Online shopping can be like a little adventure.

You click on that "buy" button, and then... the wait begins.

You've likely received an email saying your order has been "shipped, but what does it really mean?

Is your package on a truck, flying across the ocean, or waiting to be picked up?

That's what we'll explain in this article!

What does it mean when a package is shipped?

The term 'shipped' might seem straightforward, but there's a lot going on behind the scenes.

Shipped means that your online order has left the warehouse or store and started its journey to you. In other words, the package is dispatched and in transit.

Shipped online order tracking page

After you click the "Buy Now" button on an online store, your order goes through a few stages.

It gets confirmed, processed, and packed.

Once everything's ready, the seller hands it over to a shipping company, and that's when the word "shipped" appears.

But "shipped" doesn't necessarily mean your package is on a truck or a plane.

Rather, it indicates that the package has been dispatched from the initial facility and is now in the hands of the delivery service.

In other words, "shipped" alone doesn't tell you everything about where your package is at every moment. For that, you'd need to check the tracking information, which can give you a step-by-step history of your package's journey.

But at the very least, when you see "shipped," you know your order is out the door and on its way to you!

Someone flying on a package in the mountains

Lastly, not every store or company thinks of "shipped" in the same way.

For some, 'shipped' means they've just put a shipping label on your package. It might still be sitting in the warehouse, waiting for other packages.

For other companies, 'shipped' means your package has already left the building and is on its way to you.

If you're super eager to know exactly where your package is, you might be able to check it from the tracking details. These can tell you whether your item is still at the store or warehouse or if it's already traveling to you.

The shipping process

As the name implies, "shipped" means that your order has started the shipping process.

Shipping process overview

Here is an overview of the stages your package goes through during the shipping process:

  1. Carrier handoff. First, the package is picked up by a carrier (like a postal service or delivery company). This is when the order tracking page will indicate "shipped."
  2. Sorting and routing. Once the carrier has your package, it doesn't go straight to your house. Instead, it travels to a sorting center, where it's scanned and sorted with other packages heading in the same direction.
  3. On the move. After sorting, your package might take various forms of transportation—trucks, planes, or even boats—to get closer to its destination. Depending on where you are and where the package is coming from, this can be a quick trip or a long one!
  4. Local distribution. Once the package arrives at a distribution center near you, it gets sorted again, this time into a group that's heading to your local area.
  5. Out for delivery. The final leg of the journey is when your package is loaded onto a local delivery vehicle and heads out to your address. This is the moment just before you get the "Out for delivery" update.
  6. Delivery. The end of the shipping process is when the package is delivered to your doorstep, mailbox, or designated delivery spot.

Interesting, right?

How long after something is shipped does it arrive?

This is the million-dollar question: How long will it take for your package to move from 'shipped' to 'delivered'?

Finding dropshipping stores

The truth is, it varies from 1 day to a month or more.

There are several factors that can influence the shipping timeline, and understanding these can help you manage your expectations:

  1. Shipping method. The shipping method you or the seller choose plays a big role. Standard shipping takes longer, while express shipping is faster.
  2. Distance. How far your package needs to travel is another big factor. A package traveling across the city is likely to arrive much sooner than one shipping from China to the US.
  3. Origin and destination. If your package starts in a major city and is headed to another big city, it will likely travel faster due to well-established routes, compared to shipping from a remote area to another out-of-the-way place.
  4. Customs and border controls. International shipments can take longer due to the need to pass through customs. Sometimes, the border control even takes packages apart to examine them carefully.
  5. External factors. Ever noticed how some packages take longer to arrive during certain times of the year? That's because, during peak seasons like Christmas or Black Friday sales, shipping services handle a lot more packages than usual.

So, when you see your package has been shipped, you can think about these factors to get a rough idea of when it might arrive.

Most carriers also offer estimated delivery dates. However, these are just estimates, not guarantees.

What is the difference between shipped and out for delivery?

When you're tracking an online order, another term you'll often encounter is "out for delivery."

Package out for delivery indication

The main difference between "shipped" and "out for delivery" is that "shipped" means that the package has left the seller or the warehouse, while "out for delivery" means the package has reached the local delivery facility and is on a truck heading to your specified address.

In other words, "shipped" is a term used for the broader journey, while "out for delivery" means it's in your local area.

So, when you see "out for delivery," it's time to listen for that doorbell or look out for the delivery truck, as your item is just about to arrive!

Does out for delivery mean that you get your order today?

Seeing the status "out for delivery" can definitely spark some excitement!

But does it guarantee that your package will be delivered today?

Typically, yes!

When an item is marked as "out for delivery," it usually means that the local delivery driver has your package in their vehicle and it's scheduled for delivery on the same day:

Package out for delivery time

However, there are rare occasions when "out for delivery" might not end with a delivery on the same day.

This could happen due to unexpected circumstances like vehicle issues, traffic delays, or even weather problems.

If your package doesn't arrive by the end of the day and the status is "out for delivery," it's usually a good idea to wait a bit longer.

Most carriers will try again the next business day. However, if there's no change in status or delivery after a day or two, you can contact the carrier or seller to ensure your package isn't lost.

Does shipped mean the same as delivered?

A common confusion is that "shipped" means the same as "delivered."

This is not true!

Shipped does not mean the same as delivered (or arrived).

When an order is marked as "shipped," it means the package has left the warehouse or store and is now in the hands of the delivery service. It's at the start of its journey.

Meanwhile, "delivered" means the journey is over, and your package has reached its final destination – your home, office, or wherever you've asked for it to be sent.

An image showcasing cash on delivery

Here are some more important notes about these two terms:

  • Tracking. When your order is "shipped," you can start tracking the package. When it's "delivered," the tracking page will show that the shipment has been completed.
  • Responsibility. Once an item is shipped, the seller has done their part in sending it off. Once delivered, the responsibility often moves to you, the receiver.
  • Missing package. If a package is marked as delivered but you haven't received it, it's recommended to check with neighbors, building management, or the delivery service. Sometimes, packages are marked as delivered a bit too early. Give it a little time, sometimes it shows up later in the day or even the next day.

Still no luck with a missing package?

Then you can reach out to the carrier or the seller. Most companies are pretty understanding and will help you figure out what happened.

They might send you a replacement or give you a refund, depending on their shipping policy.


Before we go, we've created a quick summary of this article for you, so you can easily remember it:

  • When an order is marked as "shipped," it means it has left the warehouse or store and is on its way to you.
  • The shipping process involves several steps, including carrier handoff, sorting, transportation, local distribution, and finally, out for delivery.
  • The time it takes for a shipped item to arrive can vary from a day to over a month, based on factors like shipping method, distance, origin and destination, and customs.
  • "Shipped" and "delivered" are different; "shipped" means the item is on its way, while "delivered" means it has reached its final destination.
  • If your package is "out for delivery," it typically means you'll receive it the same day, although there can be exceptions due to unforeseen circumstances.
  • If your package shows that it was delivered but you didn't receive it, it's important to check with neighbors or the delivery service and then contact the seller if necessary.


"Shipped" seems like a simple term, but after all, there's quite a bit to tell about it!

However, what it comes down to is that "shipped" signals that your package is on its way.

And, when your item has finally arrived, "shipped" will change to "delivered."

So, the next time you click "buy" on something cool online, you'll know exactly what's happening when you get those "shipped" and "delivered" updates.

That will make waiting for your order a bit more fun and a lot less confusing.

Happy online shopping!

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