Leveraging your Parcel TMS in the Customer Digital Experience

Delivery options are of major importance to customers when selecting an online retailer, so why are so many companies underleveraging their Parcel TMS within the digital experience?

For many businesses (especially those in retail), the website is the front door to much of their business. For many years this experience was virtually solely managed and controlled by the ecommerce system. As customer expectations continue to rise, more retailers are looking to leverage data and functionality around the enterprise to make their customer experience more effective. The Parcel TMS (PTMS) is an example of such a system that has been underleveraged in the past in the Customer Experience Journey. That is changing.


Great question. The answer is, “in virtually every step of the customer journey from the shopping cart to delivery to returns.” Let’s explore a few examples.

When Selecting the Delivery Address. Initially one may ponder what role a PTMS could play in the customer’s simple process of defining the delivery address. In the past, this may have been the case, but with “Hold at Locker”, “Hold at Locations” and “Access Points” where customers have more Alternate Delivery Locations the role of the PTMS is now enhanced. Not only does the PTMS need to store the additional address, the PTMS can be the mechanism to allow the customer to visualize the address options available to them whether they be near home, work, or their route home from work.

To offer this feature, the PTMS will have to be aware of the various Alternate Delivery Locations by carrier, along with the ability to filter Alternate Delivery Locations not be acceptable to the retailer (CVS would likely not be interested in providing Walgreen’s as an Alternate Delivery Location for example).

Figure 1. Sample Alternate Delivery Address Flow.

When Selecting Carriers and Shipping Options. Customers won’t accept an estimated shipping cost when they check out and retailers don’t want to be exposed to shipping cost surprises. Many organizations utilize generic rules-based logic to approximate what the shipping cost will be to determine what to charge their customer. Some have made the move to execute real-time rate shopping during the checkout process; eliminating the guesswork out of quoting a shipping cost thus reducing retailer exposure.

To deliver this feature, the PTMS must be highly responsive since customers will not be willing to even wait a second for a rate shop result. In addition, the PTMS should provide a management interface that allows the shipper the ability to adjust what is presented to the customer. Example adjustments could be a percentage/set amount discount for Ground delivery, removal of all Delivery Area Surcharges so as to not “tax” rural customers, discounts based upon shopping cart size, etc. Storing the rates presented to the customer – even if they don’t purchase – is a data set worth evaluating; knowing how shipping costs effect conversion rates is golden.

During Delivery. It is no secret that customers are quite demanding and they want to know the status of their delivery through every step of the process. In addition, most organizations would prefer to control the customer’s digital experience. Therefore, it is critical that you have timely delivery status information on your order status experience.

Proper presentation of delivery status in your order status environment requires five actions.

Regular Retrieval/Storage

Polling carriers when the customer asks for status is too late. They will want an answer immediately and the data should be scrubbed before it is presented. In addition, they don’t want to be redirected to the carrier website – they want you to know. This step should be done every 15 minutes and the data stored for future on-time delivery and other performance analysis.

Status Translating

Customers don’t understand carrier status messages and the messages are inconsistent across carriers. Statuses need to be translated to consumer-friendly terms and normalized across carriers.

Status Filtering

Customers don’t want every message. Filter down the statuses to the ones that matter to the customer. Generally, they are Shipped, Out for Delivery, Delivered, Damaged and Delayed along with a general daily status.

Status Formatting

Customer Experience owners know that every communication is important and is an opportunity to enhance the brand image. Sending a message that represents the brand attributes. A millennial lifestyle brand may have a different tone than a pharmaceutical company.

Status Distribution

Once available there are many ways to deliver status from the website to the customer care center to text to Facebook messenger.

The Returns Process. While returns are not ideal, if you don’t make the process smooth for the customer they are gone forever. There are many options to deliver the return label to your customer, but if you need to create an Ad Hoc label for your customer, then integration to the PTMS is essentially required.

To succeed in the returns process, your PTMS should offer rapid rate shopping that can allow for cost savings of over 25%. In addition, the label generated should be portable as the customer may ask for it to be delivered in a wide variety of channels. The system should also be compliant to the carrier returns options which can be vast (we discussed USPS’ new services here). Finally, the system should track returns just like it does the initial delivery (since the customer is often just as obsessed with tracking the return as the initial delivery).

Figure 2. Sample Returns Process Integration Flow.


The four examples above are just a start. There are certainly many more situations where the PTMS system could be of service depending upon an organization’s unique situation. The key is to have a PTMS that is ready to serve. To be ready the PTMS must have a flexible integration architecture, be quick to respond to requests made by the customer facing experience (think milliseconds), and be configurable to the client’s business practices.


We realize this piece is very high-level, and if you’d like to drill down on any of our recommendations, reach out to us with questions or comments. We also welcome opportunities to deliberate or dispute our insights and recommendations. No conversation is off limits.

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ScanData Systems

ScanData, the leading provider of parcel transportation management solutions (PTMS), has over thirty-one years of experience in the development and deployment of parcel shipping solutions.

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