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I work for a company that ships products worldwide. When communicating delivery expections to customers, is it better to have real dates ("Delivery on Septemeber 9th") or number of days ("Delivery in 3 days"). The "dates" option is more exact, but becomes problematic when the destination is in a different time zone from the source of the order transaction. The "days" solution is cleaner, but is the information adequate?

Thanks

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  • Why is the "dates" option problematic? If you're shipping from Maine and I live in Seattle, the delivery date is when it arrives in Seattle. All delivery estimates I've run into don't have trouble with those calculations. As for if the "days" solution is adequate, that is a question only your users can answer. Run some research with them. – Nicholas Pappas Sep 8 '16 at 22:24
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I would say the date.

First, I'm not sure why the time zone thing would be a problem in one scenario and not the other. If it's 11:00pm in Los Angeles, it's a different "date" than it is in Boston, but it's also a different number of "days."
But, I digress...

Problem with saying "ships in X days" is, if you're communicating with them over email, they might not be looking at that email until a number of hours have passed. If I buy something today, go to bed and then get the email tomorrow, "X days" now means something other than what I'm interpreting it to mean.

Also, "in X days" can be subjective. Does today count as a day? Does that mean business days? What is a day?

By saying "ships on X date," now you're telling the person EXACTLY when the item is going to ship. No ifs, ands or buts... no room for error or misinterpretation.

That's the way it's done in every carrier(that I know of)'s tracking system. USPS, FedEx, UPS... they all say "This is the DATE it ships, this is the DATE it arrives, etc."

What you could do, if you wanted to be thorough, is to use both:

Ships on December 3, 2016 (2 days from now)

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You should always use the exact date.

The ambiguous date treatment is OK (and of course recommended) when you're writing marketing copy, but when you need to communicate the exact accurate moment of delivery, then you use the date. Keep in mind you don't know when the user is reading this, and even then (for example if she reads this immediately after purchase), the user may be confused "did I purchase this 6, 7 or 8 days ago?" . Not to mention the added confusion with time zones, weekends, holidays and so on.

In short: ambiguity is for marketing. Accuracy is for usability

However

please note that there might be cases where you won't know when the delivery will happen, for example, when delivering overseas. In these cases, you can use "your delivery will arrive within X working days. Local courier may modify this date, please contact us if you have any doubt"

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