One of the nice things about ordering from Amazon is that you get package tracking details and information right on site. It’s a key ingredient in why Amazon leads all others as an online retail destination. Now, thanks to Hong Kong-based startup AfterShip, any merchant will be able to offer the same thanks to an API for package tracking that works with a wide range of international shippers and couriers.
The new API means that developers working on ecommerce websites don’t have to worry about working with different individual protocols for each shipper, and can instead just implement one small element into their site that provides an entire post-sale shipment tracking system, for both consumer and vendor. It covers all the big guys, including DHL, USPS, FedEx and more with over 30 shipping companies in total, and it not only provides notifications to users at various shipment stages, but also keeps track of all shipments in a global dashboard so retailers can monitor the performance of each courier over time.
AfterShip got its start a year ago when it won the Global Startup Battle, and after offering package tracking services on its own for that time, it realized the greater opportunity here was in being a service-layer API to help merchants build out a more robust and complete ecommerce destination for their own websites. This has a number of benefits, AfterShip co-founder Andrew Chan explained in a phone interview, since it keeps customers on the merchant’s website rather than sending them elsewhere, provides better customer service and provides useful analytics so that vendors can change their shipping practices over time to better fit their audience demands.
“We saw that there was no such thing as this for the Western market,” Chan said. “We’ve been testing with a few merchants and they’ve been enjoying it so far. But we’ve also been using it ourselves for a year, and we kept getting requests from others to integrate it with other shopping carts and online stores, so we decided to make this happen.”
Chan gave me a run-through of the AfterShip dashboard that merchants see, which allows them to see at-a-glance the status of all open and closed orders, where they are and what their current shipping status is across carriers. Vendors can also customize notification emails sent to customers, and send both emails (included in API subscription pricing) and SMS (with fees that vary depending on volume). Chan points out that a merchant can tweak which notifications get sent as well as their content, ensuring that they don’t spam their customers, and also include sales-generating opportunities in their messages, like sale notifications for items related to that customer’s order, giving them more post-sales revenue-generation opportunities.
AfterShip is offering a free trial for one month with unlimited use, and for small volume businesses that do less than 100 shipments per month, it’ll remain free always. There are also tiered paid plans starting at $15 per month, and ranging up depending on how many shipments a company needs AfterShip to track per month. The startup is funded by some seed investment from Australian investors, and from Hong Kong based Cyberport, a key technology incubator for the area.
Chan says he hopes AfterShip will eventually become synonymous with on site package tracking in the Western market, and he’s also looking ahead to a time when they’ll expand more aggressively into areas closer to home like China, too. For now though, he thinks the company’s unique advantages in being close to one of the largest shipping hubs in the world, while also having strong ties to the West and with a business model aimed at vendors based in that part of the world is the best way for AfterShip to gain strong early footing.