The ecommerce landscape is chock-full of terms and concepts that are crucial to a retailer’s success. With such a vast dictionary to remember, it can be difficult to sort through what they actually mean. Below, we’re diving deep on common date related terms – what they mean, when you should use them, and how they might affect your shipping processes.

Ship date, delivery date, estimated delivery date, and return dates – if you’re not careful, you might end up confusing these ecommerce terms with each other. And in turn, confusing your customers. To prevent this from happening, let’s define them.

Common Date Related Shipping Terms 

Ship Date

The actual date a retailer hands off a shipment to the carrier. This is the date from which you’d calculate time-in-transit. For example, if the ship date is Thursday, January 14th, and you’ve guaranteed overnight shipping, the item would arrive on Friday, January 15th. NOTE: On the ShipperHQ platform, the term “dispatch date” is used in place of “ship date.”

Estimated Ship Date

The estimated date on which the retailer will hand off the shipment to the carrier. These dates are crucial because they are what make up your shipping lead time. 

Delivery Date

A delivery date is the actual date an order will be delivered to the customer. These dates are important because they give customers a much clearer idea of when to expect their package, versus the number of days in-transit. 

Estimated Delivery Date

This term means you are estimating when an order will be delivered to the customer. When dates cannot be guaranteed (as is currently the case with most carriers), retailers use estimated delivery dates to communicate expectations. 

Shipping Speed

Shipping speed refers to the amount of time it takes for an order to be delivered to a customer. This consumer-friendly term is more accurately called the “shipping method” because it describes which of the carrier’s services are being used. Often, retailers define shipping speed based on “days in-transit,” for example, “Arrives in 3-5 business days.”

Return Date

The date a returned product arrives back to the seller. This is different from the return window, which accounts for the amount of time a customer has to return the item. 

Why Do These Dates Matter?

In short, they matter because customers care a lot about when their order will arrive. While customers certainly want to choose a delivery option that works for them, the thing they’re most concerned about is an accurate delivery date. In fact, 82% of customers prefer to shop with stores that show actual delivery dates, and 45% say they’d even pay more for this feature. 

Your customers may not understand things like lead times and blackout dates, but they do understand delivery dates and ship dates. To be a leader in ecommerce, it’s essential that you communicate these dates to them in real-time. Start by sending ship date emails to your customers to let them know their order is on the way. Follow up with order tracking and delivery date notifications to seal the deal. 

What Affects Ship Dates? 

Ship dates, estimated ship dates, delivery dates, and estimated delivery dates are all calculated on a delivery timeline. This timeline is based on specific factors relevant to the order. 

Lead Times

Sometimes called production times, lead times are the dates between when an order is placed and when it ships. Depending on the products you sell and your processes, they may be as short as a few hours, or several weeks if something requires manufacturing. Having accurate lead times is crucial to accurate delivery date calculation. Inventory shortages or backordered items also affect lead times.

Blackout Dates

These are specific dates orders will not be shipped out. Reasons could range from carrier closures to production shut-downs. But don’t be worried if you need to factor in black out dates at checkout. Being upfront about them in your calculations will make for more satisfied customers.

Cut-Off Times

Cut-off times might entail both shipping cutoffs (sometimes called order fulfillment cutoffs) – e.g.: “Orders placed before 4pm EST will be shipped the next day.” Or, they may entail production cutoffs – e.g.: “Production for orders placed after January 15th will resume on January 18th.”

Time-in-Transit

The shipping speed for a given order will make up a big part of the delivery timeline. Of course, 2-day shipping will take the expected two days. But for methods that are more ambiguous, customers are relying on you to give them this information. A recent Baymard Institute study confirms  that “days in-transit” shipping information is far more confusing to consumers than clear delivery dates.

Holidays & Weather

Sometimes, factors outside your control will affect the fulfillment process. You can, of course, account for holidays in advance, and build them into your schedule. Inclimate weather, however, is an unavoidable obstacle. Where possible, communicate any relevant delays expected due to weather.

Customs

If you’re shipping overseas, you’ll need to add time in customs to your delivery schedule. Because customs can be an unpredictable process, taking anywhere from a few extra days to a few weeks for orders to pass through, it may be a good idea to add a buffer to avoid missed delivery dates. 

Communicating Ship Date Info To Customers

More than ever, customers want and expect clear communication about the order they’ve placed.

Armed with more information about shipping and delivery, they will be less frustrated by the process and less likely to be on the receiving end of a missed delivery. Of course, you’ll benefit from saving on missed delivery fees and improved customer satisfaction. Let your customers know that you’re the kind of retailer that puts them first by giving them full insight into their shipment.


For retailers selling perishable items, delivery information is even more crucial. When Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams was ready to expand their ecommerce business, they knew they’d need a shipping solution that would get products into customers’ hands quickly and accurately. After integrating with ShipperHQ, Jeni’s was able to show clear and accurate delivery dates directly within checkout.

“ShipperHQ helped us with things like delivery dates, which is especially important for customers that send Jeni’s as gifts. The last thing they want is for a loved one to receive a melted box of ice cream. Or receive an order a few days after a holiday or birthday.”

Chelsea Clements, Former eCommerce Director at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams

After integrating with ShipperHQ, Jeni’s started saving more than 130 company hours per year through automated delivery date calculations. 


ShipperHQ Solutions

If you’re a retailer ready to improve your shipping experience and margins, it’s time for a new partner. With ShipperHQ’s powerful Shipping Rate Management Platform, you’ll gain access to key features that will improve customer satisfaction – and conversions. 

Features like Multi-Origin Shipping, which lets you ship items from the closest location to the customer; Delivery Date and Time, which lets customers choose an exact date and time for their delivery; and Shipping Rules, which gives you complete control of your shipping strategy at checkout. You can even go a step further with our Enhanced Checkout solution to access comprehensive order details at a glance and an Amazon-style split shipping experience.  

Ready to see ShipperHQ in action?

Author

Amanda Laviana is a Senior Copywriter on the ShipperHQ marketing team. She brings nearly a decade of copywriting experience to the table, and has worked across many facets of the e-commerce and shipping tech landscape. Amanda enjoys blogging, traveling, cooking, and waiting on miniature dachshund hand and paw.