23 February 2015
Ever since my experience shipping the Tuscany Collector’s Edition (detailed here), I’ve been looking for fulfillment solutions other than Amazon. While I’m mostly pleased with Amazon, if I’m going to ship a premium product, I want to work with a fulfillment center that properly packs that product. Also, Amazon’s system can be pretty daunting to use, and it doesn’t offer many personalized solutions (like adding items without bar codes to packages).
I’ve corresponded with a company called Starlit Citadel in the past, and more recently I’ve heard great things about Snakes & Lattes from creators such as David Chott and Cody Miller. So I reached out to both of those companies, and both agreed to fill out my shipping comparison spreadsheet for your benefit.
Is finding an effective shipping solution to backers in Canada important? I think so. Consistently across all of my projects, Canadian backers have comprised 9% of all supporters. For those projects, that’s $100,000 in funding–that’s significant.
As with my shipping entries about Europe and Asia/Australia, there are some important caveats you should know if you’re going to use this spreadsheet to calculate pricing on your Kickstarter campaign. Most importantly, treat the spreadsheet as an estimate. Before you list any of these prices, please contact your shipping partner of choice and figure out exactly how much shipment for your product in Canada will cost.
The basic idea for these solutions is that instead of sending individual packages to backers from the US (or wherever you’re located), you’ll send them in bulk (or even just a few cartons) directly from your manufacturer to these companies. Then these companies will fulfill individual rewards. (More on this below.)
Here’s the spreadsheet that breaks down the differences between these three companies. Prices listed at the bottom are in USD based on the current conversion rate, and they’re based on shipping to 80% of Canada (my understanding is that the additional 20% has a slightly higher rate). Below is a screenshot of a small portion of the spreadsheet:
Best at: packing products well, fast turnaround, flexible freight shipping (to Canada or to the US), can fulfill in the US too (similar price plus $2.50)
Downside: slightly higher price than Amazon.ca–see Google Doc and/or details here
SNAKES & LATTES
Best at: packing products well, fast turnaround, flexible freight shipping (to Canada or to the US), offers online dashboard for individual orders post-KS, extra copies can be sold by Snakes & Lattes if you want them to, allows customers to pick up games at Snakes & Lattes locations, creators can track shipping progress in real-time on online dashboard
Downside: slightly higher price than Amazon.ca, located on the east side of North America (longer ship times from manufacturers in China), requires multi-line spreadsheets (each order with multiple SKUs must be split across multiple rows of the spreadsheet, which isn’t how the Kickstarter spreadsheet is set up)
Best at: price
Downside: not recommended for shipping premium products that need to be packed well, complicated to set up, , very specific pallet and carton restrictions, no ability to customize
A few endnotes:
- OTX: There are lots of freight shipping companies out there, but I can’t say enough good things about OTX. They are amazing to work with, very communicative, great rates, and they understand the priority on speed for Kickstarter creators. You can get a quote from Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org (if you don’t mind, let him know that you heard about OTX from Jam
- Greater Than Games: If you are a tabletop game creator looking to get your retail games into distribution after backer fulfillment, I’ve really enjoyed working with Paul at Greater Than Games (email@example.com) for their distribution brokerage service.
- Quantity: I’d like to continue to dispel the idea that these solutions are only for big companies with thousands of orders. It’s kind of a self-defeating prophecy: If you don’t offer Canada-friendly, cost-effective shipping options on your Kickstarter project, you probably aren’t going to get many backers in Canada.
- Pricing: Please remember that if you offer “free” shipping anywhere (i.e., to backers in the US), what you’re really doing is building $x into the reward price. So when you determine the shipping fee for other backers, you need to deduct $X from that fee because it’s already built into the reward.
If there are any questions I can help with, please let me know in the comments below. Otherwise I’d recommend contacting the companies directly as listed on the spreadsheet to get quotes for your specific product.