3 New Kickstarter Platform Changes

4 November 2016 | 30 Comments

For a company as deliberate as Kickstarter has been over the last 8 years, the last month has been a whirlwind of activity. Not one, not two, but three kind of big changes were made on the Kickstarter website. Let’s go over what they are and what they mean for creators and backers.

Reward Scheduling (link)

What it is: When you’re setting up your project page, you can now determine exactly when each reward becomes visible and when it expires.

What it means for creators: The main thing this does for creators is it makes running a campaign a little more hands off…if you’re into limited-time rewards like early birds and if you’re a perfect planner regarding new reward levels that will open up during the campaign.

What it means for backers: Have you ever missed out on an early-bird reward, so you checked in on a project from time to time to see if anyone cancelled their early-bird pledge? No more. Creators can now alter the deadlines on those rewards: “To close off a reward tier, just set its deadline to any time in the past.”

How I feel about it: It just seems strange to me that Kickstarter seems to be encouraging the dubious practice of early-bird rewards. They’re enabling something that makes projects more exclusive instead of more inclusive, which bewilders me.

Referral Tags (link)

What it is: Referral tags allow a creator to create custom URLs to share via specific platforms (Facebook, Twitter, MailChimp, etc) to identify exactly how many backers the source generates (instead of lumping them into big pools of people).

What it means for creators: This gives creators so much more information than what was previously available to them. Marketing time and fund management during a campaign is incredibly important, and now you can learn exactly which sources are proving to be the most lucrative so you can focus on them.

What it means for backers: This is a very indirect way of supporting your favorite blogs. If you click on a link given to you by your favorite reviewer and then back the project, you’re now communicating to the creator that the reviewer is an asset.

How I feel about it: This is a fantastic development. The more information a creator can have about where his/her backers come from, the better.

Kickstarter Live (link)

What it is: Kickstarter has enabled live-stream videos on their website, complete with live backer comments. Based on the examples shown on the link above, you’re encouraged to have a beard if you use this feature.

What it means for creators: Up until now, creators have had two tools for communicating publicly with backers on Kickstarter: comments and updates. We’ve had to turn to other sources to connect with backers in other ways. Kickstarter Live is a very strong community-building tool.

What it means for backers: You now have a way to look a creator in the eyes and ask them anything you want. That’s pretty cool. Also, non-backers can watch the broadcast and pledge to it while it’s happening, so it could be a way to bring in new backers too.

How I feel about it: This is a really awesome addition to Kickstarter. I’m curious to see how often people actually use it, but I know for me as a backer who rarely comments on updates or projects, if a creator told me he/she were launching a live video chat on Kickstarter, I’d absolutely check it out, even just for a few minutes. That face-to-face connection is really powerful.

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How do you feel about these developments? Will you be using them?

30 Comments on “3 New Kickstarter Platform Changes

  1. Hi Jamey,

    Another great write up. I agree that reward scheduling seems counter productive and don’t think I would ever use it.

    I’m curious how the referrer tags differ from what you can do with Google Analytics, or is this supposed to be Google Analytics For Dummies? Does anyone know anything more about this?

    I did get a chance to use Kickstarter Live yesterday. It worked fairly well, but seems to be very particular in what browser you use. My co-host also couldn’t join the broadcast as a presenter for some unknown reason as well, but do know that multiple presenters should work. I’m looking forward to seeing where they go with this platform including RTMP and screen sharing.

    Thanks as always.

    Raymond

    1. Raymond: The key difference is that Google Analytics shows you the number of people who view the project page but not the number of backers. 100 people might view the page from a specific link/source, but only 10 of them might back the project, whereas there might be another source that only has 20 views, but 15 of those people become backers. That’s helpful info. It would be useful if Kickstarter stats included views and converted backers all in one place, though.

      Thanks for sharing your experience with Kickstarter Live! Screen sharing sounds like a very useful inclusion for the future.

      1. Wait, does KS not kick back the actual conversion? I thought that was the whole point of them implementing Google Analytics? If so, you can create the same thing with more granularity in GA by creating a “tag” and actually follow people through conversion not just how many backers are hitting your page, also if they visit and come back later to back it will be tied to their original referral unless they come in through a different channel.

