6 April 2015
Across all of my Kickstarter projects, US backers have averaged 63% of all backers. So why have I saved the US for last in my series about fulfillment partners?
While it was a smooth and easy process for international shipping partners to fill out my shipping details Google Doc, the process has been anything but easy with US fulfillment companies. I’m not really sure why. These companies contact me all the time to offer their services to Stonemaier Games, but when I offer to share their information with thousands of other project creators here, they’re hesitant to share and often cite a bunch of reasons why they don’t make that information public. That’s a red flag for me.
However, there are a few companies I can share with you here, and I’m certainly open to adding more if other companies want to add their information to the Google Doc (simply click here and request editing access).
As with my other shipping entries, there are some important caveats you should know if you’re going to use this spreadsheet to calculate pricing for your Kickstarter campaign. Most importantly, treat the spreadsheet as an estimate. Before you list any of these prices on your project page, please contact your shipping partner of choice and figure out exactly how much shipment for your product in the US will cost.
Here is the US tab of the shipping spreadsheet (other regions are found on other tabs). I’ve also pasted a screenshot of a portion of this spreadsheet below:
As you can see, there are only 3 companies listed there, not 4. Stella International is the 4th–they filled out the rest of the spreadsheet, but they won’t share any other estimates unless you contact them directly.
So let’s get to the other 3 (now 4):
In my attempt to research and offer more shipping solutions to the US, Funagain Games has been the diamond in the rough. They come with glowing recommendations for the way they pack games, and Nick’s communication has been prompt, open, and precise every step of the way. While I haven’t used them yet, I think they’re an excellent alternative for creators who aren’t comfortable with Amazon fulfillment.
Best at: excellent packaging, great communication, easy set up, quick turnaround, shipping multiple SKUs in one package
Downside: more expensive than Amazon for heavier products (though Nick does offer some economy options)
Starlit Citadel (which is based in Canada but ships from Washington) added full US fulfillment soon after I wrote this post. I’ve heard good things about their fulfillment service in Canada.
Best at: send to one location for both US and Canadian fulfillment to save costs, excellent packaging, great communication, easy set up, quick turnaround, shipping multiple SKUs in one package
Downside: more expensive than Amazon, but not by much
I don’t personally have experience with Fulfillrite, but here’s a detailed testimonial: A Thorough (and Positive) Testimonial of a Shipping Service
Even with slight rate increases this winter, Amazon multi-channel fulfillment still offers the best prices for products that are at least 1 kg (2.2 lbs). While Amazon is tough to set up and can be somewhat uncompromising if you make a mistake, it’s not too bad once you understand the system. Also, it’s very easy to switch over to Amazon FBA (selling your product on Amazon) when your backer shipments are complete.
Best at: pricing for 1+ kg products, can ship thousands of packages a day
Downside: more expensive for light products due to the $4.75 pick-and-pack fee, sometimes uses very inadequate packaging, hard to set up, very specific pallet and carton restrictions, no ability to customize, consistently makes incorrect listings
USPS (ship by hand)
While I don’t personally consider this a viable alternative to fulfillment services, the option is always there for you to roll up your sleeves, clear out your garage, and pack hundreds of projects by hand. It’s not as cost effective as Amazon fulfillment, but you have more control over exactly what goes into each package if you have a lot of small add-ons.
Best at: having control over each individual package
Downside: takes up a ton of time, is more expensive than Amazon, at risk for flooding and theft, takes up a ton of time
A few endnotes:
- OTX: There are lots of freight shipping companies out there, but I can’t say enough good things about Justin at OTX. He’s amazing to work with, very communicative, great rates, and he understand the priority on speed for crowdfunders. You can get a quote from Justin at firstname.lastname@example.org (if you don’t mind, let him know that you heard about Dimerco from Jamey).
- 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: Fulfillment services aren’t just for big companies with thousands of orders. It’s kind of a self-defeating prophecy: If you don’t offer cost-effective shipping options on your Kickstarter project, you probably will significantly reduce the number of backers your project appeals to.
- 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 non-US backers, you need to deduct $X from that fee because it’s already built into the reward.
Now that I’ve written posts about shipping partners in Europe, Australia, Asia, Canada, and the US, I’d love to hear how other creators ship their rewards in the poll below. Thanks for your input!