Call to Action: Kickstarter International Shipping Options

7 September 2014 | 30 Comments

UPDATE 10/29/14: It worked! Or maybe we had nothing to do with it. Regardless, Kickstarter updated their shipping options to make them WAY more customizable today!

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About a month ago, a successful Kickstarter creator named Marjorie Skiba contacted me with a simple idea to make Kickstarter better. Both Marjorie and I agreed that Kickstarter is already an amazing platform, but there are a few small things that could be implemented on the site to make it exponentially better.

Today I’m going to talk about one of those things. My hope is that you will respond to the call to action at the bottom of the post if you agree with our suggestion for Kickstarter. Kickstarter has told Marjorie that if enough creators contact Kickstarter with this request, they will consider implementing the new feature.

The shortcoming Marjorie identified occurs when a creator selects the international shipping price for each reward level. You’ve seen it on plenty of projects: “Add $X to ship outside the US.” So there’s one option for ALL international backers, as if they’re all the same. If you’ve ever shipped a Kickstarted product, you know that shipping from the US to Canada is very different than shipping to the UK or the Czech Republic or Australia or Japan. They are most definitely not the same.

Of course, there’s a back door method that many of us use: We ask international backers to manually add shipping fees to their pledge. This is a decent solution, but it requires an additional step for international backers. Some will miss that step, and others may not pledge at all because of the confusion it causes. As a repeat creator, I can tell you that the question I get more often from any backer is: How can I add international shipping fees to my pledge?

Another method is to simply charge no shipping during the project, and wait until after the project to use a platform like BackerKit to do so. However, as we discovered in our poll last month, backers resoundingly don’t like that idea:

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So what’s the answer?

At first it seemed like the solution was for Kickstarter to let backers choose different shipping fees for every country and for every reward level. Kickstarter knows backer addresses, so when a backer looks at a project page, they would automatically see the shipping price associated with their area.

The problem with that solution, however, is that part of the greatness of Kickstarter is that it’s not super difficult to set up a project page. Can you imagine how much more intimidating it would be if you had to set up different shipping amounts for 196 countries? Those amounts might even vary for each pledge level if rewards weigh different amounts.

Perhaps there’s a streamlined way Kickstarter could implement this in the future. But for now, Marjorie and I have a solution that we think is a good step in the right direction.

Instead of letting creators only have one international shipping tier, we’d like Kickstarter to expand their shipping option to include all areas where Kickstarter is available to creators. We feel like this solution is in line with Kickstarter’s slow and steady expansion–as they add more countries for creators, they could add more countries to the shipping list for backers. Based on that, the list of shipping options would be as follows [updated 9/15/2014]:

  • US
  • Canada
  • UK
  • Netherlands
  • Australia/NZ
  • Denmark
  • Ireland
  • Norway
  • Sweden
  • Other

Keep in mind that this is just a baby step in the right direction. A lot of countries would still fall into that “other” category, and backers from those countries would still have to manually add the shipping fee to the pledge as they already do. But overall, the shipping levels would go from covering 58% of backers (US) to directly covering a total of 82% of backers. [Stats from my Treasure Chest campaign.]

If you agree that this is a step in the right direction (if you’re a creator or a backer–anyone who wants to make Kickstarter better), I encourage you to click this link to take you to Kickstarter’s contact form. You’ll first see something like this on your screen:

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Click on “Starting a project,” and more text will appear on the screen below it:

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Click “Building a project,” and more text will appear on the right:

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Click “Rewards,” and you’ll finally see the place where you can click a button to send direct feedback:

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After clicking the green button, copy and paste the following text into the form. You can edit and personalize it as you wish.

Subject: International Shipping Options

Details: Hi, I’m a huge fan of Kickstarter, and I would love to make it more international friendly. Kickstarter is currently available to creators in the US, Canada, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia/NZ, Denmark, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden. It would be awesome if creators would be able to make shipping tiers for each of those areas (as well as a general “other” option), and the tiers could expand as Kickstarter continues to expand to new countries. I feel like this would better reflect the varied shipping costs to ship to different areas without overwhelming backers or creators with too many options. Thanks for your consideration!

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Even if you don’t think this is the best solution for now, I think we have a better chance of getting Kickstarter to consider any change if we all request the same solution instead of a bunch of different solutions. Hopefully this would eventually evolve into something more regional–Asia, South America, Central EU, Western EU, etc. But for now, I think we have our best chance by showing that the solution is in line with the countries where Kickstarter is available to creators.

Thanks for your help!

