Kickstarter Lesson #153: Selling Inventory vs. Accepting Pre-Orders: A Dual Solution

22 June 2015 | 23 Comments

[Update 2018: I now only use Shopify. It’s just easier to manage one platform than two.]

Shoplocket is no more.

Actually, Shoplocket–an e-commerce platform that I lauded in this post–will be dead to everyone as of June 30, 2015. If you used Shoplocket, this isn’t news to you.

My heart sank when I heard about Shoplocket shutting down. Even though they weren’t nearly as big as places like Magento and Shopify, they were cost-effective and reliable. Also, it meant that I had to transition all of our products from Shoplocket to some other solution…ugh. Moving is the worst.

Why do crowdfunders need to have an ecommerce solution? In fact, you may not need it if you only made enough products for backers or if all of your non-backer rewards are entered into distribution.

But maybe you’re like me: You want to accept pre-orders after your crowdfunding campaign, you have some products (in distribution or direct-sale products) in stock that you want to sell after you’ve fulfilled your backer rewards, and you have two cats.

shoplocket images5In that case, you’ll need an e-commerce solution. The solution I found actually involves two different e-commerce platforms.

Why two solutions? Because pre-orders act differently than orders for current inventory. You may only need one of these solutions, but I need both. Consider the following scenario:

Takuya in Japan wants to pre-order our Energy Box to enhance his copy of Power Grid. The expected delivery date is January 2016, and the shipping cost is $9.

Takuya also wants to buy the original Treasure Chest, which is currently in stock at our fulfillment center in China. The shipping cost is also $9.

Now, if both of those products were currently in stock, they could ship together for a total fee of $9, not $9 each. But that’s not the case–the Treasure Chest could ship at as soon as tomorrow, while the Energy box wouldn’t ship until January. Each one needs to have its own shipping fee in a way that is clearly conveyed to Takuya.

At first I looked for a solution that could delineate between pre-orders and current inventory for this purpose, but I couldn’t find it. So I have a dual solution that requires two different accounts. At first that seemed super annoying, but in fact it was only mildly annoying. Here’s the system:

Celery (2% fee per transaction + 2.9% + $0.30 Stripe/PayPal processing fee; use for pre-orders)

Celery has been awesome to work with in terms of customer service. They’re built for pre-orders. The website is super easy to set up. If you have a lot of shipping prices for different locations, you only have to set them once, not once per product like on Shoplocket. Also, very importantly, it lets you create different “collections” for pre-orders that are arriving at various times. For example, we have a pre-order for Between Two Cities (November 2015 delivery) and a collection for our new treasure chests (January 2016 delivery).

You can charge customers right away or hold off until you’re ready to ship; if you wait, Celery doesn’t charge you anything until you issue the charge.

Celery was very kind to create an offer for my readers: If you sign up for Celery, e-mail discounts@trycelery.com, and mention that you were referred by Stonemaier, they’ll waive the Celery fees (their portion is 2% of each transaction) for your first $1,000 in pre-order sales. This is 100% for you–I’m not getting any kickbacks. In fact, to my knowledge I’m not even getting that offer. I’m just a normal customer. :)

Shopify ($29/mo for basic plan & 2.9% +$0.30 fee per transaction, use for current inventory)

It took me a few hours to set up Shopify (their system for setting up shipping is very elaborate, but precise), but man was it worth it. It’s just so robust. You can set up lots of different types of products, showcase their MSRP versus their sale price, have access to a ton of reports and data…there’s just so much here. It’s not particularly hard to set up (no coding needed or anything like that), but there is a lot going on.

One of the best things about Shopify is that you can have a uniform storefront like this one where customers can see everything you’re selling. Theoretically that will encourage customers to pick up a few different items at the same time to consolidate shipping (just make sure they’re located at the same fulfillment center!). You can even use Shopify as your website if you’d like–it comes with a built-in blog function.

Also, you can link it to your professional Amazon seller account, which means that someone can buy a product from your website and Shopify will automatically tell Amazon about it so Amazon fulfillment can send the product to your customer. You no longer need to go through those steps yourself.

***

I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more about these platforms (and others) the more I use them. If you have any questions or suggestions about other platforms, please let me know!

23 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #153: Selling Inventory vs. Accepting Pre-Orders: A Dual Solution

  1. Thanks for the info! I’ve been following your insights for quite a while. My KS will be launching in July and I set up my website through Shopify already at http://www.topshelf-fun.com. very easy interface and incredibly robust as you said. The fees are decent as long as you use Shopify’s credit card portal. Otherwise they charge you more.

    So the only thing I am struggling with is shipping outside the US for the campaign. I am using FBA to fulfill my rewards (assuming all goes well – fingers crossed!). However FBA Export doesn’t work we using multi-channel services.

