Fulfilling Your Dreams via A Fulfillment Service

5 March 2018 | 14 Comments

I was shocked to learn on Thursday that Funagain Games was shutting down their fulfillment service (and online store). They were my top recommendation to Kickstarter creators for US fulfillment, right up there with Fulfillrite and Quartermaster.

Coincidentally, I was planning on publishing a guest post today by Charlie at Fulfillrite. I mentioned to Charlie a while ago that I was looking to talk about fulfillment on my blog, as it’s such an important topic for creators, and it’s been a while since I added any shipping-related content to this page. It’s just that I personally haven’t fulfilled a project in quite some time.

Charlie came through with a massive blog post that is far too long to post here. So I’ve uploaded the full post here for you to read if you wish (along with some ancillary materials), and I’ll summarize below the key points from some sections of his article.

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Why Use a Fulfillment Service?

  • Time: Fulfilling orders can take a lot of time that you could otherwise spend running and growing your business.
  • Space: A fulfillment center provides space you probably don’t have in your home/office.
  • Cost: The high output volume at a fulfillment center commands lower costs (shipping fees, labor, packaging, etc) than what you could negotiate on your own.

If I Use a Fulfillment Service, What Am I Paying for?

  • Receiving fees: When your shipment arrives at the fulfillment service, the products are received, unloaded, and sorted.
  • Inventory Storage Fee: In the interval between receiving and shipping your product, it is stored on a pallet, or on shelves, or in a bin, depending on the product.
  • Pick & Pack Fees: This is the hands-on stage, where your product is picked from its storage, packaged as per your order specification, labeled and prepared for shipment.
  • Shipping Rates: The shipping fee is the fee you pay to the carrier have it shipped to your customer. This depends on the package weight/volume, delivery speed, and the distance from fulfillment center to customer.
  • TOTAL: The total cost of all of these services for a package weighing less than 1 kg will be between $7 and $10. For a 1-2 kg package, between $9 and $12. And for a 2-4 kg package, between $10 and $14. As an example, here is Fulfillrite’s pricing calculator.

How Should I Choose a Fulfillment Service?

  • Industry Chatter: Talk to other people in your industry to see who they use. Take their suggestions and further research each of those companies to find the best fit in terms of customer service, speed, reliability, packaging quality, cost, and other factors. You can learn a lot from testimonials like these.
  • Initial Contact: Request a products guideline from the fulfillment services you’re considering. This will help you see if the company can fulfill the type of products you make and how they’ll expect you to format the orders you send them (some are more cumbersome than others). This will also help you gauge the quality of the service’s communication–did they reply on the same day, or did you not hear from them about your simple request for weeks?
  • Bulk vs Individual: Specifically check to see if the fulfillment service can handle both bulk fulfillment (like Kickstarter rewards) and ongoing ecommerce fulfillment (like through your webstore). If you use a specific ecommerce platform, make sure it syncs with the fulfillment service.
  • Other Resources: For Kickstarter creators (particularly tabletop game creators), use this Google Doc and this blog post to get a snapshot of various fulfillment options in each region.

What Else Should I Do After I’ve Selected a Fulfillment Service?

  • Contracts: Cover issues such as breakage, lost items, returns, mispacked packages, fulfillment speed expectations, packaging quality, etc. Fulfillment is the most precarious step of reward-based crowdfunding, and you have the potential to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if the fulfillment center botches their end of the deal. Make sure you’re legally protected against that possibility.
  • Product and File Preparation: Get specific instructions from your fulfillment center regarding how they want the cartons and pallets packed and labeled, as well as their format for importing bulk order spreadsheets.
  • Detailed Instructions: On this post I outline very specific instructions to give your fulfillment center. These include (a) don’t require signatures for delivery, (b) ensure that backers can see their full address on the tracking notifications, and (c) tell customers the number of packages they’re receiving.
  • Testing: Before asking a fulfillment center to dispatch hundreds or thousands of shipments, start with 10 to see if they actually follow your instructions. Adjust accordingly from there.

