Kickstarter Lesson #116: The Magic of Automatic Currency Conversion

16 September 2014 | 28 Comments

UPDATE: Kickstarter now does this automatically for backers, but it still helps for creators to do this when you’re structuring your pledge levels.

I have a tool I’d like to share with you that I think will significantly change the way you look at Kickstarter projects as a creator and/or a backer.

Last year I wrote a Kickstarter Lesson called “How to Get US Backers if You’re Running a Non-US-Based Kickstarter Campaign.” Here is a core part of that entry:

Okay, US backers, admit it. When you see a reward level that says “Pledge £55,” you have no idea how much money that is in US dollars. Kickstarter will tell you the US amount at checkout, but not on the project page. So it leaves US backers confused and intimidating by how much £55 could be. The real answer? Right now, it’s around $89. Here’s what you [non-US creators] can do to help US backers: Tell them the converted $ amount right there in the reward level.

I still think that’s solid advice, but the solution I’ll discuss today makes the need for that extra text obsolete.

The problem extends well beyond US backers looking at non-US projects. Kickstarter is a worldwide platform–there are backers in every country looking at projects from an increasing number of other countries (just yesterday Kickstarter announced that the platform is open to creators in Denmark, Ireland, Norway, and Sweden).

As a fellow backer myself, I still find the various currencies to be a barrier to entry for international projects. This isn’t fair to those projects, but it’s human nature. My solution levels the playing field for any project based anywhere in the world.

The flip side of this is how creators like me can make their projects as appealing as possible to backers in other countries. A big part of this is pricing. For example, in KS Lesson #92 I write about the psychological benefits of reward level prices that end in the number 9 (i.e., $39 vs. $40).  But…that’s in US dollars. When backers in other countries look at your reward levels, what do they see when they do a quick calculation in their minds?

It’s a great exercise in empathy to put yourself in backers’ shoes as you construct your project. The tool I’m sharing today will help you do that.

So what is this solution now that I’ve way overhyped it? It’s called the Chrome Currency Converter. You can find it at the top of this page of Google Chrome extensions (there’s also a version for Safari here).

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This currency converter was created by developer George Papadakis (I don’t know him). I literally just discovered this today.

The amazing thing about this converter–the thing that makes it perfect for backers and creators–is the extension automatically converts all prices on any website to the currency of your choice. You don’t have to manually type each price point into a currency converter.

This is what my $33 Treasure Chest reward level looks like when the Chrome Currency Converter is set to Euros.
This is what my $33 Treasure Chest reward level looks like when the Chrome Currency Converter is set to Euros.

The result is somewhat magical. For the first time I feel like I’m looking at my projects through the eyes of an EU backer (when I have the extension set to Euros), and for the first time I feel like I’m viewing non-US projects through an unblemished lens.

As cool as it is, the extension isn’t perfect–due to Kickstarter’s coding, the current funding total will only convert temporarily when you load the project page. It then reverts back to its original state. I think that’s because of the coding behind that number–it’s a number that updates itself without you having to load the page.

But for all other numbers on the page–particularly the reward prices, shipping fees, and funding goal–the numbers convert automatically. And all of the numbers are up to date based on the current conversion rates.

This is, in my mind, an absolutely indispensable tool for creators and backers. I’m going to leave mine set to US dollars most of the time, but when I prepare my next project, I’m going to use the extension to look at the reward levels through the eyes of backers around the world.

What do you think? Give it a try and let me know your reaction.

28 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #116: The Magic of Automatic Currency Conversion

  1. Just installed a firefox version, it feels like witchcraft ^^. It’s quite nice that you can set the original price to show in brackets too, which means the weird numbers make sense =P. Its’ also really nice being able to set a markup (I put 5%), as I find that if you convert the prices with something like google, you miss the fact that you won’t be getting quite so good an exchange rate!

    Of course the only think I’m currently backing is a UK project (Battle Systems) so I don’t get the real effect quite yet!

    Hmm..Jamey, go make another project, I want to throw converted money at you ;)

  2. A health warning about these tools – if you live in a non-US country that has $ as its currency (like I do) then ALL your web pages will assume $xxx is in USD and convert it. I had a shock when I looked at my bank account, and paypal account and have decided to remove the tool after just an hour!

    1. Amanda: That’s true, it looks at all websites. I would recommend not leaving the default as foreign currency, tough–that defeats the point of it as a backer. :) As a creator I’m only going to try out other currencies when I’m actually building the project. Also, it’s easy to disable the extension for times when you don’t want it (instead of removing it completely).

  3. Thank you for the article! I think that the tool is good but it won’t solve the situation. If a backer finds time and/or he is so experienced to install such a plugin, then he got already used to converting and pledging. It will help backers with a lot of projects backed, but it won’t bring much more new backers to the project.
    Besides that, USD is always a solution. People in none-USD currency countries are used to count in USD. Kickstarter is USD-based site, so it’s easier to compare prices in dollars, not in one’s native currency. So the solution like “26 Euro (roughly $34)” should work best, I think.

