeping the customer at the merchant website when they check the status of their order, and not directing the customer to the external website of the carrier, 3PL, or another provider. This is why software integrations are important to create a seamless customer experience.3

Following the initial order confirmation email, merchants are pushing out emails for customers to check the progress of their order, notifying them when shipping milestones are achieved such as shipped, out for delivery, and confirmed delivery. Merchants are also using branded order tracking emails showing a dynamic progress timeline that highlights the most recent order milestone achieved. 

“Track my order” buttons, another popular feature of tracking emails, allow customers to check the status of their order at any time, and view granular updates such as when the shipment was tendered to the carrier by the merchant or 3PL, when it was received for processing at the carrier’s facility, when the shipment departed from the facility, on through shipment transit to include last-mile events such as out for delivery and delivered status. 

Take advantage of high email open rates

In addition to providing the details around order readiness, shipping, and delivery, merchants can leverage order tracking and shipping confirmation emails to increase customer retention rates, reduce queries to customer support teams, and build a world-class branded experience. 

Brands and retailers have attentive audiences when they send order status notifications. Merchants are maximizing customer profitability with order tracking emails that contain promotional offers like discount codes for future shopping, showcase specific SKUs such as best-sellers or hot deals, and highlight product categories based on the buyer’s order data. Along with tracking buttons, large-volume merchants are even including an additional button that links directly to the product order page which displays CTAs such as to buy the product again, track their order, exchange or return the item, or write a review. 

The systems approach to order tracking

Coordinating outbound shipment information is the job of a number of systems that need to join and exchange information to enable real-time order tracking for the customer. The software of major parcel carriers and delivery companies is a key source of shipment data that needs to communicate with and exchange data with other core systems such as order management (OMS), warehouse management (WMS), and return platforms, as well as e-commerce platforms and point-of-sale (POS) systems. 

Merchants should seek automated shipping-tracking solutions that enable them to customize triggers for the appropriate milestone in the fulfillment and shipping process, including returns. Proprietary shipping-tracking solutions can help refine the process by combining with e-commerce marketing tech stacks to create branded, personalized communications that drive engagement and boost customer loyalty.

For those merchants in omnichannel, determining the optimal stock point to fulfill the order, whether warehouse or store, and the ability to do BOPIS, curbside pickup, and manage returns may need a more advanced OMS which is fully integrated with the WMS, e-commerce systems, and other core systems. 

Modern order management systems are now playing a central role in accurate order tracking by pairing back-end solutions with front-end consumer-facing e-commerce platforms. The merchant or the fulfillment provider can also better manage exceptions by overriding or altering the fulfillment path. 

Improved order tracking is also enabled by an advanced form of an order system called distributed order management (DOM) system. DOMs use order routing logic to determine the best way to fulfill customer orders.4 With a DOM, brands and retailers can gain more efficient fulfillment operations across channels as routing decisions are outlined in real-time, and they are supplied with more accurate inventory information and ship-by dates from which to prepare orders. 

DOMs allow real-time fulfillment information to flow and even surface directly into front-end e-commerce platforms, before purchases are made, allowing consumers to make their purchase decisions based on factors such as product availability, shipping options, and arrival dates.5 These types of systems will only become more widespread and combine with artificial intelligence to analyze larger volumes of data, and improved fulfillment automation.6

By paying close attention to order tracking with proactive customer communications around each e-commerce or cross-channel order, merchants can go a long way toward earning the customer’s trust and building brand reputation. When they combine order-tracking notifications with marketing, merchants can take advantage of high email open rates to maximize customer profitability and retain customers.

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