6 October 2016
A long time ago, when I was fresh-faced and dew-eyed, I decided to invite local backers in St. Louis to pick up their Kickstarter copies of Viticulture at a release party.
Part of the reason is that I thought it would be fun to meet backers face-to-face and thank them for their contribution in making Stonemaier Games a reality. It was also an opportunity to save a little money on shipping 40 or so games (I was using Amazon fulfillment at the time, before I knew better).
So as the games traveled from China to the US, I e-mailed all St. Louis-area backers and told them we would be hosting a wine-and-cheese release party (because, you know, Viticulture) at a lovely Italian restaurant called Bartolino’s Osteria.
The event was fun. Some came for the social aspect, while others wanted to learn how to play Viticulture.
But when the event ended, we still had about 15 copies of Viticulture to give to local backers. Fortunately, my co-founder’s job at the time involved a lot of driving around St. Louis, so he hand delivered the remaining rewards.
This story isn’t unique. I’m sure you’ve seen Kickstarter projects that offer local pickup, whether it’s at a game store, a specific convention, or a release party. I’ve even talked about it on this blog in reference to Pass the Buck.
But I haven’t detailed the questions creators might ask when considering this option, hence this post.
Should you offer local pickup for your project?
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Where are your rewards made? If you’re making cupcakes in your home kitchen, that’s one thing–local pickup makes sense. But if you’re making 5,000 games in China, it’s quite another.
- How are you shipping most rewards? Again, if you’re shipping rewards by hand, it’s easy to offer local pickup. But if you’re using the Stonemaier Method (using fulfillment centers around the world, which is so normal on Kickstarter now that it’s easy to forget that just a little over 3 years ago, we were one of the first crowdfunders to do it), it complicates things. It means that you’ll need your fulfillment center to ship at least several cartons of rewards to you, which is only marginally less expensive than mailing all of those games individually.
- Are you detail oriented? Say you have a backer named Jamey who tells you he’ll pick up his game, but he’s a no-show at your release event because he needed to walk his cats (which you don’t know, because Jamey doesn’t e-mail you). Did you track who picked up games and who didn’t, especially at a time when you’re juggling tons of address changes and inquiries from backers about whether or not their games have shipped?
- What is your motivation for offering local pickup? If you’re trying to save money, I’m not sure local pickup is worth it. Maybe you’ll save a few dollars per reward, and that money might go right back into the cost of the release event. If you’re trying to build community and thank backers face to fact, that’s awesome. Just don’t go into it expecting to save money.
- Are you okay with the responsibility of hand-delivering packages that aren’t picked up? Imagine I told you right now that over the next week, you would need to hand-deliver 15 packages (mostly to strangers) within a 20-mile radius of your current location. If that fills you with a sense of dread, maybe local pickup isn’t for you, because you’re definitely going to have backers who don’t show up to your release event. Maybe it’s their responsibility to get the game from you, but that’s not always the case.
If I want to offer local pickup, how should I do it?
Here are a few options to consider:
- Create a reward level specifically for local pickup. There are a few reasons why I don’t recommend this option. First, it clutters the reward sidebar with a reward that is irrelevant to the vast majority of backers. Second, all sorts of production and shipping issues can happen, so if you’re targeting a specific event (like a convention) for pickup, there’s a pretty good chance you’re going to miss that deadline. Third, people change their minds and their addresses all the time, so it’s kind of difficult to get a definitive answer from someone so far in advance.
- Contact locals when it’s almost time to fulfill rewards. This is what I did on Viticulture, and it’s my recommended method. It reduces the number of backers who originally indicate they want local pickup but actually end up requiring you to ship the reward. Just make sure you have a clear date as to when you’ll have the local rewards in hand before you pick a date for the release event.
My overall conclusion is it’s pretty rare when local pickup can actually make things easier, better, and cheaper for the creator and the backers. Again, this doesn’t mean that release events are a bad idea–they’re often a great idea, really–but they don’t have to go hand-in-hand with local pickup.
If you’re a backer, how do you feel about local pickup options? Have you ever used them? If you’re a creator, what are your thoughts?