Amazon has been quietly testing a new feature of their home delivery system recently. In addition to email and text alerts, you might now receive an actual photo of the package at your front door. Or in the bushes, or behind the planter box, or wherever the delivery person left it. It's quite an innovative idea, and according to at least one source, the primary reason is to make it easier for the customer to locate the package.
I'm going to hazard a guess that this is pretty much bunk.*
Let's start with the obvious: unless you've got a really impressive front yard, and/or you're ordering really tiny packages, it's relatively difficult to actually hide the delivery. Since Amazon dodged the bullet of wrapping the boxes in camouflage paper, they do tend to stand out a bit. I'm sure there are plenty of yards where a package can be effectively hidden, but is the inability to locate the package truly that widespread of an epidemic?
Probably not...or probably not exactly.
The article does mention the possibility that the pics are CYA. In other words, proof that the package was actually delivered. I can buy that.
But I believe the primary reason is to help customers locate packages delivered to the incorrect house. I'll take a quick poll of just myself***. In the past year, I've had four packages delivered to other people's houses, and not just "down the street." Sometimes they're a block or two over. Once, two boxes in the same delivery were delivered to a vacant house with a For Sale sign in the yard. I've also received at least three packages meant for someone else's home.
How many times have I spent more than ten seconds searching for a box that was delivered to my house, but hard to find? None.
Now, if I get the text message claiming delivery and there's no package, it can be really hard to find the actual delivery location. NextDoor.com sometimes helps, and one would hope that the person who does get the delivery would bring it back...but that doesn't always happen.
Having a picture of the porch where the package was left could greatly reduce the search time.
Or, as we called it in the enterprise support world, "Time to Solution." When it comes to customer satisfaction, solving the problem is a huge, key driver. But the solution doesn't always have to be delivered by the provider, interestingly enough. Quite often, customers are happy (or are at least not as unhappy) if the provider helped them solve their own problem.
This concept is almost always illustrated on any company's self-help web pages. Software and service providers are quite aware that usability is a key to product satisfaction. Providing product support is expensive, though. Self-help resources are generally the most cost effective, albeit still costly. Since effective self-help impacts usability which impacts product satisfaction, the company asks you constantly, "Did this content help you?"
So, 'fess up, Amazon. You guys are aware that you can make twenty perfect deliveries, and customers like me will still lose their minds the first time their two-day free delivery of cat toys or trash bag liners lands on the wrong doorstep. That picture of the delivery location is all about helping me solve my (or your) problem, isn't it?
* Bunk is what old people say when they're in polite company and don't want to say "that which emerges from the hind end of a bull." I'm going to assume that the people who read my blog constitute polite company.**
** Though I realize Rob Garden reads this, and possibly Jason Week, so maybe that's a bad assumption.
*** Talk about statistically insignificant data...