Choosing fulfillment partners
I have previously talked about my approach to fulfillment but I wanted to share some additional thoughts on picking out fulfillment partners. There are plenty of different companies around the world who will ship your games from A to B, offering different services and prices, but picking the best one for you can be tricky.
Many people choose based on price alone but I’d recommend considering the following factors.
You’ve likely spent a year or more working on designing your game, you’ve then run a crowdfunding campaign and spent months going back and forth with factories making that game a reality. Your backers are excited, the arrival date is approaching, and this is a key moment.
If you can create a great fulfillment experience for your customers, one that is on time, full of information, and you don’t take too long to answer questions when things go wrong, then your game is going to get every chance to shine. If your fulfillment experience is bad, customers are left waiting, things get delayed, games turn up broken, and the communication is poor, then that negative experience may directly influence how people will react to your game.
To get fulfillment right you need to have a good relationship with your fulfillment partner, knowing that they will respond to questions quickly, and do what it takes to help you when things go wrong. If you’re finding a company isn’t responding to your emails or providing the information you need, then they may not be a good partner to work with. Afterall, you are about to trust them with your reputation and them going silent means you’re going silent.
Last week I received 2 packages in the post, one was well packed with double walled cardboard, contained various protective materials, and had space to absorb bumps. The other arrived in a very thin, barely sealed single walled cardboard box with no protective materials.
While any package no matter how well it has been protected can be damaged, using cheap materials and skipping on protection can lead to greater costs. The more damaged games that arrive with customers, the more replacements you are going to have to send, the more copies of your game you will lose, and the more frustrated your customers will be.
Whenever you start talking with a fulfillment company ask them how they package the games, what protective materials are used and what options they may have. When I shipped The Isle of Cats: Don’t forget the Kittens! Kickstarter I opted for triple walled cardboard (at extra cost) for some regions to help protect the expensive contents.
Does the fulfillment centre offer extra services, will they ship games after the primary fulfillment to allow you to run an online store. Will they ship to conventions and what might their storage costs be like. Do they allow backers to update their address before shipping out an order or have online tools you can access to directly manage shipments.
Over the years my shipments outside of Kickstarters have grown considerably and knowing my fulfillment partner can also deal with that influx of orders, without creating additional work for me has been very important.
If everything else comes back equal then price is a factor that you should consider, but when it comes to fulfillment cheaper prices often mean the service is lacking, or the package won’t be well protected. That’s not always the case, but go into the process with your eyes open so you don’t end up regretting your decision to save a few thousand dollars at your communities expense.
Frank West is a gamer and designer based in Bristol, UK. He published his first board game, The City of Kings, in 2018 and now works on other games and organising events in the local area. His goal? To design and publish games focusing on immersive themes, fun mechanics and beautiful components. If you have any questions or would just like a chat, feel free to get in touch at any time!