Shipping Speed vs. Fulfillment Time

shipping and fulfillment speedAt first glance, the difference between shipping speed and fulfillment time might not seem significant. However, when the two different terms are explored in further detail, it is obvious that the chasm between the two time frames is certainly pronounced.

Shipping speed is fairly straightforward: it is the time that a product takes to reach the end user after being sent out from the vendor. Common examples of shipping speeds are same day (think, next day, and 2nd day. However, fulfillment time is by definition the amount of time the that elapses from when a customer places an order to the time that the customer has the product in hand.

After establishing the different meaning of the two disparate terms, it should come as no surprise that fulfillment time is the more important metric to a consumer. The rationale behind this is simple: if Customer Doe places an order on January 1st with 2nd day shipping and the order doesn’t ship out from the vendor until February 10th, that 2nd day shipping doesn’t hold much value, given that five weeks has elapsed from the time that the order is placed until the customer receives the order. The fulfillment time in this case would be the five weeks — plus the two days for shipping.

Now take the scenario where a business promises a two-week order fulfillment time. The same Customer Doe would get their order by January 15th, assuming he put the order in on the same day (January 1st).

Striving to shorten fulfillment times is a top priority for businesses that depend on shipping as the medium to facilitate sales to their customers. In this age of exponential online growth and the concurring downsizing of brick and mortar setups, this translates into significantly more businesses looking to minimize their fulfillment numbers.

What are some solid practices and measures that businesses should utilize to cut down on their fulfillment times? Let’s take a look at three of the top tips for saving valuable fulfillment time.


Although employing the same order management system as your suppliers is important, this by itself won’t suffice. What is more valuable is the visibility that your business has into the inventory and processes of the suppliers that you work with. Perhaps one of your suppliers is experiencing an issue with their inventory? Ideally, you should be privy to that knowledge so that your own website reflects that factor. Hiccups known ahead of time are invaluable in keeping your own customer apprised of possible issues that could delay the time it takes to fulfill their order, resulting in a higher level of customer satisfaction.

Maintaining the capability to track supplier orders and convey that information to your customers assists in managing customer expectations and generally improves the credibility of your company across the board. In addition, a second upside of order and inventory visibility is that this information can be showcased to shoppers on your company’s website. This recent UPS Pulse of the Online Shopper study reveals that 58% of shoppers are of the opinion that being able to view if the product that they are shopping for is available is crucial to their ending purchase decision.


Customers that are shopping online have come to expect rapid shipping times. Obviously, shipping time is a component of the total fulfillment time. However, assuming that the fastest shipping method is always the best method is not the answer. Other factors that can and do come into play when deciding on a shipping method include the location of the customer, where the product is in relation to that customer’s location, and the length of time that the order is going to take to prepare for shipment.

The answer to selecting the best shipping method can be found with smart shipping algorithms. Many cloud-based software programs make real-time ordering possible. Having the ability to select the optimal shipping method ensures that your organization delivers your offerings in a timely manner, and also automatically keeps an eye on your bottom line by preventing shipping upgrades that are not necessary.


Business that operate in the e-commerce environment must account for the fact that the order fulfillment clock starts ticking the moment that your customer consummates their transaction. What this translates into is a customer waiting as your company completes each and every step of the process.

Because you are dealing with a customer who is expecting speed, it is imperative that you keep your customer informed and up-to-date by forwarding salient details regarding their order with them all along the way. That’s why a superior order management system will allow for updates such as when the order was received by your supplier, the date and time that the order has been dispatched, and where it is in the transit process. By sending this information along via email notifications, you are effectively keeping your customer satisfied — resulting in a happy customer and repeat business.

Order fulfillment time carries more weight with a customer than merely the time that the product takes to ship. By utilizing constant tracking, choosing the best shipping method for the situation, and keeping your customer in the know, you can minimize fulfillment time and increase customer satisfaction.

Questions? Feel free to reach out to us today!

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