What is a tracking number?
A tracking number is a specific number assigned to a package when it is submitted to a shipping company for transport and delivery to the recipient. Both sender and recipient can use the tracking number as a reference to see where the shipment is and get updates on the delivery status.
For companies involved in e-commerce, tracking numbers as well as order numbers are a helpful tool. But what is the difference between them? Below you will find a short guide with information on what tracking numbers are and how they are used.
A tracking number is a unique reference code
A tracking number, like an order number, is a unique reference or ID code for packages. It can also be called shipping ID. Tracking numbers can be used by shippers and receivers to trace the path of a shipment from the time it leaves the supplier until it arrives at its final destination.
Read also: When will the mail arrive?
How does a tracking number work?
Tracking numbers are recorded digitally and printed as a barcode on the waybill attached to a package for transport. The barcode is then scanned at all the different transport facilities that process the consignment on its way to the consignee. Each time the barcode is scanned, there is an update in the shipping and delivery status of the package, which can be viewed online by searching the current tracking number.
How to find your tracking number
Packages are assigned tracking numbers by the shipping company used to deliver the shipment. However, it is usually the sender who passes the number on to the recipient.
A company sending an order to a customer receives the tracking number when the package is handed over for delivery and the cost of shipping is paid. The number is then communicated to the customer as confirmation that the order has been sent. Usually this is done by e-mail.
If the recipient of a consignment does not receive a tracking number, or if the e-mail containing the number disappears, it is the sender who should be contacted in the first instance - not the shipping company. This is because the company that sent the parcel can easily find the tracking number by searching the order number or other information linked to the order itself.
Vedum forestalls their customers
Previously the main problem for Vedum’s deliveries was failed delivery attempts; i.e. deliveries that were sent out but never found their recipient. Now Vedum uses automatic notifications in PostNord’s portal to ensure that the goods arrives. Now the customer never has to call and ask where the goods are located.
How many digits does a tracking number have?
Each carrier has its own unique format for tracking numbers, which is why they may look different at different carriers. However, most numbers contain around 8-40 characters. Tracking numbers for international shipments are often slightly longer than those for packages sent only within Sweden.
PostNord's tracking number usually consists of 13 characters, but depending on where an item comes from, the format may be different. For example, an import parcel from the USA has different letters in the tracking number than a national shipment within Sweden.
Furthermore, tracking numbers can consist of numbers only, or a combination of numbers and letters. Unlike order numbers, tracking numbers are rarely distinguished - either by spaces or hyphens.
What is the difference between tracking number and order number?
Tracking numbers and order numbers are both a form of reference number, so they can be easily confused. However, they are two different numbers referring to two different things:
- The order number is provided by the selling company and refers to the order or purchase itself
- Tracking numbers are created by the shipping company that will deliver the order to the recipient and refer to the shipment itself
Unlike tracking numbers, order numbers cannot be used to track a package. However, it is helpful when contacting the customer about matters relating to the order itself - for example, questions about complaints or payment.
Want to know more?
For more information on the distribution and delivery of orders and other consignments, see the Logistics category.