The article was updated on May 28, 2020.
In today’s world, convenience is king. It’s no surprise that online shopping has long become the new norm. Why leave the comfort of your couch and go to the store when you can get everything you need within a few taps and swipes on your smartphone?
As a result, global parcel delivery represents a $430 billion market opportunity (as of 2019, up from just under $380 billion in 2018). The research also finds that there is a strong demand for “developing a better last mile solution” for parcel delivery.
What does it take to build a successful parcel delivery app? What are some examples of existing courier service apps? This article is a perfect starting point for building an on-demand package delivery business. So, keep reading.
A typical on-demand parcel delivery app offers a convenient way to track your packages in real time: from the moment they are registered in the system (by the carrier or by the user) and up to the moment they reach their destination and are delivered to the address.
There are, however, certain differences between, for example, FedEx or DPD parcel delivery app, and an on-demand package delivery service like Uber (we will talk about the possible business models for package delivery apps later).
There exist various business models that can be applied to package tracking and delivery. Here are some of the most popular options you can consider (including some great examples).
- Package tracking aggregators
Such delivery parcel tracking apps do just that: they aggregate the data from all of your packages into one place. Thus, you need only one app to track your packages, regardless of the carrier. It’s that simple. You can add the package manually using its ID and the app will keep you posted on its delivery status with timely notifications.
- Postal and courier service apps
Most of the major postal and courier service providers have long realized the benefits of a mobile app. Some notable examples include FedEx (which also has a separate app for local same-day delivery) and DPD parcel delivery apps.
The latter offers a full-fledged customer admin panel, including the capability to create shipments and even print out labels for your packages.
- Branded delivery apps and integrated solutions
While some online retailers may add order tracking capabilities to their mobile apps, few of them will actually provide the full scope of information about the delivery. In most cases, they only know if the order is being processed or shipped and when it will be delivered.
That’s why some retailers use branded package delivery apps as a competitive advantage, thus providing better transparency and convenience to their customers. At the same time, it makes no practical sense for a small local retailer to create a custom mobile app for deliveries.
This is where third-party solutions like Doorman or Deliv come into play. They integrate with your business, be it a website/app or a stock management system, and provide the parcel tracking capabilities you lack.
- Uber-like marketplaces for parcel delivery
There are dozens of Uber-like apps and businesses, which have been disrupting traditional business models across many industries. Package delivery is probably one of the most popular crowded niches in the on-demand services arena.
Roadie takes a slightly different approach. It combines ridesharing and on-demand delivery services by connecting people who need to ship something with people who can do it for them, and do so while traveling or simply as a side gig.
Regardless of their business model, parcel delivery tracking apps offer a number of benefits.
- They offer an easier, more convenient way for your clients to keep track of their packages. And, as we know, an improved customer experience helps you build brand loyalty. Customer loyalty, in its turn, means a better business and higher revenue for you.
- Parcel delivery apps offer better staff flexibility and reduced cost of operations for business owners. While your couriers can use their own smartphones (the so-called “Bring Your Own Device” approach), there is no need for bulky devices to check packages in and out or get a signature from a recipient.
- Moreover, if you choose the approach of the package delivery services like Uber, you won’t need to hire in-house couriers. It will be much easier and faster to find independent contractors to deliver your parcels than it would to onboard and retain your in-house staff.
Now, as we know how different on-demand delivery services work, let’s see how to create one from scratch.
Regardless of the approach and business model you choose, it takes time and determination, on top of solid technical expertise, to create an on-demand delivery app.
To save your money and nerves in the long run, consider the following steps when building your package tracking app.
1. Choose the business model
To start with, you should understand which business model works best in your case. As mentioned above, there are several options: the on-demand parcel delivery marketplace, a branded retailer shipping app (local), a postal service app like DPD, etc. The choice is yours.
To choose the right approach, consider your business specifics, your long-term goals, your audience, available resources, etc.
2. Define your business requirements and goals
Mobile app development is just one side of the coin. You need to understand the specifics, requirements, and opportunities of your business model, as well as the technical limitations of your app.
