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

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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 22% of customers abandoning their carts because delivery was too slow, it’s important to let shoppers know the ship date 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.  

In this article, we’ll discuss different types of ship dates, what factors you need to estimate them, and how an expert partner like ShipBob can help you optimise your shipping strategy. 

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 best ship date to present to your customers, here are some timelines you should know about. 

1. Ship date 

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

It’s worth noting that the order date is not always the same as the ship date. In other words, an order may not always ship on the same day that the customer places it.  

This can be due to ecommerce stores only working business days and not weekends (for instance, if you place an order Friday night, it’s possible the order won’t ship the next day), or because an order is placed after a shipping cut-off time 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 fulfilment cutoffs (for example, the difference between 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, merchants should give customers an estimated shipping time to let them 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. It is usually displayed at the checkout, and may vary depending on the particular shipping option that a customer opts for, as seen in the example below: 

Source: Ecwid 

For shipping methods that are not guaranteed, this date may actually be replaced by a number of days. It may be established once an order is in the carrier’s hands (at which point it may also change). Some companies also offer estimated delivery times. 

 Shipping delays may happen for a variety of reasons (some controllable and others not), but this estimate helps the customer plan for it. This makes ecommerce order tracking all the more valuable. 

To help customers track their orders, many brands provide customers with an order tracking number after they make their purchase. Customers can then use their tracking number to look up their order (either through the assigned carrier or through the brand’s website) and follow its progress through fulfilment and delivery.  

Source: ParcelPerform 

4. Invoice creation date 

The invoice creation date – which is not always the same as the billing date – is the date on which the invoice was created, which may be days before order processing. 

5. Delivery date 

The delivery date 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. This is not to be confused with a return window, which is the total time a customer has at their disposal to initiate a return and send the product back to the seller. It 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% order 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 (such as 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) 
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day (January 15) 
  • 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)  

If you work with a fulfilment and shipping partner like ShipBob, you’ll need to check their holiday schedule, as that may also affect the timing of your shipments. You can find ShipBob’s Holiday Schedule and building closure schedule here.  

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 that affect the shipping speed – the most significant being customs.  

Customs can take days or even weeks to be cleared, so packages often get held up at customs longer than expected – especially if they lack the proper paperwork. Brands may need to present a variety of documents at customs, including (but not limited to): 

  • Proforma invoice 
  • Commercial invoice 
  • Export packing list 
  • Certificates of origin 
  • Certificate of free sale 
  • Shipper’s letter of instruction 
  • Inland bill of lading 
  • Ocean bill of lading 
  • Air waybill 
  • Letter of credit 

If any of the necessary documents are not included, a shipment may be held up until they are obtained. This can delay your shipment and push your delivery date farther out.  

ShipBob can take care of your fulfilment and shipping dates 

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

Here are just a few of the ways that partnering with ShipBob can help you optimise your shipping strategy.  

Offer 2-day shipping 

To compete with Amazon and the other ecommerce players, you need to offer customers affordable 2-day shipping. With ShipBob, we can ship your packages out fast to offer a premium shipping experience that helps you drive more conversions. 

Ecommerce brands can leverage ShipBob’s global network of fulfilment centres to store inventory and fulfil orders closer to customers. Orders are automatically routed to the warehouse that is closest to the customer, minimising shipping transit times and costs and helping you get orders to customers both faster and cheaper.  

“Looking at it from an average cost perspective, I noticed that as soon as we have inventory allocated across ShipBob’s network, our average shipping cost drops down, as do our fulfilment costs. It’s because the Inventory Placement Program ensures that our orders are being picked, packed, and shipped from the most ideal fulfilment centre location (the one closest to the order’s final destination), so shipping distances are always minimised.

This also means that our orders are going out faster. We used to have a lot more complaints with 2-day shipping before partnering with ShipBob, but with our inventory strategically distributed, we can cut lead times and really follow through on the 2-day promise. Overall, our customers seem much happier since we switched to ShipBob, and we’re not getting negative reviews on our 2-day shipping anymore.”

Mithu Kuna, Founder and CEO of Baby Doppler 

Merchants can even use ShipBob’s Ideal Inventory Distribution tool to optimise inventory allocation to better meet demand and lower their average shipping one.  

For brands that don’t want to split inventory, ShipBob’s 2-Day Express Program enables you to ship to anywhere in the continental US within two days.  

Present accurate ETAs 

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

Merchants can also monitor an order’s fulfilment and shipping progress through ShipBob’s dashboard, where each order’s status as “Processing” or “Shipped” is displayed in real-time. 

Simplify international shipping 

If customs delays are pushing out your ship dates and deterring shoppers from purchasing, ShipBob can help.  

ShipBob has fulfilment centres in the UK, Europe, Canada, and Australia, so your brand can store inventory within the countries you wish to sell to. This not only shortens shipping distances, times, and costs, but also reduces cross border complexities to make selling internationally easier. 

How TB12 slashed shipping costs by 25% with ShipBob 

When Tom Brady’s health, wellness, and fitness brand TB12 started to kick growth into high gear, they knew they needed a fulfilment partner that could help them reach customers all over the US.  

By distributing inventory to ShipBob’s fulfilment cetners in the Northeast, Southeast, and Southwest, TB 12 was able to place stock closer to major distribution hubs, shipping couriers, and more of our customers. This helped them reduce both transit times and shipping costs to delight customers and keep them coming back.  

“We’ve seen an uplift in conversions by offering free shipping thresholds and 2-day shipping. Since switching to ShipBob from our previous 3PL, our fulfilment cost on comparable orders went down by 25%.”

Michael Peters, VP of E-Commerce Operations at TB12 

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 professional fulfilment partner to help you improve. 

Learn more about how ShipBob can make shipping easier, faster, and more cost-effective by clicking the button below.   

Shipping dates FAQs

Here are the answers to the most popular questions about shipping dates.

Is the ship date the delivery date? 

Unless it’s same-day delivery, the answer is usually no. The shipping date marks when the order will be shipped out to the customer. The delivery date is when the shipped order will be delivered to the customer.  

What is estimated delivery time? 

Estimated delivery time is the expected time when the shipped order will be delivered to the final destination.  

What is the difference between estimated shipment date and estimated delivery date? 

The estimated shipping date is the date the company estimates the ordered products will be shipped. The estimated delivery date is when a customer can reasonably expect the order to arrive. 

Does ShipBob offer shipment tracking?

Yes! Once ShipBob’s operations team has labelled an order, a unique tracking number is uploaded to the order details page on your ShipBob dashboard, which links to the carrier’s website. This tracking link will allow you to track the shipment’s progress, from the ShipBob fulfilment centre to your customer. 

Does ShipBob provide ship date estimations? 

ShipBob can provide estimated delivery dates at checkout for dynamic shipping options once a customer enters their address. 

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Written By:

Rachel is a Content Marketing Specialist at ShipBob, where she writes blog articles, eGuides, and other resources to help small business owners master their logistics.

Read all posts written by Rachel Hand