          1. Google Analytics does show conversions, so you can see that a blog post with 25 clicks might have pulled in more $ support than a social media post with 2500 clicks. It shows them imperfectly, but I think all tracking systems are a bit imperfect. One difficulty with the new short codes (and now the old short project links as well) for Kickstarter linking is that Google Analytics does not properly parse those and the free version of Bit.ly does not do so any more either. If you love stats, I’d recommend using the full Kickstarter project link and the GA tag because I’ve been able to see some awesome data that way. Your mileage may vary :-)

  2. I agree with your reaction on the “Reward Scheduling” update. I’m not planning to ever use Early Bird rewards, but there are many creators that use them almost exclusively so I can understand why this change was made… Instead, I can imagine using it to activate new reward levels mid campaign to try and create a boost during the mid-campaign slump… maybe, but not likely.

    “Referral tags” seems like a great tool for managing advertising/marketing. I can focus on my greatest ROI or try harder to cultivate less rewarding blogs, etc.

    I’ve seen many campaigns do live feeds before, that they have to set up elsewhere, but only their backers are generally aware of it. The Secret Hitler campaign did an amazing job of using live video to demonstrate their game in action with marathon gaming sessions. With Kickstarter Live these videos would have been more available to non-backers and they would have generated more pledges. Anyone who uses this well should reap the benefits.

    Exciting changes from an otherwise static company, I wonder what Kickstarter will come out with next.

    1. Jonathan: I agree that it’s sometimes useful to activate new reward levels during the campaign, though I don’t know if I’ve ever met a creator who has been about to plan that meticulously before the project. :)

      I’d still love for Kickstarter to incorporate polls into updates or even project pages.

      1. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I will use the Reward Scheduling feature on my first campaign. Case in point, I’m planning on having a second deck that can be combined to double the number of players, but as that isn’t my main focus it will get unlocked as a stretch goal. With this change, I’ll be able to have the pledge level visible, but inaccessible until the stretch goal is unlocked. Thoughts?

        1. Jonathan: I’m not 100% sure, but I don’t think any future reward levels will show up at all until the scheduled time triggers. So you could just create them at any time during the project.

  3. They also changed the way backers browse. The “explore” link is less intuitive and makes browsing specific areas more cumbersome, I don’t yet know how I feel about most of the other changes but I do dislike the “early bird” rewards.

  4. The ability to close early bird levels doesn’t bother me for campaigns where the difference is negligible, but in some campaigns, particularly those with multiple tiered early birds, being able to snag a late EB and the “deal” aspect has made the difference between backing or not. Perhaps it is rooted in the impulsivity related to deals/sales, but in cases where I’ve been on the fence it has happened.

    I also think that, with the tiered early birds that go up by $5 every X backers, it challenges the value proposition: even if the full regular backer price is a discount from MSRP, AND there is enough added value to beat the online retail price, some people in those campaigns still were able to pledge significantly less. This annoyance is exacerbated by tiered EBs. For a $100 project with a single EB you may see $90 or $95 as the EB price. The scenario that really annoys me is when there are EB tiers that may start as low as $75 and then go up by $5 every so many backers and really challenges why $100 is the regular rate. Hopefully that makes sense.

  5. I love the new changes that they added, all three actually.

    One thing that plagued me during my last campaign, was that I had screwed up the shipping charges on some of my pledge levels.

    I created a new level with the right (lower) shipping fees and let everybody know via an update that the shipping on the old level was bad for a few select companies (Canada) and to move over to the new level as they could and they would be able to lower their pledge amount.

    Granted this was entirely my own fault for not configuring my charges correctly, but the tools I had at my disposal were not very great. I essentially had to set the pledge level to “sold out” so new backers wouldn’t use it any longer.

    The unfortunate part of this, is that as backers moved over, I had to watch the page like a hawk and update the limited quantity to go down to the new backer count for that level, otherwise it would show up with only {x} slots left for the pledge level and some new backer that had no idea would end up taking that spot if I wasn’t able to catch it in time.

    Having the ability to shut off a pledge level from new backers after a specific date is much more helpful for situations like that. Sure it’s an edge case (i hope so anyway) but I would have LOVED to have that feature back in August.

      1. Yes: what Justin Blaske articulated here is exactly what I wanted to chime in with. So +1 to that. I don’t think it’s an “edge case,” as Justin said. I think it’s a case of “stuff happens.” :)We had the same problem, and it became a bit of an annoyance, because (1) once in a while a backer from that obsolete tier would drop out, causing the tier to open up again, which (2) confused future backers who didn’t quite understand why they’d select one over the other, and (3) created communication hassles. So for a situation like this, I like the new feature, although I do understand your trepidation with regards to early-bird campaigns.

