What is ePacket? Everything you need to know.

Products purchased online in the US are often shipped from China. The rise of eCommerce, connectivity and globalization has blurred the borders of shopping and trade. This led to the creation of ePacket – an agreement designed to make shipping between China and the US much faster. Learn more about ePacket and decide whether it’s right for your online business. 


What you’ll learn:


What is ePacket shipping?

ePacket shipping is a service agreed between the United States Postal Service (USPS), Hongkong Post and eBay China. Established in 2011, the agreement aimed to drastically reduce shipping times from China and Hong Kong to the US.

It arrived at a time when technology and globalization were revolutionizing how we shopped. Increasingly, products bought and sold in the US were manufactured in China – from artificial flowers to electric toasters, umbrellas and drinking flasks.

But traditional shipping was slow. ePacket shipping was devised to speed things up. Under the service, small packages sent from China to the US received:

  • USPS First Class Mail status
  • Parcel tracking
  • Delivery confirmation.

At the time, it was hailed as a great advancement in global eCommerce. The name itself is a play on eCommerce.

“It shows the Postal Service has the flexibility to develop service options to meet market demand from businesses around the world.”

Paul Vogel, president and chief marketing/sales officer of USPS, speaking in 2011

Initially, ePacket shipping was focused on the US. But as of 2021, there are 44 eligible countries using ePacket to ship from China – including the UK and much of Europe.


How is ePacket delivered?

With ePacket shipping, your parcels are delivered direct to the customer’s door. The process is as follows:

  1. A customer places an order on your site or eCommerce marketplace.
  2. China Post EMS ePacket collects the parcel from the merchant in China or Hong Kong.
  3. They transfer the parcel to China’s border and dispatch to the destination country.
  4.  Once it arrives in the destination country, a local courier (i.e., USPS) picks up the parcel.
  5. The local courier transfers the parcel to the post office closest to the destination address.
  6. The parcel is then delivered.


Benefits of ePacket delivery

The ePacket shipping service brought many benefits to consumers and eCommerce sellers in the US and merchants in Hong Kong and China. 

Key benefits include:

  • Faster delivery – Prior to ePacket shipping, products sold from China were shipped to the US via sea. ePacket changed that – guaranteeing first class USPS delivery to the US in 10 to 20 days. It meant sellers could promise speedy delivery.
  • Lower costs – ePacket shipping is cheaper than other options. Low-cost shipping enables you to price your products competitively – gaining an advantage other sellers using more expensive shipping methods.
  • Parcel tracking – The option to track parcels from dispatch to their delivery address gives you and the customer greater oversight and transparency, which can boost seller-customer relations.
  • Order management – eCommerce businesses that deal with lots of orders can easily check the status of an individual one with tracking, should there be any delays.
  • Free returns – You can enjoy free returns on undeliverable items with ePacket delivery. This makes it much easier for you to offer refunds to affected customers, potentially improving their brand sentiment.
  • Dropshipping  – ePacket has made dropshipping a much more appealing business. The ability to promise fast, tracked delivery makes working with third-party merchants in China more viable and appealing.
  • Platform versatility – ePacket shipping is globally recognized. It’s easy to offer as a shipping option when you’re selling products from China on sites such as eBay, Allie Express and Oberlo.


Getting started with ePacket.

ePacket shipping can help you save time and boost brand sentiment with fast, tracked delivery. But before getting started you should consider whether it’s right for you. Ask yourself:

  • Do I already work or plan to work with China-based merchants?
  • Do my parcels meet the requirements of the ePacket shipping service?  
  • Am I based in an ePacket-registered country?


ePacket size and weight requirements.

The ePacket shipping scheme was created for “lightweight goods and merchandise”. To qualify:


Parcels must:

  • Be no longer than 24”
  • Weigh a maximum of 2kg
  • Display postage, address and customs form
  • Not exceed 36” (length + height + thickness)

If you’re sending rolls, they must:

  • Be between 4” and 36” in length
  • Weigh a maximum of 2kg
  • Not exceed 42” for maximum length + twice the diameter

Source: USPS


Maximum ePacket parcel value.

The maximum value for parcels sent via ePacket shipping is $400 USD (£288).


Shipping and tracking via ePacket.

Once you know your parcels meet the requirements of ePacket, you’ll want to consider the actual shipping – from how long it takes to tracking via ePacket.


How long does ePacket take?

The time it takes for an ePacket parcel to be shipped from China depends on the destination. ePacket was originally established to serve links between the US and China and Hong Kong. Since then, it’s since been expanded to include shipping from China to 40+ countries. 


How long does ePacket take from China to the US?

It takes between 10 and 20 days for a parcel sent from China via ePacket to arrive at its destination in the US. This is a significant improvement on the month-long shipping times by sea before ePacket was established. 


What is ePacket tracking?

ePacket tracking gives you peace of mind – whether you’re a seller, merchant or shopper. Tracking rules agreed under the terms of the ePacket agreement in 2011 mean all parcels are tracked from the moment they’re dispatched. So, you can check the status of your parcel mid-delivery. This is ideal for handling late deliveries or customer queries. 


How to track an ePacket delivery.

ePacket tracking is simple. The best way to track a parcel between China and the US is to use the official postal service websites:

  • USPS – for the US
  • EMS – in China 

With both, you simply type in your 13-digit parcel tracking number. You’ll need to get that from the supplier in China who dispatched the parcels. 


Challenges relating to ePacket.

Though ePacket shipping offers many benefits, there are some challenges to also consider. These include:

  • Restrictions – Not everything can be sent via ePacket. And if you’re selling products that exceed the value, size and length limits, you won’t be able to use ePacket shipping. It’s best to check first.
  • Customs taxes – ePacket deliveries pass through customs. If your parcel’s checked, the customer may have to pay those additional costs – potentially affecting customer/seller relations.
  • Shipping delays – Though ePacket delivery from China to the US is generally fulfilled within 10 to 20 days, it can occasionally take longer. Should this occur, it could lead to customer complaints that are out of your control.



Does ePacket deliver to your door?

Yes, ePacket shipping delivers door-to-door. The process sees items collected in China by the China Post EMS service, taken to the China border and sent to your country. Once in the US (for example) the parcel is collected by USPS, which directs the parcel to your door via your local post office.


Is ePacket safe?

As far as shipping methods go, ePacket is thought to be safe. There’s a set procedure with responsibilities to get your parcel to its various stages. And it can also be tracked at any stage in its journey. Created by China Post EMS and USPS, it is most reputable.


Is ePacket good for dropshipping?

Yes, ePacket is considered good for dropshipping. The main reason is it allows US or UK-based sellers to buy products direct from merchants based in China and have them sent directly to the buyer’s address. There’s no need for you as a seller to stock the products yourself.


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