3 July 2017
One of the great benefits of crowdfunding is that it creates an opportunity to optimize shipping for the vast majority of backers. Instead of having a bunch of products in your garage, warehouse, a single fulfillment center in your area, you know exactly how many games to freight ship to fulfillment centers around the world.
When I shipped Scythe, I had 17 backers in Mexico. One of them was a retail backer who ordered a total of 36 different products. Funagain Games (in Portland) shipped those rewards to Mexico, and all of the individual rewards arrived fine (albeit expensively). But the big retail order was stopped by customs and eventually returned to Funagain. We had to ship it again using a different method.
Fortunately, I recently became aware of a Mexico-based company called Aether Tower that specializes in fulfillment within Mexico. Their CEO, William, reached out to me to describe how his service works. While I can’t vouch for it, as I haven’t used it, I think this is an option worth exploring by creators for a few reasons mentioned below.
Please note that I have absolutely no stake in creators using this service or not. As with any fulfillment service, I’d love to get some testimonials from creators who use Aether Tower.
How Does It Work?
Aether Tower specializes in helping creators import cartons and pallets to Mexico. They have a warehouse in Texas where you’ll send the products, and they transfer it to their facility in Mexico City. This method prevents backers in Mexico from being charged a 16% VAT and high shipping fees from the US, making the shipments Mexico-friendly.
When the products arrive in Mexico (transfer time from Texas to Mexico is about 1 week), Aether Tower packs each reward. They’re aware of how games and other products need plenty of padding, and they can piece together multiple SKUs.
When you create your final files, the product box needs to say “Made in China” to reduce complications in Mexican customs. Each item also needs to have a SKU.
This is what I perceive to be the main asset of Aether Tower (right up there with making rewards more cost-effective for backers in Mexico). Aether Tower requires a minimum of 20 units to be shipped to their facility, but they will work with the creator to help them get more backers in Mexico for no extra charge.
As William told me, “It is of our best interest to expand the crowdfunding (and boardgaming) scene in our country and we are aware that many backers don’t pledge because of the high shipping fees and lack of facilities to receive their rewards.” I think this is excellent.
William provided some hypothetical costs to give you a starting point for comparison. These include handling fees and materials.
- To ship 20 games in 5 cartons from a US fulfillment center to Texas is about $100.
- For a pallet with 20 large sized games (25cm x 25cm x 6cm and 1kg each unit), the import fee was $85 USD (already covering customs, VAT, and freight shipping).
- From there, shipping fees were $6.30-$8.50 USD for backers within the Metropolitan area (Mexico city and surroundings) and $11.50-$13.10 USD for backers in other states. William notes that about 60% of backers fall into the lower-cost tier, so creators may just want to use a flat shipping fee to keep it simple.
In total, this is a cost of about $20 per game. For a heavy game, that’s $10-$15 cheaper per game than shipping it from the US to a backer in Mexico. And along the way you get Aether Tower helping you to get more backers in Mexico, and those backers avoid VAT.
Everything about Aether Tower sounds great (yet also reasonable–this isn’t “too good to be true” territory). If you give them a try, please let me know. William has added his information to the official shipping spreadsheet, which I asked various companies to update recently.