Monday, July 27, 2009

How brands are using tracking to build trust

According to an article in USA Today, the new American obsession is to track everything from packages to pizza delivery, to tracking how taxpayer money is being spent. To give you an indication of the interest in tracking, in 1995, UPS had a total of 100,000 online requests for the month of December. In 2008, UPS received an average of 27.3 million requests per day for December.

Does this need for tracking address a human desire for control in a chaotic world? Whatever the psychological need, it definitely is a way that brands can engage longer with customers long after the purchase button has been pressed. It’s also a way brands can deepen their relationship with customers by building excitement and trust.

Here are a couple of examples:

Dominos Pizza
Domino's rolled out Pizza Tracker last year which gives consumers a window into the status of their pizzas as well as Domino's a window into the online world of its customers. The Pizza Tracker is used by 75% of Domino's online customers. Besides connecting consumers to their pizzas, the tracker gives the first names of workers who make and deliver their order.

Fed-Ex gets 6 million package-tracking requests daily, and according to Mark Colombo, senior vice president of digital access marketing, "tracking is one of our top drivers for customer satisfaction," "People are obsessed with it." FedEx has 14 tracking "events" for the average package, from pickup to when it gets on the plane to when it's on a local truck to delivery. Consumers can choose to be notified of any of these handoffs.

Some folks are big trackers of flights. That's why Daniel Baker started FlightAware in 2005. It's a free service that receives FAA information and converts it into maps that track almost all non-military flights in the USA and Canada. That's about 50,000 flights a day. The service receives 100 million flight-tracking requests a month. You can also check out, yet another flight tracking service.

Government Spending
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who made millions tracking data, is giving New Yorkers the chance to track city agency performance. The website includes 550 data points that residents can track — from the response time of the local fire department to how quickly potholes are filled.


There is also a cottage industry being created through tracking. For example, through you can track the habits of your newborn. The software converts daily data (sleeping, pooping, feeding) into formatted charts. Not sure if those trends help sleep-deprived parents better cope, but for the track-a-holic, this makes for interesting reading.

The Opportunity
Tracking feels like a way to reassure the consumer that their individual purchase or request is important. People don’t have to call a number, be put on hold or get lost in complex phone trees. And while it is an automated feature, is feels personal, allowing you to feel just a bit more in control.

What services do you offer that might benefit the consumer? Here are a couple ideas:

Grocery or Specialty shops – when the truffles are arriving, the Copper River Salmon shipment, Fiddleheads……etc

Fashion Retailer – which shows your buyers are attending or a countdown to a truck show or sale

Photographer/Musician – where are you performing or doing a photoshoot

The possibilities seem endless. Have you seen some cool applications that you can share?


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  2. Wish you had a widget so I can link your articles on twitter. I referred to your article on polaroid on twitter and soon polaroid enthusiasts were onto the Impossible Project before Time did the article on it. good stuff.

  3. As a health care communicator, I keep wondering how tracking will fall into the health care arena. Tracking your physician's he/she running late? How long? Has my appointment been moved back 20 minutes? Is my doctor in transit from another office location? In my humble opinion, if we enter a system of universal health care (and fail to adopt ways to also bring more health care providers into the fold) health care will start to look a lot like air travel. If it hasn't already! And that means tracking. Interesting topic.

  4. Hi Jess,

    Thanks for your readership and the lovely comments. I do wish I had a Twitter widget. I'm a bit HTML code challenged. Sorry for the hassle. I'll try to resolve this soon.

  5. Hi JP
    Tracking in healthcare would certainly revolutionize the service model! I wonder how many offices use Twitter to keep people apprised of any backlog at the office.

    Google currently tracks the outbreak of the flu. I'm sure people would also be interested in even more stats. The topics could be endless!
    Thanks for dropping by.