Kickstarter Lesson #70: How to Sell the Retail Version of Your Product Online Post-Kickstarter

18 November 2013

You’ve run your Kickstarter campaign and want to give your product life in retail. What’s the best way to do that?

Before I delve into this topic, please note that I’m specifically talking about the retail version of your product, not the Kickstarter version (in case there is a difference). Your stance on selling Kickstarter versions of your product post-campaign may be different than ours–we only sell the retail version starting on the day after the campaign ends. You can read about that here.

Also, please note that this topic is about how you can personally continue to sell your retail product online. Your brick and mortar distribution strategy will depend on your specific product (these Kickstarter Lessons are about any type of product, not just board games).

So really, there are two overarching strategies: Sell the product on your website, and sell the product on other websites. Let’s explore both of them.

Sell the Product on Your Website

I’ve explored two different ways to let people place pre-orders and orders on our website:

Stonemaier Games » Buy – EuphoriaPayPal: There are many services like PayPal (I believe the biggest competitor is Amazon Payments), but PayPal has the most users. At last count, they had over 133 million active user accounts. Plus, it’s handy to have for the rare backer who can’t use Amazon. PayPal charges minimal fees (sometimes no fees) and there’s no monthly charge, so financially it’s a smart choice. However, it falls flat because the widget doesn’t look very good on your website, and if you edit it on PayPal (like if you change the price), it doesn’t automatically update the widget–you have to reenter the code. Overall I had a good experience with PayPal, but I’ve moved away from it to use ShopLocket.

ShopLocket (disclaimer: Unfortunately, Shoplocket is no longer taking new customers, so check out this blog entry for a solution): The above statement is a bit misleading, because I actually use PayPal through ShopLocket (you can also use Stripe). ShopLocket is like a really elegant skin for those payment processing services. You can see what my ShopLocket widget looks like on the image on the right. It has a clean design, and unlike the PayPal widget, if I need to change a word or a price, I only need to change it on the ShopLocket website instead of reentering the code everywhere the widget appears. ShopLocket also has a number of other things going for it:

  • The customer service is amazing. I have different shipping prices for a number of different countries, and ShopLocket entered them for me.
  • You can limit the number of products available at any given time. This is really helpful for me because I only have a certain number of retail games at my disposal.
  • ShopLocket gives you the choice to charge customers now or later. This is great for your particular pre-order strategy. At Stonemaier, we charge people up front–I think we’re able to do that because people trust that we’re going to make and deliver our games on schedule. However, the whole idea of Kickstarter may make potential buyers wary of giving you their money up front, so ShopLocket has an option where it can accept orders but not charge the person until you tell ShopLocket that you’re ready to ship.

Shopify is one other option to consider.

Now, both of these options are great for pre-orders. I’m somewhat on the fence about using them after the games arrive at Amazon fulfillment centers because it takes time to transfer address information over to Amazon when I could just list the product on Amazon and have the order completed automatically. I’ll discuss that below. Most likely I will stick with ShopLocket for regular orders post-Kickstarter (especially since not all buyers are within range of Amazon FBA). Plus, I can add new products onto ShopLocket, and the monthly fee doesn’t change.

Sell the Product on Other Websites

This won’t be a comprehensive list by any means, but here are a few websites worth mentioning. These are places where people browse for interesting products. That’s the whole point of these websites–finding new customers. If your customers already know about you, they’ll just go to your website.

Amazon FBA: The “FBA” stands for “Fulfillment by Amazon.” You’ve probably heard of Cards Against Humanity–they solely use Amazon FBA to sell their games. As long as you have games in stock at Amazon, it’s completely automated. Amazon charges a fee–for example, the total fees for me to sell one copy of Viticulture on Amazon FBA is a little over $4 total. (Even in looking that up for this entry, I was surprised. I thought they took a percentage of the price.)

Note that this is different than Amazon’s multi-channel fulfillment service, which I discuss in detail on this entry. However, the two are complementary–if you will Amazon fulfillment to ship games to your Kickstarter backers, you can send retail versions of your product to Amazon in the same shipment.

Outgrow.me (Alexa rank: 87,097): Outgrow.me reached out to me after Viticulture, and we listed the game on their site after the successful Kickstarter campaign. I think we sold 1 copy through the site. There’s currently no fee to list or sell there, so that’s 1 more copy we wouldn’t have sold otherwise.

Stiqblox (Alexa rank: 131,018): This is a very cool, geeky site that has recently expanded to have a specific section for Kickstarter products. As far as I can tell, there’s no fee to list here. However, it’s not an e-commerce site–you still have to have ShopLocket or PayPal or some other e-commerce platform set up on your website for them to link to.

