Online Order Processing: How Long?

Here’s how long it takes to process an online order:

On average, an online order will process in one to three days.

This is the time it takes for the company to receive the order, confirm payment, and prepare the order for shipment.

Processing times do not typically include delivery.

So, it could be a while between the end of processing and reception of your order.

So if you want to learn all about online order processing and what it means exactly, then this article is for you.

Let’s jump into it!

Online Order Processing: How Long? (Everything to Know)

What Does Online “Order Processing” Mean?

Typically, when you order something online and then track the order, one of the first things you will see is some variation of the phrase “order processing.”

If you order from enough companies, you’ll see a lot of variations, but the general process is pretty much the same, and they’re all trying to tell you the same thing.

Namely, the order hasn’t shipped yet.

There is stuff that the company needs to take care of before they will ship any items.

That stuff usually includes processing payments and then grabbing the item from a warehouse, boxing it, and getting it ready for shipping.

That’s usually what it means for an order to be processing.

A Few Different Meanings From Different Online Sellers (3 Companies)

The thing is, there is no universal rule that companies have to follow on this.

Every company gets to set its own fulfillment process.

So, you could potentially see things that look a lot different.

It depends on who is handling the order.

So, to help paint a more complete picture, we can look at the specific processes for three rather large companies.

It should help distinguish how things can vary while the general concept remains the same.

#1 Amazon

Amazon is the biggest online retailer in the world by a lot, so let’s start here.

When you place an order, Amazon will move the order to “pending” for 30 minutes.

This time frame is intentional, and it gives you a chance to cancel the order.

After that period passes, the status changes to “unshipped.”

It will hold this status until your payment is confirmed.

That can take anywhere from minutes to days, depending on how you pay and how well all of the systems are communicating (but it’s usually processed the same day you place the order).

If there is a problem with payment, the order will move back to the “pending” status while Amazon tries to resolve the problem.

If payment cannot process, then the order is canceled.

Assuming payment clears, the status will remain “unshipped” until it is boxed and picked up for shipment.

Amazon does handle a lot of shipping internally, but they also work with delivery services and couriers.

Regardless of who is handling shipping, when the package is scanned onto a delivery vehicle for the first time, that is when the status will change.

From there, you can track the shipping of your package.

You’ll notice that “processing” is not formally used at any point here.

That doesn’t really matter.

Pending and unshipping are the periods that correlate to processing for many other companies.

#2 Shein

Shein is another major online seller.

With Shein, the public-facing explanation of order processing is quite a bit simpler.

The company says that processing usually takes one to three days, but it can sometimes take longer (we’ll go over common reasons for delays later).

For Shein, processing covers the time between placing the order and the order actually shipping.

It’s pretty standard in this respect.

#3 Apple

Apple is another massive company, so let’s see if anything is different here.

When you place an order with Apple, the order will go into processing.

Eventually, it moves to “prepared for shipment.”

We’re not reinventing the wheel here.

Apple considers processing as the downtime before fulfillment.

It’s where you can easily cancel your order if you need to.

After your payment is confirmed, Apple will take measures to get the item from the warehouse and move it to the shipping location.

When it arrives at the shipping location, processing officially ends and the status is changed to “prepared for shipment.”

How Long Does Order Processing Take? (5 Factors)

As you can see, “processing” is pretty variable.

Every company makes its own rules, and every company is committed to different turnaround times.

Each company might also face different obstacles too.

Across all of that, what should you expect?

How long does processing take?

The big average says that processing takes one to three business days.

That accounts for smaller companies that might take weekends off and the huge range of possibilities at play.

But, even if that’s the average time span, there are plenty of situations where processing will take longer.

So, let’s explore some of the most likely factors that can delay processing.

#1 Location

Location matters a lot.

Even if we limit the discussion to major online retailers, they have warehouses around the world.

Even though these companies will try to standardize their processes, things aren’t the same in every warehouse.

Depending on where your shipment originates, the average shipping time can vary by up to days.

And, it won’t be a static thing for each location.

If you order from Malaysia right after it gets hit by a major storm, you’re probably going to see delays.

There are a lot of variabilities here, but the point is that the package’s origin does matter for processing times.

#2 Item

The item itself is also a major variable in this equation.

Items are not always available for immediate processing.

The company might have to wait on production, in which case you will see that it is on backorder.

Some items have customization.

Maybe you’re getting something engraved on the item.

That usually extends the processing time because there is more to do before the item is ready to ship.

On top of all of that, some items require more care during processing.

Fragile items are packed more carefully.

Potentially hazardous items have to follow legal procedures.

Some items require some amount of assembly or special packaging before shipment.

You will see processing times change dramatically depending solely on what you order.

#3 Store

The store itself is clearly important.

I already showed you how three different major online retailers describe things very differently.

If the store in question is using different metrics or terminology, it’s definitely going to impact processing times.

Even more to the point is that different companies set different standards.

Amazon tries to get the processing done within a few hours.

But, if you order x-ray machines from a medical equipment supplier, they might not want to be in such a rush.

The company has a lot of reasons to have its own approach to processing, and that’s why a single universal answer can’t really cover everything.

#4 Size

This does get back to the item itself, but size does matter.

In fact, size matters in two ways.

First, large items are harder to process.

They are bigger and weigh more, and boxing them might not be easy.

You can expect processing to slow down to accommodate the challenges of moving large items.

Or, you might be placing a large order.

If you have a lot of items in your order, it will take more time to get them all together and properly packed.

Especially if you want them all to arrive at the same time, it’s a more complicated process, and you have to account for that.

The processing time will go up.

The most capable retailers will let you know when your order is going to have an extended processing time, but you can also reasonably assume that large orders take longer.

#5 Time of Order

This is another big one.

A lot of us are used to ordering from Amazon, so we have come to expect 24/7 responses no matter what.

But, if you aren’t ordering from Amazon or another massive retailer, then that might not be the case.

A lot of sellers have regularly scheduled downtime late at night, on weekends, and during holidays. 

What’s really interesting is that this can come into play even when you order from Amazon.

Amazon allows individual sellers and shops to have pages on the site to complete sales.

In some cases, when you order from Amazon, your package will not be fulfilled by Amazon itself.

Instead, the individual retailer will handle selecting and packaging your item to ship it.

They also might take weekends or holidays off.

If that’s the case, you can expect your processing time to extend by their downtime hours.

When Is Order Processing Complete?

Ok. We’ve covered a lot about order processing.

You have a better idea of what it means, what it can mean, how long it takes, and why the times will vary.

Here’s the last thing.

When is processing done?

Once again, this can vary by retailer.

But if we want to generalize, here’s the rule.

Processing is done when the item is either ready to ship or has been formally shipped.

That means that the shipping label is printed, and the tracking is ready to go.

The package might be at a shipping facility waiting for pickup, or it might be scanned into a shipping system.

Either of those is available times to switch the status, and it really tells you the same thing regardless.

You aren’t waiting for the seller to package and ship your item.

That part is done.

Now, you’re just waiting for delivery.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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