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Shipping

Hewh, you made it this far! You've earned a rest! Here's a fascinating video on how the shipping container changed the world.

Manufacturers don’t deal with shipping. You need to take care of that. You can either mail the rewards yourself or pay a fulfillment company to do it for you. Fulfillment just means shipping purchased packages to their individual destinations. You need to decide which one you want to do.

Shipping the goods yourself might be better because it can be more cost-effective for smaller projects or if you are a control freak (like myself) and like to do everything yourself. Only do this if the amount of shippable goods is small (a couple hundred items), you have room in your apartment or you own / rent a warehouse and you don’t mind manual labor (and / or you have friends to help you out).

Or you can hire a fulfillment company. (Or actually, multiple ones, discussed in the first todo below.) You can have the items shipped from the factory directly to the fulfillment company’s warehouse and you will not see or handle a single package yourself. This option is more pricey, because the company has warehousing and pick & pack fees, but is also more automated.
Here is a list of US fulfillment companies
Here is a list of non-US fulfillment companies, courtesy of Jamey Stegmaier

Shipping can be broken down into two parts:


CRITICAL Work out freight shipping

Fortunately this has become very easy with services like Freightos, that lets you book space on cargo ships (or planes) as easily as buying a plane ticket.

If you are using a fulfillment company, it's probably cheaper to use multiple ones for the different regions of the world: Canada, the US, the EU, Asia and Australia/NZ. That means you'll have to book multiple freight shipments. The idea is that you split your freight at the point of origin. Don’t ship from China, import the whole thing into the US, pay a customs bill, and then ship part of it to Germany, and pay a customs bill again. Rather, you ship to the warehouses of different fulfillment companies from the factory.

CRITICAL Work out fulfillment

Working out a good shipping price is very important. Many backers will not pay $15 shipping for a $20 item. Contact at least 3-4 fulfillment companies and ask for quotes based on the project amount, size and weight of your goods. Do not leave this until after the campaign.

It is incredibly important that you calculate shipping costs based on the most expensive shipping could be for you. Assume that you’re going to achieve every stretch goal. Use the size and weight of that version to estimate the cost per unit.

Here’s an EXAMPLE of how different calculations might look like.
Let’s say you manufacture your items in a European country and you actually live there too. The prices below are are per item for 500 items, sized at a certain small size and weight.
The example only includes shipping to the EU, US & Canada, be sure to include other regions as well.


Manual fulfillment
You'll need to pick a commercial shipping company if you are not hiring a fulfillment company. This can be your national post office, GLS, DHL or whatever. Contact all of them and ask for prices for your size, weight and amount. If you have flexibility in determining the size of your product, configure it so it fits into a flat rate box. If you are in the US, you can check out the USPS’s flat rate boxes. You can also check out Uline and look at the cost of boxes, tape, bubble wrap, printing stickers, etc.

bound for the EU, US, Canada:
$0.04 (driving from the factory to your apartment)
+ $0.18 (bubble mailer)
+ $6.5 (postal service)
+ $0.06 (customs fee)
= $6.78 per item


Fulfillment Company
bound for the US:
$2 (freight shipping)
+ $0.6 (customs fee)
+ $3 (fulfillment fee & packing)
+ $0.18 (bubble mailer)
+ $5 (shipping cost)
= $10.78 per item

bound for the EU:
$0.06 (from the factory to the fulfillment company)
+ $2 (fulfillment fee & packing)
+ $0.18 (bubble mailer)
+ $5 (shipping cost)
= $8.12 per item

CRITICAL Work out customs

The customs fee is very important for a specific reason: if you are not careful, your backers might be charged for it on top of the funding they gave you during the campaign. It’s an awful experience for them to have to pay extra for something they thought they already paid for. Avoid this situation.

Fortunately, freight companies will charge you the import fees and by the time your goods get to the fulfillment centers you will have paid the customs fee.

Unfortunately, national postal services don’t seem to deal with mediating customs fees between you and the foreign country, so you will have to find a way to deal with this if you are doing manual fulfillment.

