Ten Creators, One Question: What's Your Shipping Advice?
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After you've reached your project goal, it's time to celebrate. But as we all know, the project is far from over. Now it's time to begin shipping out your rewards. It can seem like monumental task, and everyone does it slightly differently — but there's no reason to reinvent the wheel each time. We asked ten creators to share their best shipping advice with us.
Studio Neat, Neat Ice Kit
We recommend holding off on sending the backer survey until as late in the game as you can. Ideally, just a few weeks before you are ready to start shipping. If you send it too early, some people will inevitably move and manually managing address changes can get quite cumbersome. Also, don’t annoy backers with additional, unnecessary questions on the survey, e.g., "What do you plan on using Product X for?!" Save that for a different and optional survey, if you feel it’s necessary. The Kickstarter survey should be about the brass tacks, such as getting the backer’s shipping information and reward preferences.
John Wrot!, Halfsies Dice
Research. You must research everything. If you're only shipping to the USA and you have a small backer count, just do it yourself. USPS flat rate boxes and bubble mailers from Uline are going to be your best friends. If you have a large backer base and are shipping around the world then you want to look into Amazon fulfillment or similar smaller companies (possibly both) around the world. You can do your backers a huge favor by pre-paying their VAT in countries that tax imports in this way.
Gabe Durham, Boss Fight Books
Be certain that you are charging enough, domestically and internationally, to cover the costs of shipping. For Boss Fight Books, this includes shipping books from the printer to me, paying for the mailers and stamps to send the books back out to customers, and allowing a bit of wiggle room for when the postal service fails to deliver a book (or ruins it) and you need to send a new one.
A mistake I made during the first campaign was that I offered a discount to international backers who lived in Canada and Mexico, assuming that they'd be cheaper because they're our neighbors. They're not. For my international orders, I now have the books printed in the UK and shipped directly from the printers, and shipping costs vary a lot from country to country.
Meg Campbell, Aerovelo
I think the biggest piece of advice for creators to take into consideration is international shipping. Kickstarter has become a well known platform around the world and this means there are backers from around the world. We had backers from all over the wold for the Atlas Human Powered Helicopter, and shipping rewards around the world in a timely fashion ended up being incredibly expensive.
Alex Kemmler, Hale Dreamer
My advice on shipping would be to know exactly how much it's going to cost you, and exactly how you're going to handle shipping the stuff you're shipping. Basically, the product development isn't done until you have final packaging, weights, and shipping costs. The thing that makes it tricky on Kickstarter is planning for the expected (just over the goal) scenario and the "blew past your goal by 10x" scenario.
So to deal with that, I'd figure out costs/prices that work for both scenarios and then also find a 3PL (or just Amazon FBA multi-channel fulfillment) to handle the "big" scenario.
One thing I'd really caution creators about is offering non-mailable goods to international backers without enough planning. If it goes in an envelope it's probably fine. If not, you've got to deal with customs and a whole new world of tariffs and shipping charges, paperwork, etc. If you want backers overseas, make sure to charge them enough to cover the hassle and expense. I see too many projects with inadequate premiums for international shipping.
Shipping is extremely important, especially if you’re producing a photo book. Books are heavy and can be expensive to ship. But you also need to make sure the books arrive in perfect condition. People who buy photo books don’t want a book with even a slightly dinged corner. Many see photo books as art objects and only want to receive a mint condition book. Make sure you have a good system for packing your book. You can’t just slip a book in a padded envelope and drop it in the mail. After searching around a bit, I found a great place that makes custom shipping boxes that protected the books and made it easy to pack and ship. And don’t forget to calculate the cost of tape, labels, bubble wrap, and boxes. It adds up fast when you’re shipping hundreds of books.
Danny Fein, Litographs
Take advantage of Kickstarter's communication tools, but don't be afraid to introduce external tools where necessary. For our first campaign, we issued backers gift cards which allowed them to place orders directly through our website. Since our t-shirts are highly customizable, this was the best way to ensure that every backer received exactly what he or she wanted. For our second campaign, Backerkit was an indispensable tool. We once again offered thousands of different combinations of rewards, and the additional flexibility was key.
Viktor Hertz, Andy Warhol Pictogram Poster
Handling dozens, sometimes hundreds, of backers, with different pledge levels can be quite a challenge sometimes. So, make sure you have a good workflow when administrating all the shipping — I usually write the chosen product(s) on the back of the printed label, which makes things a bit easier when packaging, and I don't have to check the order on the computer each time.
Zach Dunham, The Public Radio
Estimate your shipping costs early on, before launching your campaign. This means knowing your package size and weight.
As soon as you know you're going to be shipping any real quantity (say more than 200) and you plan on managing fulfillment yourself, invest in a thermal printer dymo or other, and begin getting comfortable with either Stamps.com, Endicia, or another service which allows you to print your own postage.
Vlad Dragusin, Candylab Toys
I have about 34 sets of advice that I could offer, but I think the most important is this: research all possible shipping combinations and their costs to various regions, especially if you have fairly substantial weight to ship. Build that cost into rewards when running the campaign. The tendency is to be generous to your backers and offer free shipping and discounts, but paying 30% of your campaign proceeds on just postage is nothing to sneeze at.
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