Kickstarter Lesson #151: How Can Backers Change Their Addresses?

10 June 2015 | 11 Comments

True story.

A frequent Kickstarter backer (we’ll call her Sally) needed to change her mailing address. So she went from project to project, manually changing it on surveys that enabled address changes and messaging creators on the others.

That is, until Kickstarter suspended her account.

As they told Sally, “sending the same form letter to multiple creators in a short span of time is considered spam behavior, and is not allowed.”

Now, I’m not here to complain about Kickstarter. In fact, I think it’s good that they have some automated algorithms in place to cut down on spam (I’m sure creators weren’t flagging Sally’s messages–we get address update messages all the time).

Kickstarter quickly reactivated Sally’s account after they realized the error. But the problem still stands: How can a frequent backer update their address on a lot of projects, and what can creators do to help them?

Which Type of Creator Are You?

There are two types of Kickstarter creators (okay, fine, this is an oversimplification, but it should help frame this entry): Those who don’t send out the backer survey until they’re close to delivering the rewards and those who send out the backer survey almost immediately after the project ends.

If you’re the first type of creator, you don’t have to worry about backers updating their addresses. You have a ton of other things to worry about (getting backers to fill out the survey in a crucially short amount of time, figuring out how many copies of the product to send to various fulfillment centers around the world without any backer data, backers messaging you with address information because you haven’t sent out the survey, etc.), but this is one thing that doesn’t concern you.

Let’s Talk About the Second Type

Then there’s the second type of creator, the type who sends out the survey quickly. To avoid the issues mentioned in the above paragraph, this is what I recommend to all creators. The key, though, is to only download the survey data to calculate how many games to make and where to send them. Don’t download the data for any other purpose–rather, leave the survey open and editable for backers to change their address as they wish.

However, there are probably a few of you who are like me. You want to work off a spreadsheet post-Kickstarter. After all, a spreadsheet can track things that Kickstarter can’t–backers who add on extra stuff after the project, backers who cancel post-campaign, other pre-order customers, etc. I like to have all that data at my fingertips.

For those creators, I can’t recommend leaving the survey editable. Here’s what I’ve found from doing that on the Between Two Cities project: Every morning I get an e-mail from Kickstarter saying that a few backers have updated their addresses. So I load up my spreadsheet, open Kickstarter, find the backer on the spreadsheet…and find that there’s no update. Their “updated” address is exactly the same as it is on my spreadsheet. This happens at least 50% of the time, and it’s quite annoying.

I also can’t revert back to having an uneditable survey, because if I do, Kickstarter says that “backers will be notified automatically and have 48 hours to finalize the address in their survey response.” Basically, every backer will get a message saying we’re getting ready to ship, even though we’re months away from shipping.

So for the latest treasure chest project, the survey isn’t editable. Backers have to message me if they have an address change. And I always have to check my Between Two Cities spreadsheet too just in case they also backed that project and assumed I would know to update the address in both places.

How You Can Help

As a creator, I think that means the best you can do is assure backers that you will eventually send them an address update e-mail. That way they can still send you address updates on an ongoing basis if they’d like, but they can sleep well at night knowing they’ll have a specific opportunity in the future to update the addresses in a way that won’t spam Kickstarter.

Just make sure to remind backers a few times to add your company e-mail to their contacts list so the address update e-mail doesn’t go to their spam or promotions folder. That happens more than I’d like.

Thanks to Sally for sharing her story with me, and hopefully Kickstarter will think of some clever ways to address the issue in a way that will benefit various types of creators and backers. If you have any ideas, let me know in the comments!

11 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #151: How Can Backers Change Their Addresses?

  1. I am constantly surprised that Kickstart doesn’t allow users to set up a shipping identity. Then, when a creator is close to sending, the ship to can just ask, “Use Default?” If yes, super easy for all. If no reply from backer, then the shipper at least has a fall back location to try.

    1. Dave: Yeah, that seems like it would make sense (and it’s very clever), as long as they could still edit specific project in case they wanted a different shipping address for a specific type of item.