There is also such a thing as customs examination. Customs authorities may pull aside your shipments for random checks and they will make you pay the examination fee, even if everything was fine with your packages. This fee may be hundreds of dollars.

Distribute extra copies

This circles back to the point made in the Manufacture section, about making more copies as replacements for damaged ones. Make sure to send extra copies of each version of your product to all fulfillment centers, as you will likely need extras at some point for damaged / missing / review copies of the goods.

Freight insurance

You can to take out freight insurance for the freight shipping part of the shipping process.

Provide clear instructions

If you are using a fulfillment company, give crystal clear instructions to them and don't leave anything to chance. Here's a few items to tell them (courtesy of Jamey):

"I've collected every address, but it's possible I'll get a few more. I'll do my best to send you any new addresses, but please contact me for the new addresses 1-2 days before you start shipping."
Note: Technically this is on you, but it's nice if they can give you a heads up

"Please prioritize retailer orders first, then distant orders."
Note: This is because big orders take longer to ship.

"Ship all packages so they do not require a signature for delivery."

"Send customers their tracking number by email on the same day that their order leaves the facility (not when the label is made and no later than the day after the package departs). Also, it’s crucial that backers see their FULL address on tracking notifications, not a partial address that will cause them to freak out and wonder if we forgot half of their information."

"Please send me a spreadsheet of tracking numbers and couriers within 2-3 days of fulfillment completion."
Note: You can answer 90% of customer service questions if you have that data.

"If an order is sent in multiple packages, please make sure the customer knows that they’re receiving more than one package."
Note: That will prevent a lot of customer confusion and frustration.

"Please pack the products with plenty of cushioning around the edges, corners, and between differently sized components."

Barcodes

Barcodes uniquely identify a specific product. Fulfillment or shipping companies may require you to send barcodes for your products, or they might just need SKUs. You can register for valid barcodes at different agencies. There are multiple types of barcodes, be sure to talk to your shipping or fulfillment company first. Make sure you don’t use the same barcode on different products.

Country specific shipping rates

When calculating shipping rates on your crowdfunding project, use accurate fees for each country, not one-size-fits-all rates. New Zealand is not the same as Australia. It’s much more expensive to ship to New Zealand than Australia, even from Australia.

Simplify the packages

Try to limit add-ons to things that your manufacturer can include in the box and / or very limited rewards that you ship by hand. Otherwise, preparing shipping can turn into a nightmare. This also greatly reduces the chance for human error (sending certain rewards to the wrong backers), whether you or a company is doing the fulfillment. Most fulfillment centers charge a fee for each item in the box, so add-ons also increase the cost.

BOARD GAMES Age & CE

This todo is also present in the Product section. If you are shipping to the EU, make sure to mark your games as 14+ and include the CE symbol on them. Wiki quote: The manufacturer must carry out a conformity assessment, set up a technical file, and sign a Declaration stipulated by the leading legislation for the product. The documentation has to be made available to authorities on request.

Europe

If you’re shipping within Europe, it's recommended you put a company address on the back of the product box (not the shipping box). Guidelines indicate that it can be any address linked to your company (it does not need to be a European address).

South America

Include the tax ID numbers (CPF number in Brazil) of your South American backers on their packages. You can ask for this number during the backer survey you send out after the campaign ends. That seems to help out the South American customs offices. Follow up with South American backers a few weeks after the games ship to encourage them to go to the customs office if they haven’t received their game.

Australia

If you’re sending anything to Australia that contains wood, make sure your manufacturer obtains a fumigation certificate. Australia is very strict about fumigation and will not let your product through the border without a certificate.

Made in ...

Put “Made in ...” on the box (”...” being the country you manufacture the product in, like Made in China). Customs will have a problem if you don’t do this.

Test your packaging

If you are shipping the goods by hand, you can test the quality of your packaging by shaking the box furiously then opening it up and checking if something is broken. Shipping companies can be very rough in handling packages, so this is not overkill.

Undelivered goods

Tell backers to let you know if they have not received your package on time (plus maybe a month). Sometimes people will wait months before reaching out and by that point you may have sold your surplus stock.

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