Secret Base Blog

Good, cheap, fast global Kickstarter fulfillment - Part 2: How.

So we established in Good, cheap, fast global Kickstarter fulfillment - Part 1: Why, that:

  1. Nearly 50% of the kickstarter market for tabletop games is outside the US.
  2. Many of these potential backers are scared away by high shipping and VAT charges
  3. If you lower your international shipping charges, you can get more backers 
  4. Many creators are unsure how to achieve 3 without risks.

Now for the fun part where we look at a great solution.

Global fulfillment direct from China

It is possible to ship your product to ALL of your backers directly from China by airmail using one of a number of Chinese fulfillment companies. This is particularly cost effective for small to medium box, light weight games, which I will demonstrate after I sketch the process.

And if you can keep the value of your game under EU22 / US$23/$24 then you will also generally fly under the VAT radar set up around fortress Europe too, maximising the number of backers to build momentum and amplify your success.

Here’s the process:

  1. Manufacture your product in China,
  2. Fulfill all or just non-US backer orders by airmail via a Chinese (Shenzhen / Hong Kong) based fulfillment company (see below).
  3. Backers receive their items in about 2 weeks.
  4. Send regular distribution shipments from China to the USA, Europe, AU or wherever for regional retail markets for ongoing sales. Try to bundle these with other games going to the same distributor to minimise shipping charges.

Chinese Fullfillment

One Zero One & Send From China  

Here are 2 real scenarios. There are other options but in this post I’ll focus on one I just got some stunning feedback about.

I recently met David Harding of Grail Games at a Sydney Unpub event after backing his awesome little game One Zero One on Kickstarter. While chatting about fulfillment logistics I told him about a new method of fulfillment to backers I had researched as part of my quest to do ‘Free Global Shipping’ for my upcoming game MONSTROUS. David needed a global fulfillment solution too, and like a serene crash test dummy, he settled on trying the frontrunner; sendfromchina.com (SFC). 

I'm exited and relieved to report that he has now completed fulfillment for One Zero One, and has been utterly delighted with their service.

David was kind enough to answer a bunch of my questions about his One Zero One experience with SFC that really shows how well it all went if you are in any doubt.

Here is the One Zero One SFC experience TL:DR;

  • One Zero One is a small box game weighing 219 grams / 7.7 Oz.
  • SFC have fantastic fluent bilingual customer service and easy to use English software.
  • On average it cost around US$3.50 per send to backers all over the world (including the US) from Shenzhen, China.
  • Orders were processed within 3 days and arrived between a few days to a month away with a 2 week average.
  • Out of 920 games sent to backers there were just 2 reported damaged boxes and 1 undeliverable game.

That is extraordinary.

Here is how my copy looked after tearing open the padded envelope. Not a mark on it!

zero1 750

zero2 750

David more than doubled his goal. He got more backers than expected. He said SFC were wonderful. He hasn't lost a cent using it. His backers all got their games fast and are happy. And he wants to use it for every other project. 

WIN!

I recommended SFC to David because everything seemed too good to be true. I now have every reason to trust that they will help me get MONSTROUS onto more game tables as simply and affordably as possible. 

More Markets = More Backers

So how about all my bold claims that flattened global postage costs removes barriers to non-US markets, leading to;

  1. better access to non-US markets,
  2. more backers.  

David’s approximate regional backer breakdown supports my theory of better access to non-US markets;

  • USA 50%
  • EUR 30%
  • AUS 10%
  • Other 10% 

This is much as I predicted it should be. The high Australian % were obviously up due to it being an Australian game.

Plus he had 920 backers, which is in the top 3 backed Australian tabletop games, on his first Kickstarter project.

If the standard international shipping barriers were in place, I’d guess he would have lost 200 – 350 backers, roughly a 20 - 33% drop.

Flying MONSTROUS

My upcoming game MONSTROUS will be a heavier 550g game in a larger box 235 x 160 x 45mm (Munchkin size).

box-top-psuedo-3d-sq-crop

Using this method I can successfully hurl my monsters from China to anywhere on the planet for around US$9 -10 per game.