  2. I forgot to mention, but this would obviously resolve the issue of notifying a million different creators. Change one spot and it disseminates to all.

  3. “If you’re the first type of creator, you don’t have to worry about backers updating their addresses.”

    Unless you’re the first type but operating in installments – For one product I backed I changed my address between Volume 1 of the three volume set of dvds and Volume 2.

    I deliberately dialed down the amount of non-digital-only backing I was doing prior to moving, but not everyone has the sort of notice I had that I would be moving, to avoid the inconvenience of needing to change my address.

    The easiest solution to the problem, imo, from Kickstarter’s perspective, would be an internal means of mass messaging address changes to projects you’re backing, you’re expecting physical rewards from, and haven’t delivered yet. Only allow people to put the address on that form and you remove a lot of the spam possibility – Make it so that you get a list of projects you haven’t , yet received rewards from – Kickstarter gives you a means to track this – and only allow you to select those for this system, and it should be possible to avoid people accidentally sending to people they shouldn’t or don’t want to (e.g. projects that their reward is digital, that haven’t sent the survey yet, etc). The problem here is false-positives in the spam filtering of the message system, so giving a means of circumventing the standard message system for address updates seems to solve the problem.

    It would also help prevent people like me from forgetting to update some projects – I think I’ve got all of them now, but… Something I forgot I had a physical reward for – That Gaming In Colour LGBT+ videogame convention documentary – Went to my old address. Fortunately the people at the flat I used to live in know my mother, so I get the stuff sent there every 3-6 months or so when I get the opportunity to meet up with my parents. (To emphasise this aspect, you could just automatically send the address update to every survey that’s still open for editing)

    …Or switch to flag-then-verify-then-ban from ban-then-flag-then-verify, but that would result in it taking longer to ban actual problematic behaviour…

  4. I think that this is a kickstarter problem for its’ poor handling of surveys. It wouldn’t be too difficult to have an address manager where you can set up a few addresses, and when filling out surveys select from the list of configured entries you have.

    Then, if you ever delete or modify one of your pre-configured addresses, it could prompt if you wish to update across all projects and let you select the new address.

    Also, while I know Jamey isn’t a fan of pledge managers, I just had a look on my backerkit login and you can group change the address for all un-shipped projects on that very easily, which is pretty cool. (Sadly, pledgemanager.com doesn’t have that facility, but its’ still easier than changing the ks surveys). It would be interesting to know from the creators how much spam this generates, having heard the experience of ks emailing even without changes.

      1. Indeed, or if only every kick-starter mysteriously and simultaneously decided to start using them, and the same one at that =P

        Though as far as I can tell its’ only really the 2 I mentioned that get used any more (Backerkit and Pledgemanager), so that’s progress from every project trying to make their own as it was a year or two ago.

        1. I built a database app to handle pledge management that extensively addresses address correction / change of address issues (because I basically automated every pain point I ran into), and I’ve made it available for free (as in, you pay what you think is fair, not 5% of your campaign).

          Address management is simple; you can reimport a new export and it’ll merge things, you can just cut/paste an address from a backer message or email and it’ll parse it, it does USPS address correction, it links directly to the Stamps.com app for mass label generation, and it does things like “hold my shipment because I’m going on vacation”.

          That said, handling addresses is a bigger challenge than it first appears because there are so many formats (at least as people type them in). My parser has 30 or so template patterns currently.

          It’s a bit of a nerd tool, since you can get into the weeds and customize it to do all sorts of strange things (it’s based on filemaker) but you may find it useful: http://backersupport.com/

  5. If you use a pledge management service, which both Jamey and I avoid, well then backers can update at any moment.
    If Kickstarter took Dave Tee’s suggestion, that too would work – I bet it’s in the future cause it’s such a solid idea.
    Finally if you’re like Jamey and I, then the “We’ll send an email requesting updated addresses” line is gold.

    Frankly, all 3 are needed simultaneously for each of the methods.

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