A Complete Guide To Kickstarter Shipping Costs

For the vast majority of campaigners, Kickstarter shipping costs are an incredible headache. This is usually because shipping is something people don’t typically deal with on a day-to-day basis; it’s new, novel and unknown.

Today, I’m going to break down everything you need to know about Kickstarter shipping costs before you embark on your crowdfunding journey.

Start To Research Your Kickstarter Shipping Costs Now

This point is so crucial to your success. 

Some campaigners make the mistake of looking at shipping costs when they’re just about ready to launch. Some even think, “well, it probably won’t cost that much to ship, I’ll just charge $X and it’ll all be OK”. Both lines of thinking can get you into a lot of trouble down the line. 

After you have a prototype relatively completed, I’d highly recommend you dig into your shipping costs. One of the scariest things that can happen to a campaigner is to be in the dark with shipping costs; this can completely derail a campaign. Without planning for shipping, campaigners can even come out of a project completely in the red. Some even have to dip into emergency funds or savings, just to get the project delivered.

Before you press that launch button, you should know exactly how much it’s going to cost you to ship your product and exactly how you will be handling the shipments, including last-mile delivery to backers. 

Basically, the product development isn’t done until you have final packaging, weights, and shipping costs. 

Factors That Affect Your Kickstarter Shipping Costs

There are five core factors that impact the final cost of shipping your product. 

1. Size and Weight of Package

These affect the cost of shipping your product because carriers use dimensional weight. Try to keep your packaging as light as possible to keep your costs low.

2. Cost of Packaging

Your product needs to live in some sort of packaging to be sent out. The cost of packaging and shipping material you might use can affect the dimensions of the final parcel to be shipped. This alone can be a huge determining factor in what the final cost of your shipment is. 

3. Shipping Logistics

This includes factors like time and manpower. For example, if you’re doing everything from the garage of your home, it can take hours upon hours to retrieve, package and ship out thousands of units of products. In other cases, you might choose to employ people to do it for you or work with third-party logistics companies (3PLs) to handle it all for you.

4. Customs, Duties, and Taxes

This can be a killer for some campaigns, especially since a lot of it is unknown or frequently changing. Even if you expect most of your backers to be domestic, I’d highly recommend researching potential customs, duties, and taxes ahead of time to be fully prepared for any international shipping costs. 

This includes deciding whether you will prepay any of these fees or set them up as pass-through costs to your backers – what you decide will have an impact on everything else in the campaign. From the backer side, they’d also appreciate transparency. No backer wants to head to the post office to pick up their reward, only to find out that they have to pay 2x the price of the product in customs charges just to retrieve the product. 

5. Backer Location

In general, the farther away your backer lives from where you fulfill rewards, the more expensive shipping will be. This is especially true when you have international backers. Yes, it can be hard to predict your shipping costs if you don’t know your shipping destinations, but it’s helpful to plan for everything from domestic-only to all international locations. 

Stretch Goals: Great For Marketing, Detrimental For Shipping 

If you’re ever a backer yourself, you’ll know exactly how incredible stretch goals are in keeping your interest tied to the campaign. However, from the campaigner side, it can be a completely different story. 

Think about it, if you’re running a board game project and a new stretch goal adds 10 additional heavy coin tokens, that will not only change the shape of the box of the game (make it larger), but also change the weight of the shipment (make it heavier). Imagine what that will do to the shipping costs that you have already meticulously calculated? 

So yes, stretch goals are a great way to keep backers engaged, but know your costs even before you launch them. That way, you’ll be able to determine if these stretch goals are even financially feasible with your project. 

Common Questions About Kickstarter Shipping Costs

USA-only or international?

It really is up to your discretion. 

As mentioned earlier, international shipping can be an absolute headache. However, Kickstarter has become a well-known platform around the world. With great fanfare comes devoted backers from around the world. 

About 85% of total Kickstarter pledges come from 10 countries around the world:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. Germany
  6. France
  7. Sweden
  8. Japan
  9. Netherlands
  10. Singapore

So yes, it is much more of a headache to hone down reward shipping and fulfillment when you’re looking at a worldwide campaign, but you’ll also be opening yourself up to huge possibilities.

Consider whether the additional effort to lock down shipping and fulfillment is worth brand and product awareness around the world. This means you need to start thinking beyond your existing project launch: do you want to be a global player or are you content with a smaller domestic footprint?

Should I charge for shipping or provide free shipping to backers? 

Typically I would recommend building the estimated average shipping cost into each reward tier. For example, if you have an estimated average shipping cost of $5, then your $25 Early Bird tier should be priced at $30. This pre-bakes in your shipping cost so backers don’t even have to worry about it in the long run. 

However, in many cases, this is not possible. Some campaigns see shipping costs to the USA at $5, but $25 to Canada. An average shipping cost there might skew the perception of the price for various backers. In this case, I’d recommend to pre-bake the minimum average shipping cost into the price, and separately charge additional shipping to other countries. This way, your core country (in most cases the USA) will see free shipping, with a slight additional shipping fee to other countries.

Whatever You Do, Communicate Openly With Backers

Even if you get everything right up until now, there’s still a lot to think about for shipping when you actually launch.

During your crowdfunding campaign, make sure you communicate whether your reward pricing includes shipping and whether international backers will need to pay additional fees. Also, let backers know what to expect if they do have to pay additional fees. Showing competence in this area will build a tremendous amount of goodwill between you and your backers.

This aspect of communication is incredibly key so that backers aren’t caught by surprise later on. Remember, these people are giving you money for something that they hope to exist in the market – they’re literally buying something that isn’t even real yet – so foster that relationship and build trust through communication.

How To Get Started Planning Your Kickstarter Shipping Costs

When it comes to shipping, never assume anything. Research all possible shipping combinations and their costs to various regions. The thing that makes it tricky on Kickstarter is planning for the expected (just over the goal) scenario and also the “blew past your goal by 10x” scenario. Yes, it’s tricky, but include it into your pre-launch process as a mandatory exercise to collect all those numbers.

Here are three steps to get you started with your Kickstarter shipping costs.

1. Look At Previous Campaigns

Take a look at what projects in your same niche have done in the past. Sometimes additional information about shipping won’t be listed on the campaign page and that’s OK! If that’s the case, reach out to the creator. Kickstarter gives you a mighty easy way to reach out (via the Message feature on the platform). The creator will be more than happy to chat with you about how they approached managing the behemoth that is shipping and give you pointers and tips along the way.

2. Reach Out To Fulfillment Experts

Head to the Toolkit page to browse fulfillment experts who have years of experience working with campaigners to ship out their rewards. Take the next step to send in a request for quotes and hop on a call to speak with their experts to understand different ways you can manage your shipping and fulfillment. Be sure to evaluate how suitable they are for your particular needs.

3. Use Resources To Plan

Once you have some information, it’s time to start putting down numbers into a spreadsheet. Check out the resources section to see the different worksheets and guides I’ve compiled to help you plan your launch.

Remember to expect surprises. Shipping rates can fluctuate based on season, it can fluctuate based on add-ons, it can fluctuate based on order quantity, and more so you’ll want to make sure to build different scenarios into your plan and budget. 

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