What’s the Best Delivery Notification System for Last-mile Logistics?
‘Sorry, not at home’.
That is one of the most frustrating messages a last-mile delivery agent can receive. It means wasted time, wasted fuel, and wasted goodwill.
These days, fortunately, an abundance of delivery notification systems are available for businesses that ship packages, and their logistics partners, to ensure that this situation has become a rare exception rather than a daily norm.
Before we look more closely at three strong contenders for the accolade of best package tracking notification system, let’s briefly recall how things used to be and compare them with how things are today.
The Evolution of Delivery Notification
Until the mid-1990s, the telephone was the only way to contact customers to arrange a suitable time for home delivery of a parcel. A typical call from a customer-service agent to the intended recipient of a doorstep delivery might go something like this:
“Hello Mrs Aziz, we would like to deliver your package this afternoon between four and five o’clock. Will someone be at home to take delivery?”
A sea change later took place when emailing became widely available to the public in 1996 or thereabouts. Employees of last-mile delivery companies whose job it was to notify customers of imminent parcel deliveries heaved a collective sigh of relief.
Instead of spending frustrating hours on the phone trying to contact elusive customers, they could simply bash out an email and hit the send button. If they received no reply, though, of course, they would be back on the phone trying to locate the elusive customer.
Around 1999, the SMS system evolved to the point where text messaging was possible across networks—and an alternative notification platform sprang to prominence.
Delivery Notification? There’s an App for That!
It was another 10 years before a third major platform entered the technosphere. WhatsApp, a free instant messaging app for smartphone users, gained traction in 2009—and has grown in popularity as a delivery notification system ever since.
Following on the heels of WhatsApp, plenty of start-ups have been trying to cash in on the lucrative instant messaging market, which these days is crowded with platforms such as:
- Facebook Messenger
- Kik Messenger
The obvious question, of course, is which one is best for you and your customers. Should you choose a messaging app from this extensive selection, or opt for the more universally adopted alternatives of email or SMS?
In case you’re considering just such a dilemma, we’ll try to help you decide by comparing what we consider to be the three most useful delivery notification platforms: email, SMS, and WhatsApp.
Email for a long time headed the field, not least because many Internet service providers offer it as a free service. Its most attractive feature is that users can transfer documents, order confirmations, and various media attachments. It also provides a secure paper trail for vendors and consumers.
However, when it comes to customer response, email lags behind SMS and WhatsApp.
According to Campaign Monitor, the average time taken for a customer to respond to an email is 90 minutes (as opposed to mere moments or minutes for WhatsApp and SMS users). What’s even more disconcerting, though, is that only 20 percent of emails are ever opened.
So, while delivery notifications via email are of notable importance, especially if documentation is involved, the chances are high that the recipient’s response will take time to arrive, or may not arrive at all. For this reason alone, emailing may no longer be the desirable channel for delivery notifications that it once was.
2. SMS Messaging
Once hailed as the pre-eminent package tracking notification system, in many parts of the world SMS messaging is being overtaken by WhatsApp as the communications platform of choice.
Both methods have enviable customer response rates. Some 98 percent of SMS messages are opened, with a response rate of 45 percent. WhatsApp's open rates are at 99 percent with a response rate of just over 40 percent.
However, SMS delivery notification has some advantages over WhatsApp, both for shippers and their intended recipients.
Users can send and receive SMS messages on any electronic communications device, not only on smartphones. That, of course, is a significant advantage in parts of the world where few people can afford smartphones.
SMS messages do not rely on the Internet, instead using carriers and cellular networks, which in many parts of the world are the sole means of connectivity.
SMS messaging also has its drawbacks, of which the following are excellent examples: It’s solely text-based and does not support media files.
There is no way to tell if a message has been received or read.
SMS messaging can be pricey.
Each SMS has a 160-character text limit without concatenation, or around 900 characters with concatenation
Despite these shortcomings, SMS messaging is still in widespread use, especially by the finance sector which sends confidential information such as one-time passwords, withdrawal notifications, and anti-fraud alerts via text messages.
When it comes to revenue, the value of the global application-to-person SMS market size was estimated at a whopping $46.81 (USD) in 2021, dwarfing WhatsApp’s estimated $8.7 billion dollars (USD) of revenue in the same year.
3. WhatsApp Messaging
Present in 180 countries and boasting two billion users, WhatsApp enjoys impressive market penetration. According to the platform, some 65 billion WhatsApp messages are sent each day. WhatsApp has the edge over SMS in that besides text messages, it also facilitates voice and video calling and the transfer of media such as audio, video, photo, and PDFs over a single interface.
Unlike SMS and email, where there is no knowing if a customer has received or read the transmitted message, WhatsApp broke new ground by introducing message delivery indicators. A single check mark indicates that the message has been delivered to the intended device, two green check marks mean it has been opened and read by the recipient.
However, the biggest downside for WhatsApp is its reliance on Internet connectivity to function. When the Internet is down or the data runs out, WhatsApp becomes inoperable.
So Which is the Best Package Tracking Notification System for You?
The answer to this all-important question lies in discovering which platform your customers prefer. There is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution, and for many shippers, the best solution is to offer notification via all three of the channels discussed in this article.
Take the time to find out from each customer how they would like to be notified about their parcel deliveries. The simplest way would be to get them to indicate their preferred notification method when they provide their desired delivery address and other related information.
Be aware, however, that no matter what delivery notification method you choose, replies will not always be forthcoming and parcel recipients will not always be where they are supposed to be, even after receiving a notification.
Therefore, on occasion, the only recourse will be the tried and tested method of connecting with customers—the telephone call.