What is ePacket? Everything You Need to Know About Shipping, Delivery, and Tracking from China

More businesses from all over the world are moving online, and more and more customers are making purchases from stores outside their country.

As an ecommerce business owner, it’s important for you to stay up to date on the changing competitive landscape. And one aspect of business that is constantly changing is shipping.

It’s a lot easier to buy products from China thanks to ePacket shipping. To maintain a competitive advantage over China-based merchants, it’s important to understand what ePacket shipping is and why it has become a popular shipping method from China and Hong Kong.

If you’re using Oberlo or AliExpress to source and dropship products to customers, this article will be even more beneficial to you. We’ll explain how ePacket shipping works and what’s included with ePacket tracking. We’ll also answer common questions regarding ePacket delivery.

Learn how ePacket dropshipping works 🚚

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What is ePacket?

ePacket is a shipping option offered by third-party logistics providers (3PL) in China and Hong Kong. It allows merchants to provide a fast and affordable shipping option for light packages.

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In the past, China EMS was the only affordable and reasonable option to ship consumer products overseas to customers. However, it would often take over a month or longer for customers to receive their purchase. Other quicker options were too expensive, especially for small inexpensive products.

In 2011, the United States Postal Service formally announced ePacket, a new shipping service and agreement with Hongkong Post and eBay China allowing packages from China and Hong Kong to receive USPS First-Class Mail service along with delivery confirmation. Before ePacket, products were shipped to the US from China via sea. This was a long journey, and shipping took a long time.

What is ePacket shipping?

As the “e” in its name implies, ePacket was designed for ecommerce, letting consumers receive their purchases faster and more affordably from online stores and marketplaces that shipped out from China and Hong Kong.

You will often see ePacket offered as a shipping option by merchants in China on websites such as eBay, AliExpress, and Oberlo. However, any merchant in China and Hong Kong can offer ePacket shipping if the package meets the requirements for an ePacket delivery.

The USPS has its own requirements when it comes to a package or parcel being sent with ePacket. The maximum length of a package is 24 inches (60 centimeters), and the total length, height, and thickness of the package cannot be more than 36 inches (90 centimeters).

Example of an international ePacket from Japan Post.

Additionally, to qualify for ePacket delivery, the package cannot weigh more than 4.4 pounds (2 kilograms), and the merchandise being shipped cannot exceed $400 in value.

The package also must be shipped from either China or Hong Kong to one of the 44 eligible ePacket countries.

What is ePacket delivery?

ePacket delivery began as a quick and affordable shipping solution for Chinese merchants and merchants selling from Hong Kong to ship to the United States. Over the years, it has expanded into more than 40 other ePacket countries, such as Canada and Australia.

ePacket delivery to the final destination is handled by a “local” carrier. When we say local, we mean carriers that operate within the country of the package destination—USPS, Canada Post, Royal Mail and Post Office, Japan Post, etc. Each carrier has its own delivery processes, fees, and package requirements.

Who delivers ePacket?

There are a few players involved in ePacket delivery. First, the carrier in China or Hong Kong brings the package to the border. From there, it’s sent to the destination via an international carrier.

After crossing the border of its destination, the package is picked up by a carrier in the destination country. This varies depending on the location and shipping method. They’re responsible for delivering it to the destination address your customer provided when they ordered.

Does ePacket deliver to your door?

ePacket delivery technically only covers the journey to customs and doesn’t necessarily guarantee any sort of delivery window with the destination carrier. Many carriers offer doorstep delivery, though some addresses cannot accept this service or may be out of the carrier’s range.

Learn more: Dropshipping fulfillment: understanding the supply chain and fulfillment process

How to track ePacket

ePacket tracking gives customers end-to-end tracking at no additional cost, letting them easily monitor and locate their package on official websites, such as EMS, USPS, or China Post. Any undeliverable mail is returned for free as well, which means merchants will have no issues refunding customers who never receive their purchase.

There are a few ways to track your ePacket delivery.

The first is to use one of the official websites, depending on where your ePacket shipment is in transit. While the package is still in China, use EMS. When your package is in the US, use USPS.

Alternatively, you can use third-party tracking services if you’re having a difficult time using the official websites:

If you’re using Oberlo, you can find a tracking code by going to My Orders. The tracking code will show up next to your fulfilled orders.

Order and ePacket tracking is beneficial because customers can self-serve and find out where exactly their package is and when to expect it. In turn, this reduces support inquiries about pending deliveries and improves the customer experience.

💡 Note: China EMS is a carrier and ePacket is a distinct shipping method.

Which countries have ePacket shipping available?