    1. Denis: That’s a good point, it doesn’t solve the issue for people who don’t read this article (i.e., the majority of people). But it’s still helpful for those who do! :) Because of that, I would continue to recommend the method I described at the top of the post of listing a few different currency conversions in the reward text.

  4. I don’t need this tool for the most US projects, because i have to pay ~ 19% taxes and USD * 0,8 = EUR, so when I see a kickstarter project I usually have to pay the Dollar price in Euros (not counting the cents here).
    But with UK prices it could solve the one extra step … ah, it ain’t gonna work: If the project is really cool, I’ll buy it anyway ;)

  5. btw: that is a good idea and i like to see more of those projects!
    i don’t say that it is a bad tool, i just don’t need it (even to “calculate” 20% off) and i don’t have a fixed budget that requires me to count the dollars … from a “how is the perception of that price in a foreign region of the world” precpective it is great.

  6. By the way, a funny thought. “50 USD” is equal to “1950 roubles” (Russian currency), but it doesn’t look so frightening. “50” is not much, obviously. But “1950” is a huge sum. The same about GBR, as “30 GBR” is undoubtly lesser than “50 USD”. :)
    I think that I’d back less projects if their pledges will be written in roubles.
    Just a thought.

  7. One thing to remember…is to remember! I installed the currency converter extension as it is a very good idea but then thanks to a hectic bought of playing with the kids and snoozing I forgot about it. So there I am, later this evening tweaking the rewards page of our campaign (in development) and all of a sudden everything is showing in €’s. And we’re in the UK. So I go into meltdown. What have I done wrong? Has KS been hacked? Has the UK adopted the Euro while I was sleeping? And so…I submitted a support ticket to Kickstarter saying ‘Help!’. Then the penny (sterling) dropped. The extension was happily doing it’s thing oblivious to my forgetfulness. And so I submitted another support ticket to KS saying ignore all previous support tickets from me together with my apologies. Peace has been restored.

    On the matter of snoozing…Jamey might want to write a specific post on sleep management ‘cos it looks like I’m going to be sleeping next year. Hail Trello!

  8. I’m in Australian and looking at launching a campaign then of this year 2016. Because most of my audience will be in the US i really want to run this in pure US dollars, as i dont want backers first seeing the AUS amount as it might automatically turn people off as that amount will be significantly higher than the $US amount. And for my product which is relatively cheap ($40) i dont want there be anything stopping a successful campaign. Do you think it’s worthwhile setting up a US company etc and everything?

  9. According to the Kickstarter website, they show prices in US$ automatically but only for people in the USA.
    I guess it’s still worth showing US$ prices but how many other currencies and do you do this on all your reward levels (making things look a bit cluttered)?

    1. Kevin: That’s a great point, Kickstarter added that feature some time after I posted this article. I’ve added a note to the article. It’s no longer necessary for creators to list other currencies, though I think this tool is still helpful to use during the initial creation of the project page.

        1. Kevin: I like that you’re thinking about other territories, but you won’t be able to edit the reward levels after people start to pledge with them. I think you may be better off just letting Kickstarter automatically convert the currency. Like, I’m in the US–once your project launches, when I look at the funding goal or reward levels, Kickstarter will automatically tell me the USD conversion.

          1. I know that YOU get to see US$ prices automatically because you’re in the USA. Unfortunately for anyone in any other territory they do not get this from any Kickstarter page. That means that my project (priced in GB£) viewed in, say, Mexico where they are probably familiar with things priced in US$ will NOT get to see a US$ price, only a GB£ price that is probably near meaningless to them. Same on any non US$ Kickstarter page for non USA people, as far as I know.
            If everyone else also got the US$ price it would help but would be a bit lazy. I just backed a project in SEK which I had no idea of the conversion. If I’d seen it in US$ I could mentally estimate the GB£ price but I don’t get that feature. Luckily for the person doing that KS I bothered to look up the exchange rate.

            Of course, now I’ve done a manual conversion to US$ on my rewards it’s going to look odd when the exchange rate changes and you guys in the USA will see a difference between the Kickstarter auto US$ price and what I typed.
            We need to start posting a request in the Kickstarter forums for all territories to be covered, that would be sweet!

          2. Kevin: Are you sure that someone in Mexico wouldn’t see the peso conversion? I’m pretty sure that’s how it works. However, you’re correct that someone in Mexico wouldn’t see the US amount.

  10. It looks like you folks in the USA are the only ones that get a conversion. I can’t be certain that people in Mexico don’t get to see things in pesos but I can tell you for certain, (having just checked again) that in the UK I was not shown a conversion for SEK or Euros or US$ on video game Kickstarter pages, not checked others currencies or KS categories. People from other countries appear to say the same thing.
    See this thread:
    https://www.kickstarter.com/campus/questions/how-important-is-usd-currency-and-shipping-cost-for-us-backers

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