Kickstarter Updates Reward Shipping Options

30 October 2014

I actually have two tangentially related topics to discuss today, good news and bad news.

The Good News

2014-10-30_1408In a huge move, Kickstarter made their reward shipping options WAY more flexible yesterday. You can read all about it here on the Kickstarter blog (and see a gif of the new reward setup in action), but the gist of it is that you can now associate different shipping fees with any country on a reward-by-reward basis.

Why is that awesome? A few reasons:

  • It’s Much Easier for Backers: Before this update, a backer needed to manually look up and add a specific shipping fee to their pledge. This was a hassle and often caused confusion. Now it’s automated–Kickstarter knows your shipping address, so when you go to check out, the total is automatically updated just like any modern e-commerce site.
  • It’s Much Better for Creators: No longer do creators have to lump all “international” countries together as if they’re the same (which was also inconsiderate of backers). We can now pick and choose the correct shipping amounts for each country. This could take a while, of course, so I think most projects will continue to include “rest of world” as a shipping option, but this is still so much better. Please remember that if you include a shipping subsidy for some backers (say, backers in the US to account for “free” shipping), that subsidy should be applied to ALL shipping fees.
  • It’s Flexible for Heavier/Lighter Rewards: Shipping 1 book about cats is much less expensive than shipping a life-size sculpture of a cat. On the same note, shipping 5 games might be less expensive per unit to ship than shipping 1 game, but it’s still more expensive as a whole. Now you can easily differentiate the shipping fees for each reward level (and structure those reward levels accordingly with proper up-front research).
  • KS Listens: I have little doubt that Kickstarter made this change because enough people asked for it. They’ve probably been working on it for quite a while, long before our call to action to them two months ago. With an entire industry depending on their site, it’s really important that they listen to their creators and backers, so this is very encouraging to me.

Could it be better? Sure. Clearly the option of “European Union” is misinformed–it’s much more expensive to ship to Central EU than Western EU. And because these shipping options are associated with each reward level (not the entire project), you might have to spend a lot of time setting them up if your project has lots of rewards. Perhaps that’s a good thing, though, as many creators might benefit from having fewer rewards.

Some people in the comments are clamoring for Kickstarter to now separate shipping fees from the funding goal, which is an interesting proposal. I see their point for certain products (if you need to manufacture a minimum quantity of something, your funding goal should be based on that quantity plus other expenses), since you don’t know exactly where your backers will come from. But I think you make build a pretty close estimate into your funding goal.

The Bad News

Last year after I delivered Euphoria to backers, I wrote a post about the shipping process and things I learned from it that other creators could apply to their projects.

In that post I talked about a fulfillment company in China called 4px that I had used to send Euphoria to backers in Asia and Australia. As I noted in the post, overall I was pleased with their service, but “the 4px warehouse did not follow my instructions to put padding around the games.”

That was obviously a big concern going into my Tuscany project. Before I launched the project, I talked to 4px multiple times about adding bubble wrap or bags of air around the games, and they assured me every time that the games would be properly padded. I was confident in them.

I was wrong.

I recently shipped out 20 early copies of Viticulture via 4px. Here are a few examples of how the games arrived to backers:

image3

viti_carton2

The second one made me both chuckle and cringe. They just stuffed a bunch of bubble wrap on one side of the box! With that much bubble wrap, they could have wrapped every game in that box several times over. But they didn’t. And they’ve lost my business.

It also doesn’t help that their communication has significantly decreased. I worked with a customer service rep named Cindy last year, and she was a pleasure to work with. However, Cindy moved on, and it hasn’t been the same.

I’m telling you this not because I feel good about bashing any company or individual. I’m telling you because even though I try to be very careful to vouch for the services I recommend on this blog, clearly I failed you in recommending 4px. I’ve left the mention of them on the old shipping entry, but I’ve added a big disclaimer to let people know about my concerns.

In the meantime, I’ve been trying to find other solutions, and I have a few in the works that I hope to be able to vouch for after using them to ship the Treasure Chest and Tuscany. The one I plan to work with is called Agility, which was mentioned to me by fellow creator Ed Baraf. My contact there is Chagall (CAChen@agility.com). Again, this is not yet an endorsement of Agility.

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Are you as excited about Kickstarter’s new flexible shipping options as I am?

