Order Fulfillment Guide – Part 1, Introduction and Freight

Welcome! This article is the first part in a series of comprehensive posts we’ll be making about the order fulfillment process. This information will primarily be focused on fulfilling Kickstarter board game campaigns, but much of it can be applied to other e-commerce order fulfillment situations as well.

Fulfillment: Not Just an Afterthought

Planning and running a Kickstarter campaign can be both intimidating and exciting. It’s easy to get carried away with the “front end” of the campaign (playtesting, artwork, advertising, manufacturing) and neglect the boring “back end” stuff like freight and fulfillment. However, it’s in your best interest to consider these duller parts of the process early on; looking at the big picture in advance will give you an idea of the costs and transportation timelines that lie ahead. The good news is, you’re reading this guide, which we’ve put together based on some of the frequently-asked questions we’ve seen online (from BGG, Reddit, and our own clients).

Assuming you have a game that is being mass produced somewhere (usually in China), there are two main phases involved in getting your product to your customers:

  1. Freight transportation
  2. Order fulfillment

Freight Transportation

This topic alone could have a whole article dedicated to it. Essentially, the freight phase of the process involves transporting your product (in palletized cartons or “loose” cartons) from the manufacturer to the destination countries that will be handling final order fulfillment. Typically, this is carried out via boat, and then truck or train to get to the fulfillment center. While some third-party fulfillment centers can help to arrange freight transportation in addition to their other services, it’s often expected that the customer (you) arranges freight transportation separately and then provides the fulfillment center with important relevant details (such as the shipping company, container number, expected date of arrival, a packing list with SKUs and quantities, etc.) in advance of delivery.

Since we are a company that primarily focuses on order fulfillment, we’re not going to elaborate too much on the freight portion of the process in this guide. However, Pine Island Games put together a really nice blog post explaining what this phase of the process entails.

Finding a Balance

Before discussing order fulfillment in detail, we should note that the location of your fulfillment partner(s) is an important consideration in the overall time/cost/simplicity balance of your project. If most of your customers are concentrated in a single country, it usually makes sense to freight all of your product to that country and handle all of the order fulfillment from there (sending out-of-country customers their packages via international postage). Other times, if you have a large amount of customers in multiple countries, it might make more sense to split the freight shipment–sending part of your inventory to a separate fulfillment partner in each country. This is more complicated for you to manage, and could affect the cost of the project, but it would be more convenient for your backers (since their packages would be free of duties/taxes/fees).

Unfortunately, this is one of those aspects of fulfillment for which there isn’t a single “easy” answer. You will likely need to do a bit of research to compare pricing for freight costs, international postage, etc. to determine when it becomes cost-advantageous to split your campaign across fulfillment centers in different regions.

Stay tuned for Part 2, Postage and Other Costs!