Updated: June 2, 2021
Whilst ecommerce as a whole boomed last year due to national lockdowns. The businesses that are still present today are still here because they adapted to the changing times, which included overcoming this issue.
2020 presented many challenges for dropshippers, particularly shipping, as most countries at some point or another closed their borders. One of the hot topics regarding shipping was ePacket.
What is ePacket?
If you have done your homework on dropshipping, you may have heard the word ePacket mentioned quite a bit by now.
ePacket is a shipping method offered by merchants in China and Hong Kong. It allows for the faster delivery of products from China and Hong Kong to many countries by air.
Before this, products were shipped by sea and could typically take over 8 weeks.
ePacket quickly became the most favored shipping method when dropshipping for items weighing up to 2kg. This was because the delivery using this method would only take 10-20 days. Another reason for it being so favored was the end-to-end tracking provided.
It provided a speedy delivery solution because of how it worked.
Deliveries using this shipping method would fill up the extra cargo space on passenger flights to a huge list of countries; this ensured continuous flights were running back and forth almost all of the time.
Can you still use ePacket for dropshipping in 2021?
Unfortunately, not anymore. As Covid-19 began to establish itself globally, countries either reduced transit or closed their borders entirely. During this time, the cost of ePacket delivery was reported to have shot up in some cases to up to three times the original cost.
Only essential cargo was initially allowed back and forth, and when people went back to work, ePacket never returned to normal. This was because passenger flights did not return to normal, and even at the time of writing this, worldwide travel is still very restricted.
As you can see in the tracking details above, it took a whopping 65 days in some cases to deliver to my customers; this was unacceptable from a customer’s perspective. Numerous orders also never got delivered at all.
Reasons people used ePacket for dropshipping
Before the pandemic hit, ePacket was the fastest, cheapest, and most reliable delivery method, making it the obvious choice for dropshippers to use.
It initially boasted an average delivery time of 15 days from China/Hong Kong to the US when the going was good. However, we are unfortunately looking at something much worse now, with an average delivery time of 22 days.
In most cases, the shipping cost with ePacket would be so low that suppliers would typically eat up this cost and ship it for free. If they did charge for shipping, it would typically only cost a couple of dollars, and this would normally be charged for very low-ticket products.
Today, most suppliers, particularly on AliExpress, are not even offering ePacket as a shipping option. AliExpress’ standard shipping has fortunately gone from strength to strength in the absence of ePacket.
It has proven to be an incredibly reliable shipping method that also comes with tracking.
The shipping speed is slightly better, with an average of 19 days.
The next thing you may be wondering is which countries ePacket is available in. Luckily we have compiled a list of them all for you.
Which countries have ePacket shipping available in 2021?
The typical countries to dropship to are the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, which ePacket ships to.
However, let’s not forget the numerous others that may well be hidden treasures if you know how to market to. For example, take a look at these countries here.
If you’re wondering now which countries ePacket ships to, then you’re in luck!
We collected the list for you below in an easy to copy format:
- Great Britain
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Saudi Arabia
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
- United States
That’s a long list, right?
How do you use ePacket as a shipping method?
First and foremost, you will need to know if your supplier still offers this shipping method. It is likely that right now, a more reliable alternative shipping method is available.
This can be done on the import page on your chosen platform before the product is imported to your store. This will set a default shipping method.
Once the product is imported to your store, you can then further personalize your shipping methods based on the products and countries. This will help further with the automation of fulfillment, such as below:
At this point, you may be wondering how this works with any duties or taxes applicable when your customers’ delivery gets picked up by customs when using ePacket.
Well, let’s find out!
Won’t the customer need to pay duties/taxes?
ePacket shipments will go through the same customs clearances as any other shipping method, which may require customers to pay any applicable duties and taxes on arrival.
It is advised to check the local laws to see when you would have to pay duties/taxes on imported purchases and which items they apply to.
Your supplier would be a good place to start in getting such information. They might be experienced shipping to your country already and have a better idea of whether or not duties/taxes will be charged upon arrival.
If any duties/taxes are payable by the customer, which they will no doubt be unhappy about, then you must convey this clearly in your shipping policy.
Next, we will look at what may deliver the killing blow to the shipping method we all know and love.
Further challenges for ePacket
In October 2018, the Trump administration announced its plans to leave the UPU (Universal Postal Union). The UPU allowed Chinese companies to ship to the United States at a steeply discounted rate.
The problem this posed to the US economy was markets were being flooded with cheap consumer goods, undercutting American companies. The new postal rates didn’t begin until July 2020 and will be introduced over five years.
This will consequently drive up shipping costs, which will inevitably find its way to you, the seller.
What are the ePacket alternatives?
While the inevitable demise of ePacket poses a challenge to dropshippers, it also provides great opportunities to stand out from your competitors. Being able to provide a faster shipping method can certainly help your conversion rate.
1. Different shipping methods
We have already gone through AliExpress standard shipping, but let’s look at a few others.
A solid first choice, which provides an average delivery time of 15 days to the US. It offers greater flexibility in both shipping size and weight to ePacket; the tracking is also end-to-end. It will, however, cost you a little more than ePacket would have.
The main drawback to this shipping method is it’s not widely available on AliExpress as an option. In most cases, you can make this arrangement with your supplier, and they will generate what they call a ‘VIP Link’ for you to ship this way.
Another reliable shipping method is SF International, which will usually take about 17 days to the US. The shipping method is more widely available, and the prices are on par with what ePacket was.
A less preferred choice for dropshippers. Yes, it may have a bad rep for slower deliveries than the other two mentioned before, but it is getting better.
Currently, it is taking an average of 22 days to deliver to the US and most within 30 days. Tracking can be spotty if offered at all, but it is usually shipped for free by suppliers using this method.
2. Using a dropshipping agent
After looking at the popular choices of shipping, you may have come to the decision that you would rather pay someone to deal with that for you. This is where having a dropshipping agent may be beneficial to you.
Most of them have a local or regional knowledge of the fastest shipping lanes to use for the best price. If you are selling in large quantities, then it’s likely that they will save you more than they will cost.
Check out our amazing article on dropshipping agents for much more info on what it is they actually do.
3. Using local dropshipping suppliers
With the shipping costs increasing and average shipping times taking a hit due to international travel restrictions, it may be justified to pay that little bit more locally.
The chances are you may be able to source the very same product, just a little further down the supply chain but delivered within your target countries much faster.
Alternatively, your current supplier may also have warehouses located in their key countries to help with faster deliveries, so have this conversation with them.
If you’re interested in finding a local dropshipping supplier, don’t forget to check out this article with 67 awesome suppliers.
Before we end this article, let’s quickly have a final run through what was discussed in this article, as this may have been an information overload:
So, is this the end of ePacket?
ePacket had a rough time last year, both with the global pandemic causing horrific delays and the rate increase introduced during it. It was consequently a challenging year for dropshippers for the very same reasons.
Many merchants have pulled this shipping method and are offering almost equally cheap and reliable couriers.
While we don’t want to say ePacket is dead, it isn’t looking good. Existing dropshippers still here today will testify this wasn’t the be-all and end-all to dropshipping; they just simply adapted to the changing environment around us.
If you’re interested in learning more about the current state of dropshipping, then don’t forget to take a look at the article I linked to below:
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