After completing an online order, many users are interested in following their order as it progresses through the various stages of order processing and shipment.
Users track their order at many different times — ranging from immediately after completing the checkout (e.g., to see if it’s processing) to several days after submitting the order (e.g., to check on the status and learn when to expect it).
However, when the order tracking information was provided via third-party tracking or shipping sites — rather than being integrated within the e-commerce site itself — users during testing found it harder to access, understand, and navigate the order-tracking details.
Indeed, by not providing tracking information on the site itself, sites are giving up control over the end user experience — which the testing revealed is often poor on third-party tracking sites.
Yet, Baymard Institute’s UX benchmarking reveals that 56% of e-commerce sites fail to integrate all tracking information and events within the site itself — relying instead on a third-party tracking site to provide the information users need at what can often be an anxious and critical time in the e-commerce shopping experience.
This article discusses the test findings from Baymard’s E-Commerce usability study related to order tracking on third-party sites. In particular:
- 3 issues caused by including tracking information only on third-party sites
- Benefits provided by integrating tracking information on the e-commerce site itself
3 Issues Caused by Including Tracking Information Only on Third-Party Sites
Baymard’s testing reveals that users will often experience a mix of the following three usability issues when the e-commerce site doesn’t provide complete order-tracking information, especially when clicking on a third-party tracking link sent in an email:
One particular downside of mainly providing users with tracking via third-party courier sites is that, until the package has shipped (which will typically be within the first 1–48 hours after the user has placed their order), any attempt to track the order will often just result in a message like “Status Not Available”. A message like this doesn’t help users with an expected arrival date, and can furthermore induce anxieties about whether there’s an issue with the order — not an ideal and reassuring experience right after having provided payment for an order.
Such a message is not helpful in answering a user’s predominant question: “When will the package arrive?”, and is sometimes even seen to cause anxiety as many users misread it as an error message or as indicating an issue or delay with the order.
This confusion, in turn, leads to some of these users frantically returning to the tracking page several times only to see this same “Unavailable” status page, and some even reaching out to customer support.
Regardless of the level of anxiety, it’s not a good initial experience after having just placed an order.
Furthermore, if the e-commerce site relies mainly on the third-party courier sites as the only form of order tracking, this means that users will not be able to get insights into the order progress when the order is still at the e-commerce site, and won’t be able to see order updates like “order received, not yet processed”, “order being prepared at warehouse”, “order packaged, ready for shipment”, and “package passed on to courier”.
The third-party package-tracking site will often only show the package details, such as arrival date, shipping events, and the package’s current location.
Hence, if users need to see any order details (like the shipping address, order costs, or the contents of the order), need to cancel an order, contact customer service, see the product page for one of the ordered items, etc. they will simply not be able to do so, as these data are not available on the third-party tracking page. All of these users will then need to go back to the e-commerce site’s order details/tracking page.
However, because the third-party courier’s webpage will seldom link back to the specific order at the e-commerce site, users will often have to “start from scratch” by typing in the URL of the e-commerce site, signing in, navigating to open orders, and then opening the specific order.
For users with multiple orders, the severity of these issues scales linearly as all those steps must be repeated for each order.
Incoherent user experience
Some users, especially more novice users, are generally uncomfortable with being taken to a completely new website after clicking a link on an e-commerce site.
On the new site, users have to reorient themselves and figure out why they’re there, why they were sent to the new site, and how to navigate through it.
Furthermore, any web switch sometimes causes technical or practical issues (especially on mobile devices). While such issues can also occur on the e-commerce site itself, users there will have the benefit of inline help options, such as live chat or phone numbers to customer support, or can simply go back to their account dashboard or orders overview.
While technical and usability issues on the third-party site are not the fault of the e-commerce site, they will still actively detract from users’ overall order experience. Furthermore, some users won’t give the e-commerce site the benefit of the doubt but will instead blame the e-commerce site for the poor experience, rather than only blame the third-party courier.
Benefits of Integrating Tracking Information
While some of the above issues can be partly addressed, most are inherent limitations of splitting the order-tracking experience onto two different platforms, served by two different companies.
For a better order-tracking experience, sites can provide all the tracking details that users would need, such as delivery date, courier name, and shipment subevents, on their own order-tracking page.
Providing order-tracking information within the e-commerce site itself was observed in testing to greatly reduce users’ need to go to a third-party site, thereby alleviating all of the observed usability issues outlined earlier.
At Wayfair, tracking information is integrated in the site, allowing users to get the tracking information they need, as well as additional delivery details (e.g., “What to Expect on Delivery Day” — especially useful when receiving large or oversize items such as furniture) and general order information.
Providing full order tracking provides several benefits, including:
- Providing a single seamless order-tracking experience, without any “unavailable states”
- Avoiding causing doubt for users about where they are or what site they need to go to if they want to look up a specific order or shipment information
- Combining all order-related information on one single order page (shipping details, ordered products, order payment summary, etc.) where customer support and all other placed orders are also right within reach
Showing all key elements of tracking information requires an investment in technology, but there are clear benefits to users, in addition to a potential reduction in customer service interactions caused by difficulties with and confusion about third-party sites.
Improve the Ordering Experience by Integrating Order Tracking
Sending all users to a third-party tracking interface, just to perform basic order tracking on such things as the arrival date or shipment subevents, causes an e-commerce site to lose control of the end users’ order experience.
As observed in testing, third-party shipping sites sometimes have interface designs or terminology that are highly influenced by “shipping industry” practices.
Shipping courier sites tend to use their own industry terms and don’t necessarily have the same business interest in investing in an interface that’s highly optimized and provides a fully user-centric experience. For example, third-party tracking website might say “Service Commitment Time” instead of the more normal “Delivery/Arrival Date”.
Hence, integrating the full order-tracking details into the e-commerce site is the only way to remain fully in control of the order experience and prevent unresolvable UX issues introduced by shipping courier sites, and prevent the friction caused by forcing all users to navigate from the e-commerce site to a third-party site.
Yet 56% of sites don’t integrate all tracking information and events within the site itself but instead rely partially or fully on third-party package-tracking sites.
For long term user satisfaction, keep them on your own website, where you can control what is shown, how it is shown, and where you provide all the information your customers may need.
This way you do not confuse your users by sending them to a completely different website, with different terminology, different user experience and subpar information (no way to come back to the order, no phone number or chat back to you, etc.)
The big picture and the larger benefit is that you train your customers to come back to your website time and again, for all of their needs. You are also in charge of their experience and satisfaction.
Happy users = profitable business.
Self-Service UX: Integrate All Order Tracking Info and Events Within the E-Commerce Site Itself (56% Don’t)
PS. By sending visitors to the page you can control, you can keep selling by providing upsell options or related products.