Think about the geography of your delivery service: Will it operate in just one city? Can you scale to cover the whole country? Or do you dare to launch worldwide?
Consider the parcel size, weight, and packaging type: shipping a small envelope is easy, but will you be able to handle a sofa delivery?
Which delivery type will you offer (e.g. by car, by bike, etc.)?
Each of the listed aspects will affect the app scope and its functionality.
3. Identify the right scope of features
Once you’ve covered the theoretical aspects, you can start thinking about the practical implementation of your concept. To start with, document and prioritize your requirements. In this case, creating a functional specification is a great way to set your requirements (and communicate them to your designers/developers).
While the scope and functionality of your product can vary depending on your business model and specifics, there are some basic features every parcel delivery tracking app should have. Here are just some of them.
For customer-facing parcel tracking app:
- social media login
- customer profile, including address and personal info, preferences, orders, payment data, etc.
- optional: Add parcel manually (only for aggregators)
- GPS-enabled parcel tracking system with a map view
- real-time parcel management: the ability to change the destination address, the recipient or delivery time, etc.
- in-app chat: the ability to get in touch with the courier or request help from support
- payment gateway integration
- push notifications
- courier ratings and reviews
For courier app:
- login (for a postal services app, using credentials provided by the manager)
- courier account, including personal info, user rating, in-app wallet, etc.
- list of available orders filtered by location, time added, package size, etc. Alternatively, the system can use a matching algorithm and automatically assign an order to the closest courier with the option to accept/reject the order.
- delivery status management – manual or automated
- delivery status confirmation by the customer (e.g. with a signature or by scanning a QR code generated by the customer app)
- in-app messaging: ability to contact the customer and discuss the details of the delivery time/location.
- completed orders history
Regardless of the business model or app type, you need to have an admin panel with extended access rights. Using this dashboard, you can jump in and resolve any issues that may arise with the parcels. You can also integrate a third-party analytics tool to track your app usage and learn about user behavior.
For large-scale logistics apps, there should be an option to integrate with the existing warehouse management system.
Now, as you know exactly what you need, it’s time to think about how to build your on-demand delivery app.
As with any other app, on-demand package delivery app development includes UI/UX design, engineering, and testing. This is a pretty standard process. What might differ, however, is the tech stack you choose and the tools you use along the way.
There are two ways to go about app development:
- do it yourself, i.e. by hiring an in-house team; or
- find a reliable and experienced technology provider to handle this process from A to Z.
The latter might come in handy if you don’t have a technical background or experience managing a software development team, if you are struggling to find and hire local developers, or simply want to get the ball rolling fast. In this case, you can rely on professionals to choose the right tool set/ tech stack and all other aspects of design/development/testing.
5. Launch, learn, and improve
It is a common mistake to try and build a full-fledged application in one sitting. A more efficient and risk-free option would be to prioritize your features and implement only the most important ones in a minimum viable product (MVP).
Once your MVP goes live on the App Store or Google Play, you can collect users’ feedback and app analytics data to source valuable insights on its performance and improve your app accordingly.
In addition to some essential app post-launch activities, you should be ready for ongoing improvement: an app can never be too perfect or too successful.
Whether you are an eCommerce business struggling to stay afloat in the age of Amazon, a courier delivery service trying to keep up with the market, or an entrepreneur willing to take on a new challenge, building an on-demand delivery app can be your next milestone.
How to get started?
The product discovery phase is the best first step you can take to lay a solid foundation for the development of your app. It includes a functional specification, UX/UI design, and a visual prototype that will give you a clear vision of the end product. On average, this phase takes 4-6 weeks.
The product discovery phase can help you:
- define a full scope of work and develop a roadmap for the project
- set a realistic budget for your MVP and plan your resources
- test the waters with your audience using a visual prototype
- craft a convincing investment pitch
- get to know your team
With an individual approach to every business and deep expertise in building Uber-like apps, our team at Eastern Peak is ready to help you kickstart your on-demand package delivery business.
To discuss the opportunities and benefits of our cooperation, request a personal consultation with our project manager.