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Thanks so much to Charlie at Fulfillrite for putting together such an extensive article–I promise it goes far deeper into the world of fulfillment services than my summary above! [Update: Charlie has also posted an interesting article about multiple fulfillment centers.]

If you gain value from the 100 articles Jamey publishes on his blog each year, please consider championing this content!

14 Comments on “Fulfilling Your Dreams via A Fulfillment Service

  1. I’d add location being a factor, some fulfillment centers are in the corners of the country/region and it’s not in their long term success to distribute product. I’d imagine a place in Indianapolis/Texas would be able to get product quicker to the west/east costs than a place in FL or OR, that being said I prefer CSI’s fulfillment center due to getting products within 2-3 days verses 7-10 days from Oregon. I’d tend to say that most customers would prefer a more central center, or one that has multiple centers.

    1. @jamey, what are your thoughts on how TMG basically has the factor put bubble wrap around game then additional cardboard box. at factory. I’m curious if that cost would make using a fulfillment center with higher shrinkage? I’m really curious as to why Funagain is stopping this, or if someone will buy up this part of funagain and continue to use their facilities or not. In my mind, it usually takes 2-3 days just to leave Oregon for transport. It’s not something you really want with Fullfillment. Just logistically you would be better served to by in Indy, or st louis or KC, or Chicago for that matter

      1. I think it’s a clever approach, though I don’t think it’s always the best approach, as the added packaging means that you can’t fit as many games in a carton (or pallet or shipping container), which increases freight shipping costs.

        1. @Jason and Jamey, I’d prefer to stronger boxes rather than bubble wrap. Bubble wrap is good to less damage from collision, but it helps little for heavy good. As Jamey said it will increase volume, packing cost and shipping cost, and full in trash can. I receive parcels for different goods a lot now and then. I found goods from a company is always in good condition. I even keep these cartons and use them to pack samples to ship worldwide. They bring me 0 trouble because they use better quality cartons than others. I am sure the cost is just a little higher.

  2. Hi Jamey, I read your blog for a while. Thank you very much for sharing so many helpful things. May I ask how many days it will take a fulfillment center to send out all games after they receive a shipment generally? Can this be gotten to the contact? Thank your for your time.

    1. Annie: Thanks for your question. It depends on the fulfillment center, and it’s one of the categories I judge them on (this is the “speed” category). I’ve had some that took over a month after receiving the games to ship anything out. Others only too a few days.

      I’d highly recommend putting this in the contract. I think 7-10 days is reasonable for the first shipment, and then you can set a number based on the daily expectation (e.g., must ship at least 200 units a day). If they take longer than they should, there should be a penalty.

      1. @Jamey, that’s good point. Thank you very much.
        I made count for cost to make bubble wrapper VS stronger box, and would like to share with everybody here.
        Say there’re 1000pcs games to be fulfillment. Game box size 21x28x5cm.
        Let’s pack 5pcs games in one carton. There’re 200 cartons in total.

        1. With bubble
        Ctn size: 34x33x27cm
        Ctn cost: $0.70/pc
        Bubble cost: $0.25/ctn (It may be higher.)
        Total cost for 200 cartons: $190.00
        Total volume for 200 cartons: 6.06cbm

        2. With stronger carton
        Ctn size: 33x30x26cm
        Ctn cost: $0.77
        Total cost for 200 cartons: $154.00
        Total volume for 200 cartons: 5.15cbm

        Disregarding the difference of the materials costs, there’s about 1cbm extra for the shipment. So there’ll be extra cost for shipment, delivery, and storage.

        As a manufacturer, I’d say factory like work as less as possible.
        A bubble wrapper may increases about 3-7days time for production, and it may make you to miss the earliest boat. Who knows?

  3. I have and listen about your service that you gave desired service of client so I just want to confirm first about your service charges. What you charge for wooden materials shifting? and where where you can provide your service?

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