Carrier parcel tracking: 4 ways to retrieve shipment data from carriers

Sander Hak
Published on
January 30, 2024

Carrier parcel tracking is essential for e-commerce success. But, obtaining accurate data can be complex. This article gives you 4 different ways to retrieve carrier data to optimise parcel tracking and increase customers happiness.

Carrier parcel tracking is a crucial component of e-commerce and e-fulfilment operations. It improves customer satisfaction, reduces operational costs, enhances efficiency, and provides businesses with valuable insights for continuous improvement in their logistics and supply chain processes.

But how can you get more insights in, often, very vague carrier statuses? 

Let's have a look at different ways to retrieve shipment data from carriers. Because this can be hassle-free!

What do we mean with carrier parcel tracking exactly?

Carrier parcel tracking refers to the ability to monitor and trace the movement of packages or parcels as they are transported through the shipping and delivery process by a designated carrier or shipping service. This tracking system provides real-time information about the status and location of a package, allowing both businesses and customers to stay informed about the progress of their shipments.

Typically, carriers assign a unique tracking number to each parcel, and this number serves as a reference to retrieve detailed information about the package's journey. 

How to retrieve tracking data from carriers?

Requesting tracking data from carriers involves a variety of processes and systems with different technical complexities. 

One of the most important steps is to set up a connection with the carrier's tracking system. This can be done through various means such as API calls, web scraping, direct integration with the carrier's system, or by integrating with a 3rd-party carrier management/monitoring system. 

Let’s briefly look into each of these.

1. Carrier API calls

API calls are the most common method of connecting to a carrier's tracking system.

This method involves sending a request to the carrier's server and receiving a response with the tracking data. This process can be complex because it requires knowledge of the carrier's API documentation, which can be difficult to understand and requires constant updates. In addition, carriers may have different endpoints and response structures that must be handled separately.

2. Web scraping

Another method that can be used to retrieve tracking data from carriers is web scraping.

This method uses a script to automatically extract data from a carrier's website. This process requires knowledge of web scraping techniques and the structure of the carrier's website. In addition, web scraping can be unreliable, as the structure of the carrier's website can change and this can cause the script to fail.

3. Direct integration

A direct integration with the carrier's system is the most comprehensive and reliable method, as it provides access to real-time data, but it is also the most complex and expensive one.

This method involves making a direct connection between the carrier's system and the company's system. This process can be complex as it requires knowledge of the carrier's system and may also require additional hardware and software. In addition, direct integration with the carrier's system can be expensive because it requires maintenance and support.

4. Outsourcing to a third party

Outsourcing the retrieval and structuring of tracking data to an external party can offer a safe solution. An experienced and reliable party like Tracey can provide access to their tracking systems and have the resources and expertise to ensure that the data is accurate and up to date. This can save time and money for the company and provide peace of mind that the tracking data is reliable.

Outsourcing the processing of carrier parcel tracking data can also help with a company's scalability. Collecting tracking data is not only time-consuming but also a difficult task for an internal department to scale. A third party can easily handle the increasing demand for data, while also providing the company with better insights and analysis.

How can you ensure the accuracy and timeliness of carrier parcel tracking data?

Ensuring the accuracy and timeliness of the data is a major challenge. It requires constant monitoring and updating of the tracking systems, which can be time-consuming and labour-intensive. 

The costs of retrieving and structuring the data can be high. Carriers can charge high fees for access to their tracking systems, which can quickly add up if you’re using multiple carriers. In addition, there may be additional costs for maintaining and updating the tracking systems.

In addition, these methods can also have limitations and be unreliable, which can make it difficult to obtain accurate and up-to-date tracking data. Therefore, outsourcing the task to an experienced and reliable party can provide a cost-effective and reliable solution to manage the technical difficulties and complexities of requesting tracking data from carriers.

Discover the most accurate way to measure your carrier performance today

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Online stores, 3PL providers and retail brands use Tracey every day to turn great shipping performance into happy customers

Accuracy of predicted delays
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Less time spent looking up customer data

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