    Any suggestions? I’m not even entirely sure people would want to pay the export shipping peices for my plush meeple (meepillow) anyway. It’s such a low ticket item. It’s light but large. May not be worth it.

    I don’t know what to do.

    Will Faust

    1. William: Very cool! I’m glad to hear you’ve enjoyed Shopify so far.

      Just to clarify, FBA isn’t Amazon’s fulfillment service. FBA is when a customer goes to Amazon, searches their website, finds your product listed there, and buys it. Multi-channel fulfillment is when a customer places an order elsewhere (i.e., through your website or Kickstarter) and you send the address to Amazon to fulfill. I’d recommend looking through my various shipping entries to find the solution that works best for you.

  2. Thought I’d recommend WooCommerce, a plugin for WordPress sites that you can use to create your own shopping cart system and ecommerce front. It is a free plugin and you can link it to Paypal, Amazon, or Apple Pay to receive your funds really easily. Plenty of one-time payment add-ons that make it extra fancy, if you need all of that. There are no fees from WooCommerce, but you still have to pay the card fees from whichever service you use (Paypal is around 2.75%). Could be a useful and cost effective option for people who sell only a small number of units per month and do their own shipping. Thanks for the great information!

    1. Ryan: Awesome, thanks for the information! That does sound like a great service to know about. Up until a few days ago I think I would have been happy embedding a bunch of widgets on my website (that’s essentially what Shoplocket was). But I’m happy now to have actual storefronts where people can see all the products we have in stock or on pre-order in one place. It’s great for creators to have different options, though!

  3. This is fun! I like watching you develop your business! Other popular store platforms are Square Space and Ecwid, but I think you chose the best one with Shopify. Your store deserves a custom URL! You can set up a subdomain so that it looks like it is part of your website. In this case it would be store.stonemaiergames.com. I have limited experience with subdomains on GoDaddy. Let me know if you have questions or need any help.

  4. I was actually researching this exact topic in the wake of our Kickstarter campaign, and said “I wonder if Jamey Stegmaier has an article on this?” and was not disappointed.

    Did you look at Square at all as an alternative to Shopify? From my research they seem quite similar (at least in the basic case of an online store and in-person POS), and while Shopify does seem to have more features it also has the monthly fee that Square does not.

    Were there any dealbreakers with Square? And conversely, any outstanding features that were unique to Shopify?

    Thanks for the discount code by the way, Celery was already looking quite good and this seals the deal!

  5. Sergey: Thanks for your question! I’m aware of Square as a mobile payment service, but I didn’t realize that had full e-commerce capabilities (i.e., a webstore platform). I’ll check it out to learn more!

    1. Trevor: I accept pre-orders using PayPal outside of that 20-day range, and I haven’t heard anything from PayPal. If you’re uncomfortable with it, you can accept pre-orders but not actually receive the funds until you ship. I think Celery allows you to choose that option.

  6. Would like to hear your experience about adding the Celery code to Shopify. Did you allow Celery to access your Shopify admin area or did you do everything yourself? Any issues experienced with Shopify? Thanks!

  7. Nick: Right, I gave Celery access to the Shopify admin area, and they created the page there. I think they could have done it without accessing my admin area, though (they could have just sent me the code to copy and paste), but I think it was the first time they had done something like that. Shopify had no issues–it was barely involved, as it pretty much just provided the page on which the campaign would run. All orders were processed through Celery.

  8. Does Shopify or any other solution mentioned allow you to automatically transmit orders to partners who fulfill your orders? What I find quite annoying is that all fulfillment partners I worked with have different templates. Thus, I had to both manually transmit my order data to my partners and before that I had to “translate” the data into their template.

    I would hope that there is a webshop solution that seamlessly integrates with many fulfillment partners’ backend such that I would not have to manually to ship X to customer Y and would also save me from the hazzle to adjust the data to their template. This would also fasten the delivery time.

  9. Hi, We’ve launched a crowdfunding & pre-orders app for Shopify.

    https://apps.shopify.com/fundlify

    Fundlify empowers you to Independently crowdfund your projects on Shopify. Meet production minimums for any of your products every time, anytime and for as many products as you want!

    Fundlify is the first platform to introduce a two-phase (commit & pre-order) crowdfunding process that Inspires backers confidence and enables you to assess product demand without risk.

  10. Very interesting! Now that it’s been 3 1/2 years, how has your experience with Celery been? How has the service improved? Was it the software that handled your Wingspan preorders?

    What do you think about Celery Launch and how it crowdfunds from your website itself?

    1. Rachael: Thanks for your questions. We actually stopped using Celery a few years ago. There was nothing wrong with the platform, but I found it was just easier to use one ecommerce platform than two, and Shopify’s capabilities were much more vast (despite the excellent personal service from Celery). I’m not familiar with Celery Launch.

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