30 Comments on “Call to Action: Kickstarter International Shipping Options

    1. Amanda: I explained it several times in the post: “We feel like this solution is in line with Kickstarter’s slow and steady expansion–as they add more countries for creators, they could add more countries to the shipping list for backers.” and “I think we have our best chance by showing that the solution is in line with the countries where Kickstarter is available to creators.”

      1. I see the point Jamey, but I don’t agree. It does not make sense to me to ask for this list just because it is easier for them. I want them to realize that their creation spans the whole world, so it makes sense to adapt to that….regardless on where can you currently create a project.

        In any case, the “strength in numbers” principle here makes sense so I went on with the letter as you recommended.

        1. MK: On the other hand, it does make sense. The reason isn’t that it’s easier for Kickstarter–as I noted, the reason is that I think Kickstarter will be more willing to adapt this than any other method I could recommend. As I said, I think this is the best possible first step…if we can actually get Kickstarter to take this step, it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

  1. Agreed. Especially being in Australia and about to launch a kickstarter in a few months for El Luchador Fantastico Grande, I would love for Kickstarter to add specific regions to make it easier on backers.

  2. I heartily agree with the general idea, but I’m a bit torn about its actual execution regarding the EU. How do you envision this working from the backer side? I’m afraid that you’ll end up being more confusing instead of less, as you not only have to juggle shipping (which we’re all accustomed to) but also whether you reside in a coutry for which KS is locally available or not, which seems like a random thing to expect people to know.

    Let’s say that EU shipping is $10 Amazon Western, $20 Amazon Central, free DE/UK, which is a typical breakdown for the Stonemaier method. Then you have the following cases:

    * UK: No added shipping costs. UK shipping zone. Shipping automatically calculated.
    * DE: No added shipping costs. Rest of world shipping zone. Shipping NOT automatically calculated.
    * NL: $10 shipping costs. NL shipping zone. Shipping automatically calculated.
    * Rest of Amazon Western: $10 shipping costs. ROW shipping zone. Shipping NOT automatically calculated.
    * Amazon Central: $20 shipping costs. ROW shipping zone. Shipping NOT automatically calculated.

    So instead of “look at the shipping table and add the correct amount” you now introduce another step – “look at the shipping table and add the correct amount, unless you are in the UK or NL, for which it will be automatically calculated”. That, or you get a bunch of levels with “Ships to the UK/NL only” or “Add $XX to ship outside UK/NL/CA/….” Not to mention what would happen if KS decides to launch KS France in the middle of your campaign, when all your carefully worded pledge level descriptions have been locked. :P

    Not trying to be negative – just pointing out that, as the proposal stands, while it would be great for US/CA/Au+NZ, you’d probably be better off with a single EU level and having people add shipping manually, just like it’s now. Simpler for backers and creators.

    1. andvaranaut: I don’t think it’s all that complicated. Kickstarter could use your IP or backer info (if you’ve backed a project in the past and are signed in) to show you only the option that applies to you. If your location isn’t one of the areas on the list, you would look elsewhere on the project page for shipping information.

      If Kickstarter adds a new area in the middle of a campaign, it could either be automatically added to reward levels for you to edit (not the main text of the reward level, which can’t be edited, but rather the shipping options for each reward level), or it could simply not activate.

  3. I’m in! Great idea, also very curious if the call to action works. I’ll spread the word at the League of Gamemakers.

  4. Jamey, I agree although, as suggested, this will still cause a fair amount of confusion and doubt it’ll really help that much (though it would definitely be a step in the right direction). What would really make it easy and less confusing for all parties to have more pre-set regions such as the EU as well as being able to select and include individual countries, plus the ‘rest of the world’ option—this really shouldn’t be too hard to implement.

    I understand the need to convince Kickstarter to do something, for them to be more willing to make the changes, so this is a good compromise for now. Still, I don’t see why we couldn’t add an extra note to the message you’ve proposed along the lines of what we’d really like to see. If anything, they’ll just dismiss that extra option for now and go with the proposed compromise but, if they do take note, we could get the options we’ve been yearning for much sooner.

    1. Miles: Well, here’s the thing: You might notice on my projects that I use different shipping regions than the ones I outline above. I could have asked Kickstarter to base their shipping chart on those regions.

      But this isn’t about me. My shipping strategies are different from your shipping strategies, and your shipping strategies are different from the next person. I divide the EU into the UK, Western EU, and Central EU, and Croatia (which is part of the EU) isn’t included at all because of Amazon fulfillment. Someone else–perhaps someone located in France–may have a very different breakdown of what they call the “EU.”