17 Comments on “Kickstarter Updates Reward Shipping Options

  1. Most of my rewards are digital, but I think this would be a good thing for the couple of physical rewards I I’ve offered. Lets people be a bit more specific in costs and should help us see more international backers going down the road. It’s kind of shocking that Kickstarter didn’t have this functionality from day one, but at least they have it now.

  2. I do think this is a great idea, and I hope more project creators make use of it for properly graduated shipping costs.

    And hopefully there’s more out there who, like you, attempt to find a company to ship to Asia-Pacific directly from China, rather than having to ship to the US and then out again to Australia.

    Too many projects I’ve seen I’ve had to say ‘no’ to because they were asking for $50+ shipping to Australia (“Rest of the World”) on a $35-$45 game. When the shipping costs more than the product, it’s not worth my money investing in it.

    Thank you Jamey for managing to keep your shipping costs at a reasonable level when you can!

    1. Molokov: Thanks! I think it takes a lot of trust to let people you’ve never met (and whose language you don’t speak) ship out your precious cargo. Hopefully Agility will work out better than 4px!

  3. I definitely think kickstarter should exclude shipping money from goals, creators could lower their goals without having to worry about being ruined if they exactly make their goal with an unusually large proportion of high shipping cost backers. I can’t really think of any good reasons not to do it.

    1. Richard: I think it’s possible, though, as I said, I think it can be budgeted for. My one concern is that from a backer perspective, if I give $75 to a project ($50 for the product and $25 for shipping), if the funding total only goes up by $50, that might not feel good to the backer from a psychological standpoint. I think Kickstarter could find a way to visually show the funding total separately from the shipping total, though.

      1. The German crowd-funding site “Spiele Offensive” does not count shipping charges towards the goal. (I backed “Oklahoma Boomers” on there earlier this year, a game about the Oklahoma land rush. I graduated from the University of Oklahoma.)

        With shipping counting towards a goal, it does make the total pledge amount pretty misleading. As a project creator, I personally monitor the total number of copies of the game I need for rewards, which is more closely tied to total backer count than total pledge amount. I’ve talked to a lot of people during my campaign who are really surprised by this, and I published a blog post about it this morning:
        http://blog.lanternsgame.com/2014/10/31/why-backer-count-is-more-important-than-total-pledges/

        1. Randy: That’s a great blog post! Thanks for writing and sharing it. I agree that it’s a bit of a crapshoot as to where backers will come from, making it hard to predict the exact funding goal with shipping included.

  4. Jamey, what is Agility’s site? I searched the web and immediately found two agilities in the first line of Google… : )

  5. Intriguing & informative post.
    I have received a game from Kickstarter once, a bit like on the 1st photo, & for a backer it is not a happy feeling.
    Though the 2nd photo made my day for which I am grateful Jamey. It shows that they took all your advice into heart :)

    PS: I would also like to know the Agility website. Though judging from the email I think it is agility.com.

    All the Best :)

  6. […] UPDATE OCTOBER 2014: 4px has not followed my instructions for properly packaging the small shipment of Viticulture I had them handle recently, so for now I cannot recommend using this company. I’m trying to see if they can do better or if there are other shipping solutions in Asia. If you have any suggestions, please contact Jamey at stonemaiergames@gmail.com. Read more about this hear. […]

  7. Jamey, first of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to share so much great info about shipping. My son and I have spent the last couple of months reading and re-reading your info and links regarding Kickstarter shipping. It is incredibly helpful and we are grateful for your help and investment of time trying to help fellow Kickstarter creators.
    We will be releasing our first game on Kickstarter in April and want to make sure we are doing everything right. As we work out the shipping logistics, do you have any further input on Agility? We think we have Amazon figured out for the US, Canada, the EU. It’s the other parts of the world that we are concerned about.
    Thanks so much,
    Stan

    1. Stan: Thanks, I’m glad the posts have been helpful! I actually just wrote a post about shipping a few days ago. I don’t talk much about Agility (there’s more about them in my post specifically about Asia), but they did a great job and I would recommend them.

      Also, at this point I would recommend Ideaspatcher or Spiral Galaxy for the EU. They’re both so much easier to use, and they’ll pack your games much better than Amazon.

      https://stonemaiergames.com/everything-i-learned-about-shipping-i-learned-in-tuscany/

  8. Jamey,

    Thank you so much for the quick reply! We will definitely check out Ideaspatcher and Spiral Galaxy. Anything easier to work with in EU is a plus. Glad to know that Igility is working out for you! I think Mike and I have a shipping strategy worked out now! Thanks for your advice and help!

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