My recommendation is that you try a few of these to see what works best for your product. Unless I’m missing something, there doesn’t appear to be any cost to using Outgrow.me or Forevergeek, so you might as well see if they’ll list your product.

Pricing Strategy

There are lots of factors to consider when pricing the pre-order price and direct sale price of your product. Our strategy has evolved a bit, so I’ll mention what we do in case it’s helpful.

Euphoria was a $49 game on Kickstarter, with MSRP listed at $70 (really the MSRP was for the retail version of the game, not the Kickstarter version, which doesn’t have an MSRP). I wanted the pre-order price to be higher than that, but I wanted to give people an incentive to subscribe to our e-newsletter, so the pre-order price for Euphoria is $59 (or $54 if you subscribe). That price hasn’t changed and won’t change until all of the pre-orders ship. I’ll upload the pre-orders to Amazon fulfillment at the same time as the Kickstarter orders, so there is an incentive to pre-order. At some point after the game hits the shelves, we’ll adjust the price depending on how other online retailers are pricing the game.

Preparation

At the very least, make sure you have a page on your website for pre-orders (even if it’s a blank page) before the Kickstarter campaign ends. As we discussed in Kickstarter Lesson #34: The Final Hour, you’ll want to post a link to that page at the top of the project page so people who discover your project in the future will know where to go to order it from you (you can’t edit your Kickstarter project page after the campaign ends).

Also, make sure to share the pre-order link with your backers from time to time. They are your best advocates, so make it easy for them to find and share that link.

***

This is a pretty broad topic, so if I’ve missed anything, feel free to mention it in the comments. You can also learn more about post-Kickstarter retail sales from the creators of Boss Monster via my interview with them.

45 Comments on “Kickstarter Lesson #70: How to Sell the Retail Version of Your Product Online Post-Kickstarter

    1. Well, part of it is psychological. I price the pre-orders higher than the Kickstarter version, but the Kickstarter version has several important exclusive upgraded components that don’t really make it a fair comparison. Perhaps that’s what’s happening in those other projects?

      1. i just think it’s key to scope/budget your KS project so that backers are at least on par of what the OLGS would discount it down to, even if the project barely funds, the KS backers are getting a reward for helping fund the project. If it’s putting their name in the acknowledgements in the instructions or something of the sort. It’s disheartening to see a project fund with backer money i give for lets say 75$, and then for that same exact thing being discounted down to 50$ to get nearly the same thing is disheartening, i do agree that when a project like Euhporia reaches the heights it gets, you cant’ compare it, but i think most people don’t need perks for a project that just barely funds, but instead would appreciate a pledge level that compares to what they’ll get in OLGS. Viticulture had that, 39$ base pledge level, and thats about what the OLGS price it at. a 5%-10% difference is acceptable, but when it’s 30% it’s disheartening.

        1. That’s true–I completely understand that. In fact, a big part of the reason I structure it the way I do now is that I was surprised to see online game stores discount Viticulture down to $39 plus shipping from day 1. Even though I knew there was more in the Kickstarter box and that shipping was included for the Kickstarter versions, I didn’t like the impression it could give backers. Other than setting the MSRP, it’s completely out of the control of the publisher as to how game stores price the game, so we do the best to be fair about the things we do have control over (MSRP and Kickstarter/pre-order pricing).

      2. Actually for the most part, 95% of the projects i’ve back have been pledged for a respectable $ compared to the retail release. I think the retail price should be priced in a manner where KS backers aren’t going to feel like they got ripped off on their pledge. You could probably do an entire blog post on pricing strategy. I just think for projects that don’t get a lot of stretch goals, the creators need to either budget for that/expect to not, and thus not leave your backers feel like they pay 30-40% more for a project.

  1. Hi this is David from Forevergeek.com, thanks for including our Kickstarter Store here, I think you might be the first person to blog about us!

    About the store, you are right there is no fee to be listed there it is totally free, we are adding more products everyweek and we are looking for people to give us tips for any cool products that arent listed there and we will then add them as quickly as we can. We are not an ecommerce store though and we do not actually sell any of the items, we simply build a page for each product listed there and when a user clicks the ‘Buy now’ button they are directed to wherever the product is sold online either the creators own site or Amazon or itunes for some digital products.

    Do keep an eye on the store as we will be updating it every week with more products but also lots of new features and functions will be added in the coming weeks and months.

    thanks!

    1. Thanks for the comment, David! Very nice of you to reach out and clarify the points I made about Forevergeek. It’s particularly handy that a project creator could link their game from Forevergeek directly to Amazon in case they don’t want to set up e-commerce on their website. Thanks!