I can hide that cost within a $28 base pledge and label it 'Free Global Shipping'.

or separate it out from a low $19 or $20 pledge level, with $9 - 10 postage to everywhere after the 'back this project' button is pressed.

Either way this airmail to US backers is competitive with ship by sea, road / rail freight, picking and packing for a send via Amazon to US backers, and it beats all other fulfillment methods I know of on price, speed and simplicity.  

And at approximately $20 value I'm well under fortress Europe's VAT radar too.  

I’m really hoping either option will increase early backing and help build momentum to get me past the magic 1000 backers.

As always, there are pros and cons.

Pros:

  • Simplicity – 1 fulfillment management point for planet Earth with a useable English interface and fluent bilingual support staff. Just signup and upload backer data.
  • Cost – it’s on par with other options, even for domestic US shipping, and way cheaper than most.
  • Speed – because you skip sea freight and ports, games are delivered between 1 – 4 weeks after they are received at the fulfillment warehouse, compared to 2+ months via regular fulfillment.
  • Low risks – ummm 3 issues out of 920 is a fantastic success rate.
  • Ongoing supply – You can warehouse your product there and continue to fulfill online orders or replace damaged or lost items. Storage is competitive.

Cons:

  • Packaging – bubble wrap envelopes are standard - you need to specifically request to send your items in boxes, and that costs more.
  • Weight – because SFC use discounted Airmail the price differential with US domestic shipping increases with weight. Watch those stretch goals!
  • Pick and pack – it's still cheap but there is uncertainty over how well SFC can handle large volumes of complex pick and pack requirements.

Non of the cons really affect me here. Its a no brainer. 

The biggest concern is that you need to ensure you specific the right type of packaging to send your items in. I've made some recommendations on how to package your items with SFC too.

Who else is Sending From China? 

I'll be doing global fulfillment via SFC for MONSTROUS after it wraps in June. I've been talking up SFC to a bunch of other Australian designers, and now in various designer forums too. The list of game projects using this method is growing: 

  • Cogz (Funded shipped)
  • Fallen (Funded - used SFC for some of their international fulfillment)
  • Entropy (Funded, shipped)
  • El Luchador Fantastico Grande (Funded shipped)
  • New Salem (Funded shipped - some damage to large boxes sent in envelopes)
  • Booze barons (Funded, shipped - no damage to small boxes sent in envelopes)
  • Loot and Recruit (Launched March 10)
  • Norsaga (Launched March 30)
  • Knot Dice (Live on Kickstarter now)

 

Recommendations

If you have a light game around or under 500g / 1.25lbs I would seriously investigate doing full global fulfillment with Send From China.

If you have a medium box game I assume domestic US fulfillment might be cheaper via USPS or Amazon. It's worth comparing though. But you can still offer significantly reduced non-US shipping via SFC to get more non-US backers.

If you have a large box, heavy game, then Send From China may not be the best global solution for you, but they may help you more affordably fulfill into some regions.

I will try to do a more detailed comparison between methods in a future post. I suspect there is a fuzzy zone around the lkg / 2.5lb weight range where you could go either way between the Send From China method and the Stonemaier method. But as a project gets heavier the Stonemaier method really comes into its own.

 

I hope this helps to lower shipping fees for non-US backers around the world, and simplify the process of global fulfillment for Kickstarter creators too.

I’m really looking forward to using it with MONSTROUS. 

If you have any questions or comments please ask below. Have you had any fantastic experiences with Send From China or other fulfillment services?

 

NEXT I show how well it works by talking with David Harding from Grail Games who used Send From China to fulfill nearly 1000 copies of One Zero One to the whole world, in good, cheap, fast global Kickstarter fulfillment Part 3 - Proof, the Grail Games Interview.

Full disclosure:

  • I just found Send From China on the interwebs and talked extensively with them in my quest for global fulfillment solutions. I get nothing from them except positive vibes and beautifully written emails.
  • I’ve never met a more willing crash test dummy than David Harding of Grail Games. Thanks David!

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box-top-psuedo-3d-350px

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Rampaging through stores in early 2016.

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