As of August 2021, 46 countries support ePacket deliveries:

  1. Australia
  2. Austria
  3. Belgium
  4. Brazil
  5. Canada
  6. Croatia
  7. Denmark
  8. Estonia
  9. Finland
  10. France
  11. Germany
  12. Gibraltar
  13. Great Britain
  14. Greece
  15. Hong Kong
  16. Indonesia
  17. Hungary
  18. Ireland
  19. Israel
  20. Italy
  21. Japan
  22. Kazakhstan
  23. Latvia
  24. Lithuania
  25. Luxembourg
  26. Malaysia
  27. Malta
  28. Mexico
  29. Netherlands
  30. New Zealand
  31. Norway
  32. Poland
  33. Portugal
  34. Russia
  35. Saudi Arabia
  36. Singapore
  37. Spain
  38. South Korea
  39. Sweden
  40. Switzerland
  41. Thailand
  42. Turkey
  43. Ukraine
  44. United Kingdom
  45. United States
  46. Vietnam

How long does ePacket take to deliver from China to the US?

On average, ePacket shipping times to the US can take 10 to 20 days to arrive from the date of shipment. Other countries may see similar or slightly longer average shipping times. Around half that time is spent reaching the destination, while the other half is spent being routed to the proper facilities before making it to the customer in the destination country.

Depending on the destination of the package, customs, holidays, and other delays, shipping times can vary. However, ePacket shipping seems to be a much more consistent option in terms of average shipping times compared to other economical shipping options out of China and Hong Kong.

It’s important to realize that this is pretty fast considering the amount of packages that are processed in bulk every day along the way to their destination, as well as the number of stops one package goes through.

Fortunately, all of this can easily be monitored, thanks to the ePacket tracking service included with these deliveries, giving customers peace of mind while their package is on the way.

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How ePacket works on AliExpress

ePacket shipping should be one of the main factors, if not the most important factor, when dropshipping products from AliExpress and deciding which ones to sell. ePacket shipping lets your customers receive their purchase in a reasonable timeframe, while allowing them to track their order while they wait.

It’s also the most consistent option for merchants and customers. Other shipping options may not be as reliable, unless you consider more expensive shipping options from China and Hong Kong.

Lastly, ePacket is generally offered as a free or inexpensive shipping option. This allows you, as a store owner dropshipping with AliExpress or Oberlo, to offer free shipping.

Learn more: How to find and work with reliable dropshipping suppliers and wholesalers

How do I know if my shipment is an ePacket delivery?

If you’re ordering through AliExpress dropshipping, look under Orders and click View Detail. When looking under Logistics Information, the shipping method used will be under International Shipping Company. It should say “ePacket” along with the tracking number if the package was indeed shipped using ePacket.

If you’re not purchasing on AliExpress, you can also determine how the package was shipped by looking at the tracking number. ePacket tracking numbers usually start with “L.” If there is no ePacket tracking number, it’s likely the package was shipped using a different method.

Will the customer have to pay customs/duties/taxes with ePacket shipping?

ePacket deliveries go through traditional customs clearances, which may require customers to pay any applicable duties and taxes on arrival. It’s also best to check your local laws to see when you would have to pay duties/taxes on imported purchases and for what kinds of items.

Ask the merchant shipping the item if there may be any duties or taxes owed on arrival. They might be experienced shipping to your country and have a better idea of whether or not duties/taxes will be owed.

Ultimately, what’s the benefit of the ePacket service?

If you ship locally, your competitive advantage will always be speed of delivery. There are customers who will not tolerate a few weeks’ delivery time for a product to arrive. These are your customers.

Compared to other shipping services from China, ePacket also provides:

  • Customs clearance. It shares China Post’s customs clearance, so it guarantees speed.
  • Fast shipping speeds. ePacket is faster and cheaper than China Post Air Mail. You can also return packages for free and track items.
  • Transparent pricing. There are no hidden or extra fees, which is uncommon when working with cross border ecommerce companies.

Remember that competition is always changing. It’s important to maintain perspective on why customers choose you and figure out what they really want. Once you know that, you will be equipped to serve your customers better than your competitors can.

Note: If you want to learn more about dropshipping with Oberlo or AliExpress, check out our definitive guide, which goes into a lot more detail.

How to use ePacket dropshipping on Shopify

ePacket is ideal for Shopify merchants that sell low- to medium-value items and want to save money on shipping costs. Packages typically take 15 to 30 days to arrive when using ePacket on Shopify. To set it up for your store, you’ll need to ensure that you’ve opted for ePacket delivery with your supplier.

Want to start a dropshipping store that uses ePacket shipping? Start your free 14-day trial of Shopify—no credit card required.

ePacket shipping and tracking FAQ

What does ePacket shipping mean?

ePacket is a shipping option third-party logistics (3PL) companies in China and Hong Kong offer to ecommerce businesses. Shipping by ePacket gives merchants a way to ship lighter packages quickly and affordably.

How long does it take for an ePacket to be delivered?

ePacket packages are delivered in less than 30 days. Based on reviews, it typically takes around 7 to 10 days to make a delivery. It’s usually free or low-cost.

Does ePacket offer tracking of orders?

ePacket delivery provides customers the option to track their orders in an end-to-end manner without any additional costs. You can easily track the ePacket on official websites like EMS and USPS with a tracking code.

Is ePacket shipped by air?

The main reason ePacket is faster than other shipping methods from China is because it’s shipped by air. Historically, packages from China were shipped by sea in containers without any tracking options.