4 Crowdfunding Fulfillment Shipping Partners in the US

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.

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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:

2015-04-06_1106

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):

FUNAGAIN GAMES

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

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

 

FULFILLRITE

I don’t personally have experience with Fulfillrite, but here’s a detailed testimonial: A Thorough (and Positive) Testimonial of a Shipping Service

 

AMAZON

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

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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 jbergeron@bos.otxusa.com (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 (paul@greaterthangames.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.

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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!


45 Comments on “4 Crowdfunding Fulfillment Shipping Partners in the US

  1. It is very helpful though no less stressful to read about this subject.
    I guess no matter how much you read about it you will only know it after you tested it on your skin :)

    The spread sheet is a great idea and it puts them together well.
    I wonder if someone can share their experience with the UK’s BGS Distribution and Fulfillment.

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. All the Best.

    1. Konrad: Indeed, it’s hard to know until you test it. :) I’d like to hear from someone who has used BGS as well–feel free to chime in on the comments (here or on the EU entry).

  2. A really, REALLY helpful article, since I have been trying to find the best way to get my games to USA. Apparently it is not very easy for new publishers from EU. Still trying to figure Amazon fulfilment out, but will keep trying :)

    The spreadsheet is a great idea, and now a few fellows will receive a mail soon :)

  3. Thanks so much for this… It couldn’t come at a better time. We finished our Kickstarter (http://kck.st/1tnHtJu) and it was much more successful than we ever anticipated. We had always assumed we would fulfill it ourselves and save money, but now that they are about to load it up on a boat from China, we are starting to really consider using a fulfillment service.

    I had just got off the phone with a local guy when I came across your article… Thanks for all you do.

    Best,
    Jordan Goddard
    http://www.JordanAndMandy.com

    p.s. Can’t wait for the book!

  4. USPS costs can be very low if you can fit within several sweet-spots.

    1) 13oz or less = First Class Package Service: $3.47 @ 13 oz
    2) Fits in Priority Mail Padded Flat Rate Envelope: $5.70 regardless of weight — and you get the envelopes for free.
    3) Qualifies for Media Mail (basically, books, cds, dvds with no added extras outside the DVD packaging): outrageously cheap, 1 lb is $2.69, 5lbs will run you $4.61

    All of these include tracking.

    The real winner is the PMPFRE. If you can design your product to fit inside it, the packing is trivial, you can save money, and backers love the premium shipping. The USPS will even drop by and pick them up. I sent out about 500 of them with my Kickstarter project, and had to replace maybe 5… including a couple of mail thefts.

    Keep in mind that setting up with Amazon has costs in time and effort.

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Robert! The numbers on the spreadsheet are strictly by weight, but you’re right–if your product is very small and light (or it qualifies for media mail), it can be quite cheap. You still have to add on the cost of your time. As you said, Amazon has a time cost too, but once you set it up, you can send 1000 packages in about 20-30 minutes with Amazon, compared to days or weeks by hand.

      1. I found the logistics very easy. but then as you know I automated the hell out of it. ~2 people were able to ship 500-600 packages a day, so my costs including all the packaging were well under $1 a shipment. I think it all depends on the quantities; for a small project, USPS is the way to go, for a medium one, fulfillment becomes a strong contender, and for a huge one, it may become worth it to invest in doing a shipping operation yourself again – saving 50 cents per shipment can really add up.

  5. Great information here.
    What could be really helpful if there was specific information regarding Pick & Pack fees.

    For example, if you ship 3 products to the same backer (add ons, etc) from Amazon there is a +75c fee for each additional item – but with ideaspatcher and level99games there is just a flat fee. That can make a huge difference for campaigns like my Halfsies Dice that ship an average of 6.2 items to each backer.

  6. The cost effective aspect of USPS might also need to take into account game cost? When I looked into Amazon, they took far too large a chunk out.

    My games were only $14 on KS with Priority shipping and I still cleared enough that if I could assemble games and ship them by hand full-time, I’d make twice what I do a

    1. subQuark: I think you might be looking at Amazon FBA, which is when you sell your product through Amazon and they ship it (that’s when they take out a chunk based on the cost of the game). The numbers on this spreadsheet are for Amazon multi-channel fulfillment, which is when you sell the game elsewhere (Kickstarter, your website, etc) and simply ask Amazon to ship it for you. The cost of the game is irrelevant for Amazon multi-channel shipping.

  7. Where is the Amazon $4.75 pick and pack fee in the spreadsheet? Is it part of the total cost of $6.85 for small packages? That only leaves $2.10 for Amazon to pay the post office to ship your item. That doesn’t seem right.

    Has anybody tried SendFromChina or some other Chinese fulfiller? It seems like they would be most efficient since it reduces the shipping cost to the fulfillment center.

    Great info by the way!

    1. It’s part of the cost. Amazon has amazing postal deals with the post office because of the number of packages they ship.

      I’m waiting on hard data from a few people regarding SendFromChina. I did receive a game from them recently, and for a small game the padded bag worked fine.

  8. Thanks for all your blogs Jamey!
    Very insightful.

    I am considering putting a game up on kickstarter.
    But the thing that is hindering myself (other then myself) is shipping costs to the US.

    My questing is through Kickstarter (I am from Australia).
    If I only have approximately 50 backers from the US.
    And have charged $10 shipping.

    That would cause a lot of trouble if the way I calculated the $10 shipping cost was if there was 100+ backers.
    Would you have a way around this?
    Any advice?