  6. We tried the Kickstarter Live feature three times during the campaign. We did live plays of the Flames & Frost expansion. Attendance was a bit low but engagement per viewer was high. We will do it for our next campaign – but shorten play times and add in more time for actual discussion on design and production decisions. The one thing we don’t like is how much space it takes up on the top of the project – just more stuff new users have to scroll past to get to the meat of the project.

  7. Three amazing improvements. I’ll use all of them without question.

    The live stream option sounds poised to put pressure on more introverted Creators who might feel uncomfortable with it to have to use it, but that’s going to depend on how the community responds to its existence.
    Will it become a “must use to be credible” like many other features Kickstarter offers? Remember when you didn’t NEED a video to get pledges? Perfect art? A professional graphic designer? Pictures of a basically complete product? And the most recent: GIFs? ; ) – I understand why most of these things were pushed to ‘need’ to establish credibility, but I wonder if the live-stream option will be too.
    For Creators without beards… I hope not. : D

    1. Preach, John! The inflation of “credentials” over time has–to a certain extent–defeated the purpose of Kickstarter. Certainly has made the “entry point” much more difficult for many people.

  8. Thanks for the amazing posts, this is another fantastic one.

    As for the cut-offs I always think it is weird to have EBs, but at the same time it is nice to reward those EBs in order to literally kickstart momentum on a project. However, the question on true cost of the main product needs to then be raised. The other area that it might be helpful with is in regards to cutt-offs on waves of disbursement of product. This could give logical groupings to focus on in prioritizing which orders to fulfill based on backing commitment deadlines. But we will see if this works from theory to practice.

    The other two features are great, and look forward to seeing them in practice.

    -Bruce

  9. I really don’t like the tag idea – it’s another means of tracking people across various accounts. I’ve created my own, specific, e-mail address for crowdfunding and only use it for that to segregate systems – what I spend on what is certainly no-one’s business other than KS and the projects that I back. I’ll certainly be copy-and-pasting the project URL when I promote projects, rather than using any shortened links.

    I was very lukewarm about the live videos – if they are done well they can work, but I can see that allowing such direct and live access to backers could go horribly wrong, if it’s not handled well by the creators.

  10. I’m running a Kickstarter at the moment and I’ve got to experience these changes first hand. I don’t think anyone else has mentioned this yet, but I’ve found a flaw with the close pledge by time option… If selected, backers cannot even change their pledge level after the pledge has been ‘closed’. (Maybe this is obvious to everyone but it certainly took me by surprise!)

    A number of my backers had to opt out of the early bird tiers just to up their pledges for add ons. I contacted them and told them to pledge a 1 euro pledge with the Early bird figure so no harm done. But obviously every creator wants a hassle free experience for their backers…

    I just wish it was made more clear by Kickstarter that this is the case… Since figuring it out I’ve changed back to the limit by number option.

    Other than that, all other changes are greatly appreciated!

    1. Murph: I’m really glad you shared this–that’s a pretty big deal. Just to make sure I understand, here’s an example: Backer Joe pledges $50 to an early bird reward. You close that pledge level on Monday by following Kickstarter’s instructions (you change the “end” time to, say, Sunday). Joe then decides he wants to add on a $10 item, so he clicks “Manage Your Pledge”…only to find that Kickstarter will not let him change $50 to $60. Is that what’s happening?

  11. […] Kickstarter Changes I’m a fan of Jamey Stegmaier’s blog. In his latest post he talks about three recent Kickstarter changes: reward scheduling, referral tags, and Kickstarter Live. “[F]or me as a backer who rarely comments on updates or projects, if a creator told me he/she were launching a live video chat on Kickstarter, I’d absolutely check it out, even just for a few minutes. That face-to-face connection is really powerful.” Source: https://stonemaiergames.com/3-new-kickstarter-platform-changes/ […]

  12. “Based on the examples shown on the link above, you’re encouraged to have a beard if you use this feature.” Not only a great discussion of the new features, but some great writing too.

    Thanks again for the community and conversation!

  13. Jamey,

    We’ll definitely use them moving forward. Even when we ran our KS earlier this year, we gleaned valuable data, perfect for analysis. Having these analytical tools at our disposal will drive our decision-making process. 2017 will prove exceptionally exciting as we’ve teamed with a Canadian designer to KS his game and as you can attest, each campaign provides ample opportunities to learn new things about the industry and its myriad aspects.

    Cheers,
    Joe .

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