Kickstarter fulfillment & order shipping
Congratulations on your Kickstarter success!
You have read the basics of shipping on “Kickstarter School”. Now, the Shipwire team is ready to help you put it all into action. Shipwire has shipped many Kickstarter rewards and helped the project owners turn their Kickstarter success into an ongoing business.
We welcome the opportunity to help you. If you need help, please contact us.
Below are some best practices to increase your Shipping IQ and successfully deliver on your reward promises while positioning your product to become a global hit.
Table of contents
Downloadable PDF resources
|Kickstarter Shipping Guide||Kickstarter white paper||Kickstarter case study|
Why read this
Shipwire is one of the platforms that has helped some of the most successful Kickstarter projects deliver. Our team has talked to hundreds of Kickstarter project owners and helped them deliver many thousands of orders. This is a compilation of our notes, tips and best practices.
We are asked many questions time and time again, so this guide is in a question and answer format, and is separated by category.
If you’re in the early stages of using Kickstarter to fund a project, we’ve put together a white paper to help you think through some of the preliminary questions.
What you need to know
When should a Kickstarter project start thinking about fulfillment?
It doesn’t hurt to identify a shipping partner early, but don’t overthink it too soon. Make sure the project is successful and your product packaging is optimized first. Once your project is successfully funded, getting set up with Shipwire and ready to receive your finished project can be done quickly.
What fulfillment features do I need to successfully ship my project?
Shipwire was custom-built to meet the needs of products like those on Kickstarter. The most important features you need are:
- Global warehouse network, strategically located near the largest markets
- On-demand pricing, which scales with you as you grow
- On-demand processing, so that you are able to ship without hassles when you’re just starting out and when you’re experience explosive growth
- Automated and smart fulfillment, which will do the hard work for you, including choosing the best location to send inventory out of, picking the right packaging, and optimizing shipping to save you money
When should you start thinking about packaging?
Early. As early as possible. Intelligent packaging can make or break the profitability of a product. Our white paper has an entire section on designing packaging for maximum shippability
How do I check shipping rates?
With Shipwire, it takes about 5 minutes to get incredibly accurate rate quotes globally. The easiest way is to get a Shipwire free trial and create a product with your desired weight and dimensions. Once you have entered the information you can get some trial shipping quotes from any global fulfillment facility to any address in the world.
Any tips for international shipping?
Kickstarter is a global platform. You likely will have some international shipments in your rewards tiers.
Shipwire warehouses can ship domestic and international orders from any facility. When you set up your account, product, and shipping options in Shipwire, you will go through a process that will optimize your international shipping. Shipwire helps you with every step involved, and our global network of fulfillment warehouses means you have the option of having your products already located near your international customers and can avoid having to deal with those matters.
One important piece of data you can determine early in the process will be your product’s Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) Code. Harmonized Tariff System codes are also required by customs and border patrol to understand what is in the shipment and what the tax rate should be.
What do I need to know about brokerage fees?
Remember that some carriers (like UPS) will charge brokerage fees on cross-border shipments and these fees are part of CDT (Customs Duties and Taxes) that are not included in shipping rate quotes. We recommend national carriers for most common cross border shipping scenarios.
What about taxes & duties?
The important thing to remember is that international shipments mean having to deal with customs and duties. In a Shipwire order, Customs, Duties, and Taxes (CDT) are not included, so make sure to tell your buyers they will have to pay taxes if they are in a country that charges VAT (Value Added Tax).
Shipwire makes it easy to ensure that each order is only being charged for the VAT that corresponds to that specific order’s retail value. This will be important if you have backers who have paid different rates for their pre-orders.
How do I describe my product to a fulfillment company?
With all new Kickstarter projects we typically recommend understanding:
Product catalog definitions
Master cartons, case packs and eaches
“Pick & Pack” compared to “Lick & Stick”
Knowing just these few things will increase your Shipping IQ and make setting up your fulfillment services much simpler. Knowing a little about bulk shipping and master cartons can save you a fortune on shipping.
Any tips on product catalog setup?
Candidly, this is very similar to the points above. It’s so important we want to say it a different way. We want to help you understand how to define your products before the products arrive.