  2. Thanks for these posts. I’m gearing up for my first project after being a KS member and backer since 2010. You give a lot of specific, extremely important bits of information I haven’t seen anywhere else. On this page it was ” you’ll want to post a link to that page at the top of the project page so people who discover your project in the future will know where to go to order it from you (you can’t edit your Kickstarter project page after the campaign ends).

    Thank you! It is much appreciated.

  3. Jamey,
    Thank you so much for these articles. So much great information in here and obviously very organized and well thought out. I will definitely be trying to capture your lessons learned in my project!
    – Jason

  4. Hi Jamey! This is slightly different topic than retail sales but hopefully it’s reasonably related to this page’s subject. Basically I’m wondering if you have any philosophy or thoughts when it comes to timing and when you would engage entities like Impressions or individual distributors in terms of when you’d try to work with them on selling copies through distributor channels.

    In other words, If you’re conducting a Kickstarter campaign… does it make sense to you to engage distributors concurrently with the campaign? Or are you thinking to yourself that you will first complete the campaign, then if it’s successful you will talk to distributors after that? I ask because to me it seems like if you are successful, you now face this big lag before you can execute another print run, where if you had talked with them before or during the same timeframe as your Kickstarter campaign, perhaps you could be closer to doing your next print run, or could have printed more copies in the same print run as your Kickstarter campaign?

    Perhaps my question is illogical because I have no idea whether any distributors would want to order copies of the game when it is pending (or currently) on Kickstarter. Obviously there might not be any established demand for it before it’s on Kickstarter. But what if you have successfully funded on Kickstarter and the files are getting worked on at the manufacturer. Wouldn’t that be a good window to work distribution channels and try to get orders/increase the size of your print run? In theory the distributors would see that there is some sort of demand for the product at that time? Then there’s the issue of whether it’s being fair to your backers… i.e. if you’re releasing the game through distributor channels at the same time as you’re shipping it to backers such that they’re losing out on a period of exclusivity. Ok, my short novel is over. Thanks for any of your thoughts!!!

    1. Jason: Thanks for your question. You might check out the Impressions vidcast for some insight about this (perhaps this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-ELySt-uVE) But I’ll do my best to answer it here. :)

      So, I think the first step is to successfully complete the campaign. Now, if you want to involve retailers in the campaign, absolutely, do that even before you launch. But for distributors, I would wait until you have a successful campaign and (at the very least) a really nice prototype before you contact them.

      More than likely, though, a distributor isn’t going to be interested until the games are actually ready to sell. It can’t hurt to try to reach out to them in advance, but as you know, so many Kickstarter campaigns aren’t delivered “on time,” and distributors operate on a schedule. They’ll only be able to indicate their true interest after the game is available to purchase, and they’ll indicate that interest with money.

      In an ideal world, distributors would let publishers know how many copies they want BEFORE we decide on the size of the print run, but that’s simply not how it works at this point.

      As for the timing of the release (backers vs. distributors), you have control over that whether you work directly with distributors or through a distribution broker. If you tell your backers they come first, you should absolutely follow through on that promise.

  5. Jamey,
    Thank you for your quick response. It seems like guesstimating how many copies to have on hand (and the size of the print run accordingly) for a potential / prospective distributor buy is a really fascinating question. It kind of feels like… you can’t know until you get there, and if you get there, who really knows what the answer will be. It does seem like a lot of people say don’t plan for more than 500 or 1000 copies in your inventory so that at least seems like a general rule of thumb that’s out there.

  6. Jason: Right, that is the big question. I would say that your goal should be to fill a 20-foot shipping container. For a game the size of Euphoria, that means 1800 games. For a smaller game, that’s a lot more games. The reason I recommend the shipping container is that you’re going to pay for that space whether or not you fill it, so you might as well fill it with as many games as possible. Your manufacturer will be able to tell you how many games you need to make to fill a container.

  7. Jamey, I have a couple questions about how you store all of your inventory after the KS campaign. I realize your model has probably changed as your business has grown, but I’d be interested in how you started out as well as how you do things now. Do you keep a pile of games in your basement (like I have presently!) or do you pay for off site storage? I found that paying for a third party like Amazon to store your games was pretty expensive unless you were really moving some inventory. Personally, every time an order comes in, I throw a small party and run downstairs to pack the game up, yelling at my wife that someone ordered the game!

    How central is selling games to retailers for your business? I assume your preference is for people to come to sonemaiergames.com to place their orders?

    Thanks, Jamey!

    1. Seth: Thanks for your question! It sounds like for the scale you’re working on, storing games at home is a good solution (the small parties might get expensive over time, though!).

