Live-Blogging Lesson #5: External Add-Ons

27 March 2014 | 12 Comments

Something you’ve probably seen on lots of Kickstarter projects is a vast array of add-ons. These can be great for the creators and the backers, because everyone gets exactly what they want, and the project gets a nice boost every time a new option is added.

For Viticulture, we had a few add-ons like custom-etched corkscrews and wine glasses. They turned out to be really beautiful, but they were a huge hassle to ship, and we ended up losing money on every single one.

So for Euphoria, we learned our lesson, and we revised our strategy so that we would only create add-ons that could be packaged in the box by our manufacturer. By doing this, we wouldn’t have to handle any add-ons by hand–all we had to do was make sure that each unique box had a different SKU code for Amazon fulfillment’s bar-code scanning.

This meant that we had to limit add-ons to minimum quantities of 1500 (a standard manufacturing minimum) and try to reduce the number of SKU codes to 3 or 4. The more SKU codes you have, the more work you’re making for yourself, and the greater the chances that either a packaging error will happen at the manufacturer or a scanning error will happen at Amazon.

Then came Tuscany. We knew Tuscany was going to be a unique beast right away, because we had some component updates to provide to original Viticulture owners for free. We also had several different versions of Tuscany: retail, Prima (includes 72 custom metal lira coins), and Collector’s Edition (Prima with Viticulture in a special box).

We started getting lots of requests to add extra sets of the custom lira coins (they’re only $15), and we realized that the system we planned for getting the updated components to original Viticulture owners would require lots of different SKUs. Like I mentioned, having tons of SKUs of similar products isn’t a good idea.

So I started looking for a solution that would let us add external add-ons without having to ship everything by hand like we did for Viticulture. And I think I found a solution (one that will probably be very obvious to some of you, but it wasn’t to me):

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This is the type of packaging that enables you to sell and ship small amounts of a specific component using Amazon multi-channel fulfillment. The packaging is cheap–about $1–and it has a bar code, so Amazon can add it to any order, and you can sell extras on Amazon. (Note: Amazon isn’t packaging components for you–your manufacturer would create an individual unit like this, and you would send them to Amazon to fulfill the orders.)

One of the hidden challenges that I mentioned on this blog post about shipping with Amazon is that when you upload a bulk-order spreadsheet to Amazon, each row of the spreadsheet can only have one SKU on it. So when I shipped Euphoria, if a backer purchased one copy of deluxe Euphoria and one copy of supreme Euphoria, I had to manually type in their shipping information as an individual order (whereas I could upload 500 single-SKU orders all at the same time using the spreadsheet).

This obviously present a problem with external add-ons with different SKUs. However, I’ve since talked to Amazon about the issue, and they assure me that if two rows of the spreadsheet are identical (name, address, order number, etc) EXCEPT for the SKU, their server will automatically combine the two orders into one shipment.

There is still a handling and weight cost involved, as seen on the following chart from Amazon.com. This is for multi-channel fulfillment, which is when you accept orders on Kickstarter or your website and merely ask for Amazon to ship the product to the customer:

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So if you were to add a small packet of a component that weighs less than 1 lb to an existing order, the ADDED cost would be the $0.75 pick and pack fee plus the $0.45 weight handling fee. That’s a total of $1.20. Add that to the $1 for the packaging plus the cost of the component itself (which could vary greatly depending on what it is).

If you’re debating add-ons for your project, I would strongly recommend this option instead of packing and shipping add-ons by hand. I can’t 100% vouch for this method yet because I haven’t fulfilled orders using this method yet, but based on my research and experience using Amazon multi-channel fulfillment, I see no reason why it wouldn’t work. If you see a loophole, please ask about it in the comments.

12 Comments on “Live-Blogging Lesson #5: External Add-Ons

  1. It’s possible that for future versions of Tuscany, we’ll sell the special workers separately from the rest of the game. They account for about 33% of the total manufacturing cost! :)

  2. I’m not quite sure I understand fully. Is Amazon providing the packaging shown? or is your manufacturer providing that packaging. I am curious because we have a small package of variants for Stones of Fate that I haven’t quite fully figured out how to offer separately from packaging it with the base game. I would like to be able to do this in the future for conventions and things.

  3. Hi Jamey,

    I have a question about this.
    I saw you did the add-on option in the Treasure Chest campaign, and I’m currently trying to figure out the logistics of this for my current (live) campaign.
    My question is actually about sorting out the add-ons without asking each backer sending a message to confirm what they want.
    When you see $70 pledged for the $33 reward, how do you know that this also includes one of the $19 add-on and two of the $9 add-on? (and every permutation of this). Add the fact that a lot of backers also like to throw on a few dollars just to make round numbers, and I don’t see any way to do this but asking them for what they want and doing a lot of number checking.

    Thanks for your awesome blog,
    Peter

  4. Peter: Thanks for your question. I ask those types of questions in the post-project survey, and then I sort through my spreadsheet to see if any backer accidentally indicated that they should receive something they didn’t actually pay for.

  5. Hey Jamey, just had a question about this. So I was planning to use Panda GM for manufacturing and I know you used them before. I can’t however seem to find any information about whether or not they will do multiple “versions of a game”. I see they will make a Kickstarter version and a retail version, but that’s it. So if a reward tier was the basic box, then the next tier was deluxe box for more money with extra components like an art book, then the collectors edition with better quality materials and metal game pieces (these are all just examples). In your experience would they make different tiers containing different components out of the 1500 minimum. So lets say 200 of each upper tier, that’s 400 units and then the rest are the retail version. Or would you need to order 1500 of each tier. Seems like a waste to do that considering you will only get minimal backers for those, but then what, you just don’t offer different rewards tiers. I can’t seem to figure out a safe solution here. Like perhaps you could ship things separately but as you said, that gets very pricey and messy. You mentioned having your manufacturer make just the addons in a separate order. So that would be like 1500 of just the addons?

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