First, make sure you understand the difference between Pick & Pack and Lick & Stick. Shipwire Lick & Stick products are sent as pre-sealed boxes, and as orders enter our system, we simply print, peel off, and attach (“lick ‘n stick”) a shipping label on these products, and ship them out on your behalf. Pick & Pack products are not in shipping-ready packaging. They may still be in retail packaging, but as orders for these products enter our system, we will pick and pack these into shipping-ready boxes, add fill material, and ship them out.
Second, make sure the product name you enter into Shipwire matches the exact name that is labeled on your product packaging. If you already created products in Shipwire and they are named differently from those you use in your e-commerce platform, don’t worry; we have a solution for this.
Lastly, ensure all product details are accurate including description, dimensions, weight, cost and retail values, and HTS code.
Why should I learn about wholesale shipping?
Planning to ship wholesale can save you a small fortune if you plan early.
We have noticed a lot of successful Kickstarter projects will be approached by big box retailers, wholesalers, and flash sales sites. These buyers often want wholesale inventory shipments, so it makes sense to plan for success.
Even if you don’t ship to retailers, you can cut your fulfillment costs and expand internationally much faster if you leverage the information on this page. Since we know this is a path you eventually may go down, we want to ensure your inventory is set up properly for shipping at all types of levels.
Fulfillment companies charge you when they move a unit. The unit can either be an individual product or a box of 50 of them, and you can save a lot of money by making it so you are only charge for a single unit when you ship many of them. Read about shipping in bulk.
Here are some other examples of when wholesale/bulk shipping comes in handy, even when you are not selling wholesale:
- Eliminating deposits
- Moving inventory between warehouses
- Shipping product to yourself at a tradeshow
- Returning a batch of products with a manufacturing defect
- Liquidating inventory
Can I change inventory from wholesale to retail automatically?
Yes, automatic lot breaks accomplish this. You should keep all your inventory as wholesale and let Shipwire decide when to “break bulk” to ship an individual item to a customer.
We use the term “Bulk Shipping Optimization” for circumstances when Shipwire receives an order that can be more efficiently shipped as a case. Assuming available inventory, Shipwire will use these to minimize the number of items being shipped. Shipwire will charge you only for the number of items processed in the optimized order.
Ask your Shipwire representative about this feature, currently available at our fulfillment warehouses in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, UK, and Hong Kong.
Getting product to the warehouses
Which warehouse is best?
In our experience the bulk of Kickstarter orders are domestic USA. For many Kickstarters, the optimal warehouse location will be Pennsylvania, serving the New York tristate area. The choice of how many domestic warehouses to use will usually be dictated by your product’s weight, and your order volume. All Shipwire warehouses can also ship international orders as well.
I’m ready to schedule inventory. What is an ASN?
An ASN is an Advanced Shipping Notice.
ASNs tell Shipwire what you are sending us, in what quantities, and when it will arrive.
You will want to create your ASN as soon as possible, after you have finalized dimensions and weights, so you can make sure your supplier / manufacturer places it on the shipment. You can create your ASNs as far in advance as you would like. The ASN will automatically be canceled 7 days after the expected arrival date, so just make sure you keep this date updated if required.
Note: This isn’t to torture you. Your ASN arrival dates are used to forecast loading dock volume and team staffing, and helps us assure that inventory flows smoothly.
Put your ASN number on containers, pallets and master cartons being shipped in. If it is landing on our loading docks, you want an ASN number clearly visible so your product does not get misplaced or not received in a timely manner.
Example: If you give UPS 15 boxes of inventory that are all going to the same Shipwire warehouse, put your ASN number on every box in a visible place, and make sure it will not fall off. Also tell Shipwire what is in the boxes. This will ensure your inventory is received properly.
What should I know before I send in inventory?
After you have a Shipwire account and have set up your products, review the links below for you and your suppliers. The vast majority of inventory and shipping issues have to do with shipments that are considered Unqualified (shipments that do not follow standard guidelines).
What are common packaging and labeling mistakes I should avoid?
- Always avoid mixing products in cartons. Pack same products in the same cartons.
- When sending in inventory, always send it at the master carton level.
- If you send multiple boxes through the mail to the warehouse, put your ASN number on every loose carton or box coming into the warehouse.
- The outside of all cartons should be labeled with the quantity (QTY) of the product inside of it (Example: Qty 50 x SKU RedMShirt).