      My full answer is a bit long, so I’ll cut to what I do now: Because I primarily use Amazon fulfillment to send games to backers, I send enough games to Amazon for all backers + missing/damaged packages + review/convention copies. That’s it–everything else (retail games) goes to my distribution broker, Greater Than Games, for them to store and sell to distributors.

      I do keep a few copies at home, but very few. Basically just a demo copy, one copy in shrink so I can look back on the good ole days someday, and maybe a few extras to have on hand when things come up.

      Selling games to retailers is a crucial part of our business. We don’t make any profit from our Kickstarter projects–any excess funds for those projects goes into making retail games to sell to distributors. While profit margins are better if people buy games directly from us, it takes a lot more time and effort to process and ship each individual shipment, and our prices aren’t competitive with retailers (you’ll piss off retailers if you offer anything much lower than $5 off MSRP). We do have a few products that we only sell directly (accessory products like the coins, Treasure Chest, wooden stars, etc), but for games, it’s much better for us to sell in bulk to distributors.

  8. Hi Jamey,

    I tried emailing Rajen, but the email address you supplied bounced. Does he still work at ShopLocket?

  9. Jamey – Seeking a little advice to help move games off Amazon. We followed your advice on shipping plenty of extra games to Amazon.com for damaged games (great advice!). We were really, really lucky and only had 5 people contact us with damaged games over 766 backers. We therefore have a bit of overstock on Amazon.com. I just filled out a form on Outgrow.me and ForeeverGeek to list our game there. The Stiqbox website said they are not taking any new sign ups right now. Any new advice for moving our Amazon games? Thank you so much!

    1. Loren: That’s great to hear that your damaged rate was so low! As for moving those other games, I think your best bet is to sell them on Amazon (that’s the benefit of using Amazon multi-channel fulfillment–it’s really easy to then use Amazon FBA). I think all you need to do is edit the product on seller central to change the “sell by” date to today, and it be available on the Amazon marketplace within a few minutes.

      Also, two days ago I posted a related entry: https://stonemaiergames.com/kickstarter-lesson-153-selling-inventory-vs-accepting-pre-orders-a-dual-solution/

        1. Hm. It seems a little odd that you’ve seen 0 sales in 25 days. I don’t sell a ton of our games through Amazon, but we sell more than that. It’s a little tricky because other retailers sell through Amazon at more competitive prices (you pretty much have to sell at MSRP or you risk angering retailers).

  10. Hey Jamey,

    I’m not sure if this is the right place to post this, but I was approached by the Chinese company PlayFun, they wanted to publish a Chinese version of my game. I’m a little concerned about Chinese copyright laws (or lack thereof), but I noticed Viticulture is featured on their website: playfunbg.com so I’m wondering if you’re working with them, and what your experience has been?

    Thanks! -Cody

    1. Hi Cody: To my knowledge I haven’t worked with PlayFun, but I might know them by a different name (maybe the backer name). It’s also possible that’s a pirated version of Viticulture, as the main version of Viticulture sold in China is a Chinese version made by One Moment Games.

  11. Yes – I was actually just contacted by Woo Chester from One Moment games – they wanted to place an order for 40 copies of Xia – though I think they would likely do what you said they’ve done with Viticulture, so I canceled the order.

  12. Hey Jamey, this question is more specific to tabletop games on KS.

    For arguments sake, say you move 2000 copies of your game via KS. Based on that number, what do you see as a safe number or percentage to add to your print run to allocate for distribution/online sales for the first year providing you have decent distribution methods in place?

    I’m sure there is no simple answer and many considerations, but have you found in your experience a safe percentage to start with? e.g. 2000 KS sales = 20% post KS sales in the first year.

    Thanks,

    Ike

    1. Ike: Thanks for your question. Different publishers have different stances on this. I typically make about 50% retail copies. So, in your example, where there are 2000 KS copies, I would make 1000 retail copies. But that’s not a set formula. I made about 21,000 KS copies of Scythe, and I opted for only about 25% retail copies. I’m fairly risk-averse, while other companies might go with 200%. Really the only safe percentage is fewer games. The risk you incur then is that your game might be a really hot item when backers are getting it, so if you don’t have enough to sell by then, the buzz may have died down for the next print run. Another way to make the decision is to calculate how much money you need to earn from retail copies to even make a second print run. Last, you might have certain thresholds for economies of scale to kick in.

      1. Jamey,

        Lets say we want to skip kickstarter all together. Or set a print rate on our own site. By this I mean sell 500 pre orders and once fulfilled print and ship?

        Ideas and thoughts? I appreciate you a lot!

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