Shipping Dates 101: Which Dates to Track and What They Mean

Ship dates, delivery dates, estimated delivery dates, and a host of other dates are incredibly important for ecommerce businesses to both understand and deliver on. With 45% of customers abandoning their carts because of unsatisfactory delivery options, it’s important to let shoppers know shipping dates to help increase your conversion rates.

Over-communicating shipping dates can also help ease customers frustrations, reduce the chance of failed delivery attempts, and even help improve order management. But first, let’s jump in to the definition of a ship date.

The 6 most important shipping dates to track

Whether you’re a consumer who is curious about your Amazon Prime delivery, or an ecommerce business owner who wants to figure out the land of shipping dates, here are some timelines you should know about.

1. Ship date

The definition of ship date is the date that the order is shipped from the seller or warehouse to the customer. For example, if you offer 2-day shipping, then it’s expected that when the package leaves your warehouse, it will arrive to your customer’s location two days later.

It’s worth noting that the order date is not always the same as the ship date. This can be due to ecommerce stores only working business days and not weekends (e.g., if you place an order Friday night, it’s possible the order won’t ship until Monday) and even shipping cutoffs during the day.

2. Estimated shipping date

An estimated shipping date is exactly as it sounds — an educated guess on when the order will ship out. It’s not always perfect and may end up being a day or so off because of order fulfillment cutoffs (e.g., the difference of placing an order at 10:00 am and 10:00 pm can add a day to the overall delivery timeline).

In rare cases, a customer will make a purchase for a product that goes out of stock before the order can be fulfilled. This is known as a backorder. When a backorder is placed, an estimated shipping time is given to let customers know when they can expect their order to ship and then be delivered.

3. Estimated delivery date

Similar to the estimated shipping date, the estimated delivery date is when a customer can reasonably expect the order to arrive. For shipping methods that are not guaranteed, this date may actually be a window of days.

It may be established once an order is in the carrier’s hands (at which point it may also change). Shipping delays happen for a variety of reasons, but this estimate helps the customer plan for it. This makes ecommerce order tracking all the more valuable.

4. Invoice creation date

The invoice creation date, which is not always the same as the billing date, is when the invoice was created and processed.

5. Delivery date

This is the actual date that the shipment is delivered to the customer. Delivery dates don’t always end up matching their estimated delivery date for a variety of reasons. Delivery exceptions occur when there are issues with customs, federal holidays, severe weather conditions, damaged or missing labels, failed delivery attempts, and more.

6. Return date

The return date is the date the product is returned to the seller, not to be confused with a return window, which is the total time a customer has to initiate a return and send the product back to the seller. This is also different from a return cutoff, which is the last day a customer has to make an ecommerce return.

What to take into account when estimating delivering times

In a perfect world, packages would be delivered with 100% accuracy. However, ecommerce shipping can be very complicated, and delays can and will happen for a variety of reasons.

Transit times and shipping services

Transit times differ based on the carrier you’re shipping with, the service chosen, the shipping destination, among other factors. Cheaper, slower delivery options are typically not guaranteed and may take several modes of transportation (e.g., cargo or air to truck), making the journey long and prone to varying conditions.

Generally, the farther the delivery, the longer it will take. If you’re willing to pay for it, fast and guaranteed options like overnight shipping can help ensure the ship date and delivery date.

Federal holidays

Holidays can significantly slow down the pace of shipping times due to many companies taking off on those days. If you’re shipping abroad, the sender or receiver may not be aware of the other country’s federal holiday closures.

In the US, many companies wouldn’t be open on New Year’s Day (January 1), Memorial Day (the last Monday in May), Independence Day (July 4), Labor Day (the first Monday of September), Thanksgiving Day (the fourth Thursday in November), Christmas Day (December 25), and often other holidays.

Weather-impacted slowdowns

Natural slowdowns like heavy rains, snow, and damage from natural disasters could slow down your package deliveries. For example, when shipping to the Southern United States, it’s not uncommon to experience delays during hurricane season.

Customs

If you’re shipping internationally, there are even more variables. For example, customs can take days to even weeks to be cleared and then delivered. Packages often get held up at customs longer than expected, especially when they lack the proper tariff codes.

If you’re working with carriers like UPS, FedEx, or DHL, these times can be minimized. USPS can take more time because they have to hand off packages to a specific country’s mailing service (where the others use their continuous service in the other country).

ShipBob can take care of your fulfillment and shipping dates

Want to offer your customers more delivery options and spend less time handling shipping? Consider working with a 3PL like ShipBob to seamlessly handle your order volume, expand your shipping options, and reduce the costs of managing a warehouse and retail fulfillment.

Offer 2-day shipping

Want to compete with Amazon and the other ecommerce players? Then you need affordable 2-day shipping. Many customers not only want but expect their packages as quickly as possible. With ShipBob, we can ship your packages out fast to offer a premium shipping experience that helps you drive more conversions.

Accurate ETAs

Knowing when a package is going to be delivered can help improve conversion rates. If a customer is on your site and sees that a package will be delivered within a few days, they’re more likely to convert compared to a site that doesn’t show delivery dates. ShipBob provides accurate estimated delivery dates, so you don’t have to calculate or guess anything.

ShipBob’s technology can display dynamic shipping options in your cart once a customer enters their address and then automatically send back order tracking to your store where it’s shared with the customer, keeping them in the loop.

Speed up ship dates

Having a robust network of fulfillment centers allows us to reduce your shipping costs with distributed inventory. In this (optional) model offered by ShipBob, orders are automatically routed to the warehouse that is closest to the customer.

This lets your packages be delivered quicker and more cost-effectively. ShipBob works with all of the major shipping carriers to help you optimize ship dates and reduce shipping costs.

Conclusion

Shipping dates may seem trivial, but they can have a huge impact on your ecommerce business. If you’re having trouble with managing shipping dates consistently, and your customers are unhappy, consider working with a 3PL to help you improve.

Learn more about how ShipBob can make shipping easier, faster, and more cost-effective. Contact us below to get pricing, learn about our ecommerce fulfillment services, and see how we can help you manage your supply chain and help grow your business.