The Psychology Behind Our Obsession with Tracking Packages

“Are we there yet?” you asked. 

“No,” your parents replied.

“Are we there yet?” 


“Are we there yet?” 



We all remember being kids on long car rides (especially when the batteries in the Game Boy died). Disgruntled, anxious, bored — not knowing where we were, how far we had to go, or when we’d arrive. Left all alone with our thoughts. Our excitement and anxiousness eventually led us all to drive our parents mad with questions. 

Many of us grew up to be adults with a similar distaste for unknown arrivals, especially when it comes to our online purchases. The ability to order something online and have it in our hands the next day has only made this impatience more common.

Many consumers even have a sense of post-purchase anxiety when shopping online. But why?

Getting Inside Consumers’ Post-Purchase Minds 

The sense of post-purchase anxiety is common among many consumers. There’s even a word for it on Urban Dictionary: pre-parcel anxiety.

Let’s face it, online shopping is inherently risky. There is a lot that can go wrong between ‘purchased’ and ‘delivered.’

As consumers, we all face the fear that our item will arrive broken, be stolen from our doorstep, or simply be lost among the millions of packages delivered each day. Understandably, any of those possibilities can cause some sweaty pits and a tight chest.

Coincidingly, there is a lot of excitement about our product’s arrival, and when we see the packaged product there’s a little flutter in our hearts, even if we have multiple orders on their way and don’t know what’s in the box.

Behavioral economics and psychology explain these coexisting emotions as what Nobel laureate economist Richard Thaler describes this as the endowment effect, which is a cognitive bias that places more value on items we own over those we do not.

So once we’ve clicked the “Complete Purchase” button we perceive that item as ours, but we have to wait a few days until it’s in our possession. This delay causes the, sometimes illogical, anxiety, excitement, and wide range of other emotions to kick in.

To combat anxieties, many customers actively track the packages. According to a UPS study, 96 percent of shoppers actively track some or all of their purchases as they await their arrivals. This knowledge of where our products are helps ease our mind while we wait and gives us an activity to direct that anxiety and excitement towards.

While the heightened transparency dispels anxieties, it also creates a lot of excitement as we watch the package get closer to our door, which is sometimes even more exciting than actually having the product in hand. According to evolutionary psychology, pleasure must be fleeting or else we won’t chase it. 

Behaviorally speaking, the anticipation will always be greater than what we are accomplishing, so having the product in hand can actually be less exciting than the anticipation of its arrival. A study by neuroscientist Read Montague showcased that the mere sight of a Coca-Cola label activated the brain’s dopamine center — in other words, the anticipation of that first sip of Coke was better than the sip itself. 

Tap into the Shopper’s Need to Track the Last Mile

Most companies today have a huge amount of information about their customers, including not just what they eventually purchase, but what they are looking at, how long they linger on a product before adding it to their cart, whether they leave the site and come back to a specific product later, and more. It’s imperative that you utilize this information to optimize your customer journey.

Brands can utilize this information to increase revenue and decrease costs during the final stretch of their customer’s shopping experience. Increased transparency will create a better post-purchase customer experience and build consumer trust and brand loyalty, which is an absolute necessity in today’s high-competition world. 

Additionally, not providing clear shipping expectations won’t only hurt sales, it will eat into your bottom line. It costs you $6 every time a customer calls one of your customer service agents inquiring about their order. 

Tracking not only eases anxieties about a product being lost, delayed, or stolen, but it can be another opportunity to make your brand stick out in the customer’s mind.

For example, you could lean in to the neuro-cognitive test we discussed earlier, which showed the dominance-inducing effects of just seeing the Coke label and feature your logo or a picture of the product on a tracking map instead of giving bland updates like, “Your item has arrived in Dallas, Texas.” 

There are a lot of examples of brands taking it even one step further when it comes to item tracking to add transparency and excitement to the post-purchase experience.

The Domino’s pizza tracker for online orders is an excellent example: when you order their pizza online, it shows where the pizza is in real time and in granular detail, like when it’s being prepped, when it’s in the oven, and even when it’s being given a final quality control check (and who is performing the quality check). It was so successful with pickup orders that Domino’s decided to expand the tracker for delivery orders through GPS tracking. 

And this type of progress tracking isn’t just reserved for online purchases. Progress percentages in online surveys and job applications help users know how close they are to completing the forms, and rewards memberships showcase how close you are to attaining your next reward. 

How Route Quenches the Tracking Appetite

At Route, we’re committed to increasing post-purchase transparency for your customers. We strive to eliminate pre-parcel anxiety and help you capitalize on your customers’ anticipation as they wait for their orders.

For shoppers, the Route app provides an engaging tracking experience with rich updates for all of their online orders in one convenient location. Visual Tracking™ goes beyond simple updates, and beautifully displays and tracks each order in real time. No need to dig through endless email for lame tracking numbers. Not to mention, Route also provides premium order protection and effortless issue resolution for those times when a customer’s fear of losing their packages or receiving a broken or damaged order comes true. 

For brands, we ensure the final stretch of your customer’s experience is a positive one, helping you build consumer trust in your brand. And by putting your brand front and center during transit, you get to reap the benefits of increased brand exposure – 246% more exposure to be exact. 🤯

Increase revenue, decrease costs, and offer the best-in-class service for the final piece of your customer experience. Sounds pretty nice right?

Get in touch with us to see why adding Route to your customer journey will be the best decision you made in 2020.

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