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Delivery Logistics

Understanding 'Out for Delivery': Last Mile Management Practicalities

Learn what 'Out for Delivery' means in retail fulfillment, its role in the last mile process, and how to optimize delivery efficiency for your shipments.

What does 'Out for Delivery' mean? It's a common phrase in shipping updates, but what does it mean for retail fulfillment? This post will address essential aspects concerning 'out for delivery' in the last mile. Jump to the section that interests you most:

What Does 'Out for Delivery' Mean?

Postal workers and delivery services use the status update "Out for delivery." It means a package has reached a local center and is now being sent to the recipient.

This stage, often called 'last mile delivery,' marks the final leg of the journey.

How it works

A package typically enters the "out for delivery" phase near the time it is scheduled to arrive. This status generally indicates that the package will arrive on the same day. Yet, various factors, such as warehouse hours, driver workload, and signature requirements, can influence the delivery schedule. Sometimes, you can choose a different date for the scheduled delivery.

During this stage, tracking information will confirm that the package is on its way for delivery.

Shippers use tracking updates to inform both the delivery agent and the recipient about any changes to the expected delivery date.

For instance, if a recipient isn't available to sign for a delivery, the delivery person might leave a note. This note could offer options like choosing a different delivery date or picking up the package from a nearby location. The location could be a post office, locker, or retail store (in the case of a BOPIS option).

Now that we've explained what "out for delivery" means, let's delve deeper into how this phase fits into the shipping process and what it means for the delivery timing.

Understanding the Role of "Out for Delivery" in the Delivery Process

For eCommerce providers or retailers using postal or private shipping services, the delivery process can be divided into three main stages:

  1. Receiving an order
  2. Processing the order
  3. Order fulfillment

The "out for delivery" status happens during the final stage. Let's examine each stage, particularly the last mile, to better grasp the meaning of "out for delivery."

1. Receiving an order

When a customer orders a product, the seller's initial step is to ensure the item is in stock. That involves checking the warehouse, contacting suppliers, or coordinating with a logistics provider.

Ideally, this process is automated with logistics delivery software for efficiency. That saves costs on shipping and enables cheaper delivery options for customers.

2. Processing the order

After receiving an order and confirming the item's availability, the seller proceeds to process the order. This includes verifying the buyer's contact details. At this stage, tracking information will show that the order is being processed.

3. Order fulfillment

Orders are processed, sent by the sender, packed, shipped, and delivered by a driver. Each stage of the order fulfillment process can be divided into smaller steps. Tracking information will provide various status updates depending on the shipment's progress.

While specific terms may differ between shipping companies, the following outlines the typical sequence:

Shipped Status

When tracking a package, the initial status usually indicates "shipped." That signifies that the shipping company has collected the package and loaded it onto a delivery vehicle. At this point, the package could be at any location between the original shipment point and the final destination.

In Transit Status

After being shipped, the package typically transitions to an "in transit" status. This means it is moving between different shipment points along its delivery route. The tracking information may include various updates detailing stops along the package's journey. It could also include arrival and departure scans as it enters and exits facilities.

Out for delivery


Once a package in transit arrives at the local warehouse, fulfillment center, or nearest store to the recipient, it is placed in a bin designated for a specific delivery person. These items are then scanned as 'out for delivery' and loaded onto a vehicle for their final destinations.

Upon reaching this stage, the package is deemed out for delivery. The next steps during the last mile depend on the unfolding events.

Last mile order fulfillment

Once a package is out for delivery, various things may happen. Some of these things may lead to a change in the original delivery date. Here are common scenarios:

  • The delivery agent unloads the package from the truck and drops it off successfully on the first attempt. Afterward, they often scan the package. They do this to notify the delivery provider, shipper, and recipient that the item has been delivered and is no longer in their vehicle.

Sometimes, the package might be left with a neighbor or receptionist instead of the intended recipient. Also, this may or may not be shown on the tracking information.

The carrier driver might also forget to scan the package and update its status. In such cases, the tracking status will still display 'out for delivery' even after the package has been delivered.

  • The driver might not finish the first delivery attempt for several reasons. These include weather conditions obstructing access, being unable to reach a commercial residence on a non-business day, or failing to get a signature or collect a delivery fee.

Depending on the shipping company's policy and the situation, the driver might make a second delivery attempt automatically or leave a note. This note allows the recipient to reschedule delivery or pick up the package from a nearby location. The policy varies by shipping company. For instance, if the US Postal Service (USPS) fails a delivery attempt, the driver usually offers another delivery attempt or pickup from a nearby location. The tracking information will be updated accordingly.

  • If there are no successful delivery attempts after a certain number, the driver usually reloads the item onto the truck. It is then returned to the shipping company, and eventually to the sender. The number of attempts or the duration the driver waits before reloading the item varies among shipping companies.

  • Sometimes, a package is marked as 'out for delivery' but mistakenly loaded onto the wrong delivery truck. This error might not be noticed immediately, and the status may not be updated promptly. That might cause the tracking information to display the original estimated time of arrival (ETA) even though the package might arrive the next day or later.

Apart from a successful first delivery attempt, most of these scenarios could lead to an update in the tracking information.


Does 'Out for Delivery' Guarantee Package Arrival Today?

Typically, "out for delivery" indicates that the package will be delivered on the same day by the last mile carrier or delivery provider. However, various events can lead to delays in delivery. In such cases, the package may be delivered the next day. Also, the delivery agent might attempt delivery on another day, return the package to the local post office, or reload it onto the truck for return to the fulfillment facility after many failed attempts.

