Google announced today a small but useful update to Gmail that will allow users to soon be able to track their upcoming package deliveries directly from their inbox. The feature works by looking for emails that include tracking numbers, then using that information to determine the order’s expected delivery date and flagging this for you right in your inbox.
That means when you’re scanning through your email list in Gmail, you won’t have to click on your order confirmation emails to see when your package is due to arrive. Instead, this information will be displayed just below the email sender’s name and subject line in the inbox in a small green label. You’ll notice a little truck icon followed by text indicating the order’s status, followed by the delivery date. This label will be updated as the order progresses, with information like “label created,” the arrival date or the delivery date, Google says.
This feature will save online shoppers a lot of extra steps as typically, consumers have to open their order confirmation emails and then either copy and paste the tracking information into the appropriate carriers’ system, into Google, or click on a provided link to begin tracking the order, for example. Now, all they’ll need to do is look at their Gmail inbox.
However, if you do click to open the order confirmation email, it will now include a summary card at the top that offers a bit more detail, including a timeline with checkmarks that shows the current order status — order placed, shipped or delivered — and a link that takes you to the order detail page.
Google says the new feature will be available in the U.S. across “most major” shipping carriers in the coming weeks. The expectation is that this feature will arrive ahead of the holiday shopping season when it would be most useful.
To enable package tracking, Gmail will first ask users if they want to opt-in to receive tracking updates in a pop-up at the top of the inbox. Users will click “Allow”or “Now now,” depending on their preference. This can also be enabled in Gmail’s settings.
The system, of course, involves having your email scanned for tracking information, but this is automated — humans aren’t reading your email. Still, some may view this a potential privacy concern, particularly if Gmail chooses to use this data to help inform its various developments in e-commerce and first-party shopping features.
The new addition could impact the adoption of popular third-party package tracking apps including Parcel, Route, AfterShip and Shopify’s Shop app — though the latter offers more functionality beyond tracking, like the ability to browse and buy from Shopify merchants.
Later, Google says it will expand the package tracking feature to proactively update the label when a package is delayed and bring that email to the top of users’ inboxes to make sure they’re aware.
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