I Have a Board Game Idea – Now What? Part 50: The Ins and Outs of Shipping and Fulfillment

Welcome back! I hope you had a productive week. Mine has been spent prepping for Protospiel-MN this weekend, so if you’re in the neighbourhood, stop by and say hi and give The Hackers Guild and The Great Lunch Swap a try.

Anyone who has run a successful Kickstarter will know that reward shipping can be one of, if not the most, expensive parts of running a Kickstarter project. Proper care when calculating shipping charges can be the difference between success and failure but is still where most creators go wrong. In this week’s post, we’re going to look at the ins and outs of getting it right the first time.

Self-fulfillment vs outsourced fulfillment

The first major decision when it comes to preparing for shipping and fulfillment is to decide if you are going to do the fulfillment yourself, or pay a fulfillment company to do it for you. Each situation is going to be different, but a good rule of thumb to consider is that for any more than 50-100 orders, you will probably want to outsource the fulfillment.

An article by Shipmonk identifies these additional factors you will want to consider include:

  • Storage: You’ve got your product, which is great, but now you need somewhere to put it. Are you going to put it in your garage? Your attic? A storage unit?
  • Transit: At some point, you’re going to have to get your product to the place where you store your inventory. Then, at another point, you’re going to have to take this product from where you store your inventory to where you’ll be packaging it for shipment. Then, finally, you’ll likely have to take your products to the place of shipment. This is a lot of back and forth!
  • Packaging: You’ll need to not only buy boxes, but you’ll want to buy packing paper (or bubble wrap if your products are fragile), tape, tape dispensers, and a litany of other products useful in packaging.
  • Labels: You have a few options here. You can buy a label printer, you can print out labels and then cut them, or you can take your packages to your place of shipment and have them do it for you. At the end of the day, though, you will have to consider how you’re going to get your packages labeled for shipment with the appropriate parameters.
  • Management: Every time you pick your product from its storage, pack the product, and ship it to a backer, you will want your inventory to be kept up to date. You’ll also want to make sure that your backer no longer appears in the list of backers in need of product. You’ll need to set up a system to manage this.
  • Customs: Did you get your products manufactured and sourced from overseas? You’re not alone. Many campaigns have found that overseas manufacturing is cost-effective. However, when you’re trying to get your products sent to you, you’ll have to deal with customs. You can go through all the steps of handling importing yourself, or you can hire a customs broker to handle all this for you.

Single or multiple fulfillment locations

So if you have decided to use a fulfillment center, you will now need to decide how many and which ones. The biggest argument for using multiple fulfillment centers is that shipping the final goods from within the destination area saves on customs and other fees for the backers. However, that isn’t necessarily the whole picture, and you can often still avoid custom fees even if you are shipping from one central fulfillment center. Some of the additional considerations when using multiple fulfillment centers include:

  1. Added labor for manufacture to separate finished products for delivery to multiple locations which could lead to additional charges
  2. Additional time at source port as multiple boats have to be arranged
  3. Additional insurance, sea freight, and customs handling charges
  4. Additional potential for delays as the games clear customs in more than one location

The current fulfillment plan for The Hackers Guild has the majority of world wide fulfillment being handled out of the uK, with the exception of Asia, Australia/New Zealand, and likely the United States.

Tracked vs untracked

When I first started researching shipping options and pricing, I automatically assumed that I would be shipping all of my rewards with tracking. I was then shown that shipping without tracking can be as much as 50% cheaper, and has been the method that pretty much all of my Kickstarter rewards have been sent to me. Using tracking still has its place, but in the long run is likely not necessary.

Ensure you have updated pricing

As I’ve continued to work with my fulfillment partners to keep my pricing current, there was one thing that I noticed: most, if not all, fulfillment centers change their pricing each January, which is something to keep in mind if you have a project that funds in one year but will be fulfilled in another.

That is everything for this week. If you are interested in researching this further, there are a number of excellent resources that help you understand fulfillment better. I’d also love to hear about your experiences with fulfillment, or if there is anything important that I may have missed. Until next time, happy designing.

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