Customers want their products yesterday. Two-day shipping by Amazon Prime has raised expectations. Today, customers don’t just consider price and quality before pressing the buy button. They factor in how long it’s going to take to get their laptop, athleisure shorts, or brass knuckle coffee mug. To stay profitable, store owners who rely on dropshipping for some or all of their products need to know the shipping basics of popular online marketplaces like AliExpress.
AliExpress is an enormous marketplace that offers multiple shipping options for getting products to customers or to storage. It’s what most buyers call a “dropshipping site” because you can use it to ship individual products to customers. The advantages of dropshipping are that you don’t need storage space for inventory or packing materials for shipping.
You can ship products on AliExpress with familiar international carriers or use AliExpress’s own shipping service. Some methods let customers track packages, and some don’t. In the end, your business goals will determine what shipping method you choose.
By the end of this article, you’ll know how to save money on shipping with AliExpress while getting customers their goods on time.
Does Free Shipping Exist?
The first rule of shipping is there’s no such thing as free shipping. Every manufacturer or retailer offering “free shipping” has included that cost into the price of the product, which you’ll also pass on to your customers. Shipping is especially non-free when a customer returns a product, and you have to eat the cost.
But people love free shipping. Rolling shipping costs into your price often makes folks more likely to buy. It’s something to consider when pricing your products.
Major Carriers on AliExpress
Most suppliers on AliExpress offer the option to ship with major private carriers like FedEx or government-owned ones like China’s postal service. Generally, both shipping options have shorter delivery times but are more expensive. If speed is a high priority, consider going the route of a major carrier like these:
Free Shipping Options
AliExpress has several free shipping options. In general, any method of free shipping will take longer than a paid one and cost you in higher prices or longer wait times. For example, the China Post offers free shipping on some items on AliExpress but has a delivery time of 20 to 39 days.
Some products are free, but the delivery method is decided by the seller (i.e. “Seller’s Shipping Method”). Shipping times will vary accordingly, and you’ll need to communicate closely with the sellers and customers on estimated shipping times. In that case, free shipping will come at a cost to your time.
Free shipping options can work for dropshippers if they keep your prices competitive and your customers are willing to wait.
AliExpress Standard Shipping
AliExpress Standard Shipping is inexpensive and includes tracking, so it’s a popular choice among dropshippers. Security is top-notch, too. Since both the transaction and tracking information are stored on AliExpress, suppliers and customers can quickly check the status of an order.
However, AliExpress delivery times are long (15 to 20 days).
AliExpress Premium Shipping
If you’ve got a rush order on those wedding decorations, you probably need another option, like AliExpress Premium Shipping. It’s comparable in price to major carriers like DHL and FedEx but is much faster than AliExpress Standard, cutting times down to 8 to 15 days. Premium is available in 183 countries and includes package tracking.
ePacket combines affordable shipping costs with fast delivery. This delivery service, a joint effort between the US Post Office and the Hong Kong Post, operates at a loss. That’s why it can offer similar shipping times from Asia (10 to 20 days) as major shippers at a fraction of the cost (around $3 to $5).
ePacket isn’t always an option. Only a limited number of countries support ePacket shipping from China, and the product’s price can’t exceed $400. All packages must also meet the following physical requirements:
- Maximum length is 24” (60 cm)
- Total length, height, and thickness cannot exceed 36” (90 cm)
- Maximum weight is 4.4lbs (2 kg)
Overall, ePacket offers eCommerce owners a good balance between shipping costs and wait times. Order tracking makes it easy for you to check the shipping status when a customer complains and resolve disputes around shipping. Dropshippers get the most benefits from ePacket because low shipping costs increase long-term profitability.
Do Shipping Times Really Matter?
While your customers want their products ASAP, that doesn’t mean they’re not willing to wait if the price is right. The better deal they think they’re getting, the more patient they’ll be.
Really, what customers hate is inconsistency. Late shipments are unexpected shipments. When your customers know upfront it will take “4 to 6 weeks” to get their waterproof fly fishing jacket, you’re less likely to get an email with a subject line reading, “Where’s my stuff!!!”. So, customers will wait—they just don’t want to feel they’ve been swindled. Be honest and upfront about your shipping times on your product pages and watch the frustration levels decrease.
And be conservative with your estimates. If an item is delivered through ePacket (10 to 20 days), give yourself some cushion and list “12 to 22 days” in your disclaimer. A few customers may be put off by the extra days, but more will be satisfied when their shipments arrive on time or early.
In the end, shipping times don’t really matter if you set up appropriate customer expectations and manage your shipments correctly.
Tracking Orders on AliExpress
The best way to track a shipped package on AliExpress depends on the shipping method you or the customer chooses at checkout. As the supplier/buyer for your customers, you’ll have access to the tracking order in your AliExpress account. However, you will need to send the tracking number to your customers through email or text for them to check the shipping status. Here are some available tracking methods on AliExpress.
Free Delivery Tracking
Free delivery is usually sent by the China Post Small Packet or Aliexpress Standard. The delivery will be assigned a unique tracking code, which you can find on your My Orders section of the AliExpress website. You can then enter that tracking code into the Global Order Tracking site, or if a major courier like UPS is delivering, you can enter the tracking code on the company’s tracking page.
Every ePacket order comes with a unique tracking code, which you can use to check the status of the shipment or forward on to a customer. However, ePacket tracking codes are country-specific. If a package originates from China, the China Post will assign it a tracking number. Once the package arrives in the U.S., the USPS will change the number for delivery.
Dropshipping on AliExpress
Unsurprisingly, AliExpress is a popular dropshipping site because it’s easy to get started. There are no membership fees for buyers and shipping is easy. After you receive your customer’s order, just purchase the product on AliExpress and supply the customer’s address for the shipping destination. To maximize your profit, use ePacket shipping and focus on the U.S. sales for cheaper and faster shipping rates.
However, dropshipping popularity means more competition and smaller profit margins. Smart dropshippers use savvy marketing like email campaigns and social media ads to put the right products in front of the right people at the right time. That’s how to make dropshipping profitable.
Won’t Customers Just Buy From AliExpress?
With all of this talk of shipping costs, one question naturally arises—why wouldn’t a customer just skip your store and go straight to AliExpress? Why not pay for the shipping themselves? The answer is marketing and the personalized buying experience that attracts customers.
The sheer size of a marketplace like AliExpress leaves customers a little cold. The website is built for the practical purpose of connecting buyers with sellers and moving large quantities of products.
Compare this to the warmer appeal of a more cozy store with personalized branding and hand-picked products for a niche audience. Marketing and customer service are how store owners bring value to their customers.