The Board Game Design Course

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Game Design

Getting freight shipping and fulfilment right

Last week we talked about product safety testing and certification. Today we’re going to move on to the next step in the process, organizing freight shipping and fulfilment.

While this may not be the sexiest topic, it’s one that you really have to get right, as shipping and fulfilment generally are much more costly than the actual manufacturing of your game (even more so now during the current global shipping crisis).

You should have received plenty of quotes for getting your games delivered to your backers before you even hit launch on your Kickstarter project. It is critical to know all your costs and be able to accurately represent these on your campaign page. No backer likes to get a nasty surprise when they find out after the fact that the shipping cost is going to be twice as high as they expected.

There are also multiple stages in the shipping process, so I will provide a breakdown of these stages, then we’ll dive into freight shipping and fulfilment.

Stages in the shipping process

Getting your games from your manufacturer to your backers can get tricky. Unless you are having them sent to a company nearby to your manufacturer and letting them directly ship them by air to each individual customer, which can be quite costly, you’re going to have to figure out how to get them from point A to point B. This involves a lot of point A1s, A2s, etc. along the way.

The other option would be to have all the games sent to you and then you can mail them out to individual backers. However, I would not recommend this strategy, unless you have very few backers (200 or less), your game is small and simple to ship, you are only delivering to your local region, and you have some free time on your hands. Even then, you’ll probably find that other companies can get you better rates and you’ll be spending a lot of time and trips to the post office.

So, let’s focus on the more common approach of using freight shipping and fulfilment companies.

Let’s say you get your games manufactured in China, which is very common. You need to get pallets of your game from the manufacturer to the Chinese port, from the Chinese port to the North American port, from the North American port to a warehouse, and from this warehouse to your individual customers.

That’s a lot of steps along the way!

And that’s just one region. If you are working with different fulfilment partners in other regions, there’s a lot more you’ll need to organize.

Freight shipping

Your freight shipper will be able to arrange everything with your manufacturer to get the games from their location. They’ll also coordinate with your fulfilment company to get the games to their warehouse. Then, your fulfilment company will take it from there.

There are many companies you can choose from for freight shipping. A couple of the better-known ones are OTX Logistics  and ARC Global Logistics.

While they will be glad to give you a quote now, be advised that these rates are changing weekly and they are fluctuating greatly right now.

Some publishers have seen rates go up 5 to 6 times what they were quoted before the pandemic! That is a substantial change.

Your manufacturer or fulfilment company may also be able to help you arrange freight shipping and act as a point of contact so that you have one less thing on your plate.

Fulfilment to customers

You’ll want to have a fulfilment company (or multiple – one for each region) all lined up in advance. Make sure you know their rates by region and add a little cushion of 5-10% onto this in case the rates go up between your original quote and the actual shipping date. Shipping rates often increase every 6-12 months, so it is best to plan ahead for this.

There are several different fulfilment companies you can partner with. Here is just a small sample of the ones available (the ones in bold are companies I have worked with in the past):

After recently speaking with Send From China and receiving quotes from them, I discovered that their rates actually include both freight AND fulfilment, making them very competitive, at least for North America.

Your fulfilment company will receive your games and then pack and ship them according to the backer list you have provided (usually a couple of weeks before the shipment arrives so that they can print labels in advance). They may even support sending replacement games and parts, so speak with them in advance to determine if they provide this service. Either way, it’s good to send some extra copies (as much as 3-5%) to cover any damage or loss. Plus, you’ll have some extra copies for reviewers, late pledgers, and retail stores that backed your campaign and want more copies.

The fulfilment company may handle customer support directly or you may need to act as a 3rd party between them and your backers, so ask them how they would like to handle any issues with orders.

Customs fees and VAT charges are a very different kettle of fish. You either need to register for VAT, which you can do through the One Stop Shop, or partner with your fulfilment company to handle this. For sake of ease, I let Spiral Galaxy handle VAT and customs fees in the UK and the EU. They get the bill for these fees and simply ask me for payment and a small fee for handling this service. I still had to register for VAT in the UK, which I did pre-Brexit, but this arrangement should serve me well in the future.

Spiral Galaxy has been fantastic to work with and I highly recommend them.

Now, I’m not an expert on VAT or customs fees. I’m just sharing my process, which may differ from the best approach for your situation. Just make sure you do the research and have everything set up in advance so that your backers don’t get surprised with additional fees when they receive your game.

Wrapping it up

There are a lot of steps that take place between getting your games manufactured and into the hands of your backers. So, be sure to partner with reliable companies and know exactly what costs, timelines, and service to expect.

Get yourself set up for VAT and customs and make sure you collect VAT from backers and have a system in place so that it is all covered and your backers don’t need to deal with this.

Next week, we’ll talk about keeping your backers excited by communicating with them and ensuring they are kept in the loop.

What questions do you have about shipping and fulfilment?

Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment below.

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    Thank you for the early Christmas Gift, this blog article is super interesting and helps answer make of the questions I’ve been starting to let myself ponder having gone through Printing with the Gamecrafter I am thinking to myself I can definitely print this for like $4/per in China surely? Very informative. Thank you for the share!