    Thank up;

    1. Feras: Thanks for your question! I actually think it can scale quite well from as few as 20 games up to 100+ if you use a fulfillment center like I talk about in my blog posts. To them there’s no difference per unit between shipping any number of games. The key is just getting the games to the US in the first place, which you can do even in small quantities using ocean or air freight. If you think air freight might be needed (for a very small number of games, you might want to charge a little more for US shipping.

      it really can’t hurt to contact a freight company like OTX to get some quotes, just so you can be prepared with numbers in hand. Good luck!

  9. Thanks for your great informative blogs!
    I’ve been reading and learning from reading your blogs. Hope this knowledge can be helpful for preparing my first KS campaign.

    In fact, I’m from France and planning a KS campaign for my interactive led bracelet. I aim to create a EU-, US- and Canada-friendly shipping campaign.
    For fulfillment in the EU, I have contacted Ideaspatcher (thanks to you!). They would be my financial representative in EU if needed.
    For fulfillment in the US and Canada, I contacted Funagain but did not get response yet.

    My question is that would Funagain or Starlit Citadel be my financial representative in the US and Canada? Would they do all the paperwork for me?

    Thanks!

      1. Thanks for your info, Jamey!
        I’ve read your mentioned blog before, but it’s still not clear to me.

        I will run my KS campaign in € currency. I could ask Ideaspatcher to send rewards to non-EU backers from France. In consequence, non-EU backers may pay extra for import duties. I want to avoid this as much as possible.
        So, in order to have my product imported into the US then shipped to US backers by a fulfillment company, e.g. Funagain, do I need to register a business in the US (by either using Stripe Atlas’ service or asking a US citizen to do it)?

  10. Hi Jamey,

    The service rates given in your “International Shipping Partners.xlsx” file were for tracked or untracked services? I found that some rates seemed for tracked services and others seemed for untracked ones. For example, rates of Gamesquest (UK) for 0.250Kg in this file were:
    -UK: $6.69 (According to my quote, TRACKED: 4.65 GBP = 6.67 USD; UNTRACKED: N/A).
    -Germany: $6.71 (My quote: TRACKED: 6.17 GBP = 8.85 USD; UNTRACKED: 4.58 GBP = 6.57 USD).
    -France: $6.74 (My quote: TRACKED: 6.22 GBP = 8.92 USD; UNTRACKED: 4.19 GBP = 6.01 USD).

    I would like to know that you used tracked or untracked services to fulfill your rewards?

    Best regards,
    Phong

      1. Ah, thought I’d turned on email notifications for comments on that last reply. Thanks for the info, even if I didn’t notice it for almost a month. I’ll drop him a line at OTX and see if I can get a quote.

    1. Nathaly: I’m not sure about their international shipping rates, as their focus is shipping within the US. I’ve had Funagain send a few packages to non-US customers from time to time, and it’s pretty much the same rate you can find on the USPS, UPS, or FedEx websites.

  11. Hey Jamey-

    Is the Google Doc that you hyperlink in here regularly updated or when was the last time that it was updated? Trying to figure out cost of shipping and what fulfillment center to use for our Kickstarter campaign.

    Thanks!

    1. Colleen: I try to make sure the various partners on the document update it. Usually what happens is a creator will tell me that the estimate they received is very different than the one on the form, and when I hear about that, I ask the fulfillment company to update their numbers.

      1. Jamey-

        One more question- In your experience with Kickstarter, do you have an estimate of what the typical percentage is of International backers to account for if you are a U.S. based table top game creator? I’m sure there is no hard and fast percentage, but curious as to an idea of how much of the Kickstarter backer universe is International.

        Thanks for your help!

    1. I was about to do the update too. We are a few weeks to deliver our game and we have to reorganize all our delivery in Canada and USA. We are a very small company and we will have to use 2 freights instead of 1, this will reduce our profits enormously and they were already small.

      1. I’m sorry to hear that. Was there some miscommunication or late communication between you and Starlit Citadel that resulted in these circumstances?

        I don’t think it will cut into your profits much if you maintain 1 freight and just truck the US pallets down to Funagain, which is in Oregon.

        1. That is our mistake, we have not reached an agreement. We only asked for a quote in June and we had not imagined it would close the frightening in the USA. Tao (contact at Starlit) is very helpful and good advice.
          I am currently looking at our options. I retain your recommendation, we have to cut our costs!
          I wonder if it would not be better to take Fulfillrite since 80% of our backers are on the Eastcost. In addition, I believe Starlit has a Warehouse in Toronto.

          I take the time to thank you for all your advice on crowdfunding. I used your advice throughout our KS and it was extremely useful.
          Eric

          1. That’s an interesting idea about Fulfillrite. They’re an excellent service. The only downside for them and Snakes and Lattes is the extra transit time if you ship from China, but if you have the extra time, that could work out well.

  12. We got time…i thought! Our production will end this week. OTX ( Justin ) will take care of freight. We plan to send our game before december.
    I already contact snakes an Lattes…In your excel file, Snakes and Lattes got a Warehouse in Buffalo. I ask them if they do USA fulfillement by any chance.
    I will check all option and I will send my testemonies after that.
    Thank you again for your help.

  13. Hello there! I noticed China Division is really costly in comparison with other international shipping. As they are located in China, do they send each backer’s package to USA directy? Does this mean I could save the cost of shipping the inventory to the USA in the first place? Do they also ship to other countries?
    Regards!

    1. Jacqui: These are great questions. I’m pretty sure they’re based in China, but it’s been a while since I added them to the Google Doc, so I don’t remember the details. Could you reach out to the contact person there? It should be on the Google Doc.

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