      The point is, it’s not about what I want for me as a creator. It’s what I want for all Kickstarter creators and international backers, and I think this strategy is the one that Kickstarter is the most likely to adapt as a first step in the right direction.

      By all means, write Kickstarter and tell them anything you want. It’s good for them to get feedback from creators and backers. But if you want to increase the chances of this particular strategy working, I think the best bet is to present a unified front, not a bunch of different options impacted by each creator’s unique shipping needs.

      1. That’s precisely the point I’m saying. Being able to split shipping into US, Canada, UK, Netherlands, Australia/NZ and Other is a step forward but it is still very limited and won’t benefit many project creators that much.

        Like all standard ecommerce platforms offer, KS should allow project creators the ability to tailor their shipping options as they see fit. This doesn’t need to be fully customisable but, as you note, I’d also like to see the use of more common regional options as well as the ability to select countries individually.

        I’m all for having a compromise but, still, it shouldn’t be too hard a task for KS to implement the range of shipping options we are really actually asking for. Rather than just saying this is a solution we’d be happy with (it’s better and it’ll do I suppose but it’s not really the solution we all want), wouldn’t it be worth hinting at what we are actually asking for?

        I just think that it’ll be better to be a bit more honest and state in our messages something along the lines of “we would like more but here is a compromise we can agree on for now to make KS a better platform for all”. Do you understand what I’m saying?

        1. Miles: As I noted above, I think jumping from shipping coverage of 58% to 79% is pretty significant. It’s not full coverage, but again, it’s a great step in the right direction.

          You’re free to send any message you’d like to Kickstarter. :)

  5. Why do you want Kickstarter to link these shipping options to specific countries, when they could simply offer 5-6 different levels of shipping that you can name and value according to your own shipping method? That is a lot more flexible system and it likely requires a lot less programming.

  6. It’s not the case that presently kickstarter allows creators to list “US” and “Other”, when I launch a project my shipping is divided into “UK” and “Other” (because I launch from the UK) so I’m reaching far less than 58% of users without them needing to consider where they are. While I agree with some of the problems peeps have highlighted above, I think that the idea’s solid and hope that enough of us sending the message will get KS to at least look into the problem and possible solutions.

  7. Its been nearly a year since this change on Kickstarter. I was wondering if you’d do a new article similar to your new model for tabletop game projects. Reading through all the comments on that article was very enlightening for me.

    I met you at the Kickstarter Panel at Gencon, and have been reading through your blog since I returned. I am currently in the very early stages of planning a Box/insert Kickstarter similar to Broken Token and Daedalus Productions. I believe I currently have a solid product, but have been trying to find the best way to allow for international shipping.

    I don’t feel like I have the ability to ship pallets of orders over to distribution centers, and may be handling everything by hand as I will be creating every order by hand using a Lasercutter. So the idea that Cool Mini or Not used of adding shipping later is somewhat attractive to me.

    My current plan is to figure out what shipping would be to each geographic area for each box and including that price with the pledge for each tier. The issue would mainly come in with combining shipping on multiple different types of boxes. Basically my goal will be to try and create a few groupings of items by size and weight, and charge a flat rate for shipping each group, and a flat rate for shipping each combined permutation of groups. Trying to stay under 4 groups.

    Basically I understand that people want simple shipping upfront and for doing I simple order I completely agree, but when you have a product that is not a straight tabletop game box, with the possiblity for complex orders, Backerkit/Pledgemanager is a must, and some sort of combined shipping I believe is a must as well.

    Shipping is a complex issue, and its been made less so by Kickstarter’s changes, but I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    1. Sean: Thanks for following up post-Gen Con! I remember you talking about the custom box/insert product you’re working on. I agree that if you’re doing the work by hand, some of the shipping techniques I discuss probably aren’t idea for you, though you might want to price it out just in case. For example, you could ship 10 individual copies of your product to the EU, and they might cost $40 each to ship and they’ll cost each customer VAT and fees when they arrive. OR you could package those 10 copies together in one or two cartons and ship them to a fulfillment center in Europe (like Ideaspatcher) for them to ship the copies to individuals in Europe–you’ll have to price it out, but you might be surprised to find that the latter is cheaper for you and much better for backers in Europe.

      As for using Backer Kit or Pledge Manager to piece together complicated orders and upsell backers, sure, if that’s a good fit for you, use it! :)

      1. Thank you so much for your response, After posting I thought I may have been a little to forward. I will definitely look into doing a distribution center in europe. Thank you for the great work your doing.

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