- If shipment is coming in on a pallet, make sure label is on all 4 sides of the pallet and the ASN number (ASN) is in the Reference Line (Ref Line) of the Bill of Lading (BOL).
- If your shipment is > 8 pallets, you must schedule an appointment at least 2 business days in advance of delivery by calling Shipwire at (650) 561-4800.
- If your carrier needs specific warehouse contact information, please let your account representative know, and they can help you with this. This applies to all Shipwire facilities.
How long does it take to receive inventory?
With a proper ASN number and Qualified inventory, it will be received in 2-5 days. Unqualified shipments will cause delays and can take up to 10 business days to process. Highly Unqualified shipments can take longer or even be rejected.
Why am I being asked for a deposit?
Shipwire does not charge for inbound receivings. When a new customer sends in lots of individual items (250-500 units or more) we ask for a deposit to fund your account up to half the outshipping costs. There are a few reasons for this:
- We want to ensure that you are sending inventory in bulk to save money. A master carton and an individual product are both units. You can send Shipwire inventory in master cartons to avoid deposits.
- A deposit ensures that you have enough money in your account to cover your Shipwire handling costs. We use deposits to eliminate surprises and ensure we are setting expectations with you properly.
- Deposits are not fees. They pre-fund your account, and you get to use the funds against your shipping.
Talk to your Shipwire representative to go over your specific business requirements.
Shipping Kickstarter Orders
How do I get my orders into Shipwire?
You can upload your entire list of orders via spreadsheet upload to your Shipwire account, which is accessible online using any standard browser.
We ship orders on a First In, First Out basis, so if you have higher priority shipments, upload those first.
How do I quickly ship my rewards as backorders?
Your Kickstarter rewards are considered backorders (orders taken that do not have inventory at the time order was taken). Now that you have inventory you need to get us the orders and the inventory and we will do the rest.
Some things to consider:
- If you are shipping orders in waves (hundreds/thousands at a time), you can upload your orders in the order you want them shipped.
- When inventory arrives and there are orders waiting to ship, Shipwire will automatically assign orders to inventory and ship.
- If you have large waves of backorders (over 20% of your normal daily volume) and you want Same Day Shipping guarantees to apply, please talk to your Shipwire representative. With a little notice we can get a lot accomplished for you.
- After your orders are uploaded, review your account to make sure that any held orders are cleared. Shipwire may hold orders that have specific problems with them (e.g. unshippable address, backordered inventory). Your can easilyfind and correct any held order in your Shipwire account.
- Review all your orders for accuracy ahead of time. Once they drop to the warehouses, they are going out the door very quickly and you cannot edit the order once the warehouse is shipping it.
If this is your first time shipping with Shipwire and you are shipping hundreds/thousands of Kickstarter orders, coordinate with your representative. They will pave the way for a great operational experience. The more notice you can give us the better.
For an example, see how we shipped 7000 orders for the Glif in 24 hours.
Why should I not submit orders to the warehouse in real-time?
Shipwire offers many options to control when orders are submitted to the warehouse. Once orders are “in warehouse”, they are being processed and are not longer editable.
We recommend that new merchants start with 1 or 2 warehouse order submissions per day and no drops over the weekend. The reason is that you want a little time to review your orders as you get started. Also, weekend orders are often changed or edited by the buyer, so sending them on Monday is a good idea.
What parcel carrier should I use to ship?
As a default Shipwire will select the lowest-cost, most efficient parcel carrier based on your shipping preferences. You tell us if you want everything insured, signed for or not, and we will take care of the rest.
You can also set up Shipwire to use set carriers.
We do have some additional options that are not generally available in your account like USPS first class international (cheap, uninsured, up to 4lbs.). Talk to your representative if you have any specific needs.
Resources and links
Here are various helpful links discussed on this page and the Kickstarter Shipping PDF Guide.
- Advanced Shipping Notice (ASNs)
- Automatic lot breaks
- Dimensional weight
- Harmonized Tariff System (HTS) codes
- Label specification
- Lick & Stick
- Master cartons, case packs and eaches
- Packaging requirements
- Pick & Pack
- Product catalog definitions
- Sending products to Shipwire
- Shipping in bulk