Google today announced a small but useful update to Gmail that will soon allow users to track their upcoming package deliveries right from their inbox. The feature works by checking for emails that contain tracking numbers, then using that information to determine the estimated delivery date of the order, and flagging it for you right in your inbox.
This means that when you’re browsing your email list in Gmail, you don’t have to click through to your order confirmation emails to see when your package will arrive. Instead, this information appears just below the email sender’s name and subject line in the inbox, in a small green label. You’ll notice a small truck icon, followed by text indicating the status of the order, followed by the delivery date. This label is updated as the order progresses with information such as “label created,” the arrival date, or the delivery date, says Google.
This feature saves many additional steps for online shoppers, as consumers typically have to open their order confirmation emails and then either copy and paste the tracking information into the relevant carrier’s system or Google, or click a provided link to get started with the To start tracking the order for example. Now all they have to do is check their Gmail inbox.
However, when you click on it to open the order confirmation email, it now has an overview card at the top that offers a bit more detail, including a timeline with check marks showing 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 US with “most major” shipping carriers in the coming weeks. This feature is expected to be available ahead of the holiday shopping season when it would be most useful.
To enable package tracking, Gmail first asks users if they want to opt-in to receiving tracking updates in a pop-up window at the top of the inbox. Users click “Allow” or “Now Now” based on their preference. This can also be enabled in Gmail settings.
The system, of course, involves scanning your email for tracking information, but this is automated – humans don’t read your email. However, some may see this as a potential privacy issue, especially if Gmail uses this data to inform its various developments in e-commerce and first-party shopping features.
The new addition could impact the launch of popular third-party package tracking apps, including Parcel, Route, AfterShip, and Shopify’s Shop app — although the latter offers more features than tracking, like the ability to search at Shopify merchants and to shop
Later, Google says it will expand the package tracking feature to proactively update the label when a package is delayed and push that email to the top of users’ inboxes to make sure they’re aware.