While "out for delivery" suggests same-day delivery, it doesn't guarantee it due to potential delays. If the customer experiences delays, it highlights significant issues in supply chain efficiency, visibility, and overall order fulfillment management.

Causes of Delivery Delays After a Package Reaches 'Out for Delivery' Status

Various factors may prevent a package from being loaded onto the delivery truck on the same day its status changes to 'out for delivery'. For instance, the delivery provider might encounter delays.

How does this occur?

Absence of Proof of Delivery

Delivery services often need a signature, digital proof of delivery, or a collect-on-delivery fee. If no one is available, a note is left. Then, the package is returned to the local distribution center or warehouse for a second attempt or recipient pickup.

Delivery Exception

Events such as bad weather can cause delivery exceptions, preventing a 3PL logistics company, postal service, or other delivery fleet from completing the delivery. In such cases, the delivery van or truck will attempt delivery on another day.

Accessibility Issues at Destination

Factors like closed businesses on weekends, locked gates, or aggressive dogs can hinder access to the destination address for the carrier or delivery provider. The delivery vehicle will make another attempt or leave the package accordingly.

Miscommunication Scenarios

  • The package is labeled 'out for delivery' but mistakenly loaded onto the wrong truck, with no update from the carrier.
  • Customers might receive the wrong tracking number due to a glitch in the delivery management system.
  • The driver might forget to scan the package upon delivery, leave it with a neighbor, or deliver it to an incorrect address.

What Causes Delays in the Delivery Process Due to Customs Clearance?

If you're using international shipping, packages must go through customs before they enter the country. Customs clearance issues, like paying clearance fees, can delay or halt your package's delivery process.

Customs clearance is required for all packages entering a country from abroad. It ensures proper duties, taxes, and compliance with legal restrictions on items arriving via bulk freight carriers.

During customs clearance, a customs agent checks the accompanying paperwork. They calculate import duties and taxes and request a clearance fee to cover these costs. While this fee may not make delivery cheap, it's essential for international shipments.

Tracking an Out-for-Delivery Shipment

To monitor a shipment that is out for delivery, it's advisable to coordinate with the shipping carrier or a third-party logistics provider. They offer an online portal or app where you can view status updates.

For retailers, it's best to collaborate with their carrier or logistics provider. This will give customers the ability to track their packages. Yet, this practice can be overlooked by many retailers. This is particularly true for those who use third-party fleets, which can exacerbate the issue.


Poor communication during the out-for-delivery phase not only decreases customer satisfaction but also increases delivery costs. Extra expenses are incurred for each additional delivery needed due to poor communication. So, higher delivery charges for the shipper or logistics provider may result in some of these costs being passed on to the end customer. That hinders the availability of free or affordable shipping options.

To ensure customer satisfaction and provide cost-effective shipping choices, retailers should aim to offer transparency to recipients throughout the entire shipping process.

How Shippers Can Enhance the Delivery Process During the 'Out for Delivery' Phase

To ensure efficient, cost-effective, and timely delivery that meets customer expectations, retail shippers can put in place several best practices:

  • Use cloud-based delivery and fulfillment software for streamlined logistics and real-time status updates.
  • Send frequent updates and delivery notifications to anticipate customer inquiries and reduce support needs.
  • Offer various delivery options to accommodate customer preferences and improve first-time delivery success rates.
  • Track delivery performance and adjust procedures based on customer feedback.

These practices help maintain efficiency in last-mile deliveries. They also reduce costs and enable affordable delivery options for customers.

Ways Recipients Can Speed Up the Delivery Process

Recipients can play a role in enhancing delivery efficiency and ensuring timely receipt of their orders by taking the following steps:

  • Utilizing shipper-provided software to track last-mile status updates.
  • Planning to be present for required signatures or payment of fees.
  • Proactively arranging for second delivery attempts or pickup at nearby locations.
  • Allowing up to 48 hours after a package's status changes to 'out for delivery' to accommodate any exception events.

Following these guidelines can help with smoother coordination with carriers. It can also promote efficient shipping for package recipients.

What Recipients Should Do When Packages Out for Delivery Miss Their Scheduled Date?

If a package remains listed as 'out for delivery' for an extended period or shows as delivered but hasn't been received, consider these steps:

  • Verify the shipping address for accuracy in your order details.
  • Check if the tracking status indicates a failed delivery attempt.
  • Look for the package in your regular mail or alternate pickup boxes, as some shippers use many carriers.
  • Confirm if the package was delivered to a nearby location, such as a neighbor (for residential deliveries) or office manager (for B2B deliveries).

Following these steps can help identify exceptions that may delay shipments. If the package still hasn't arrived after following these guidelines, contact customer service for further help.

TIP: Using automated customer notifications and delivery management software helps drivers log failed attempts accurately. It also makes it easier for customers to track their orders and reduces calls to service centers asking about the delivery status.

The bottom line

So, what does "out for delivery" mean? It signifies that a package has reached a transit point near the recipient and is loaded on a truck for final delivery. Typically, once marked as 'out for delivery', the package arrives later that day.

Yet, delays can occur due to various factors like weather, access issues, or delivery errors. If the first attempt fails, recipients are often given options to reschedule or pick up the package from a nearby location.

It's crucial to focus on visibility across the shipping stages, including 'out for delivery'. Utilizing platforms with many views for different stakeholders can aid with your supply chain optimization strategy. Real-time notifications play a key role in providing transparency, reducing anxiety, and enhancing efficiency.

Offering customers real-time delivery updates helps increase first delivery success rates and decrease follow-up attempts. Partnering with a last-mile delivery platform utilizing automation can optimize out-for-delivery shipments, cut exceptions, and enhance customer satisfaction.




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