Any collector that lives outside of the US knows the issue with shipping costs and custom fees. As an Italian, I am especially aware of the European situation, and how badly customs can hit your wallet if you are not careful. EU friendly is an interesting concept that tries to take care of custom fees.
What is an EU friendly Kickstarter?
First things first, it is important to define a EU friendly Kickstarter campaign. Simply put, EU friendly is a concept that means that rewards for a Kickstarter campaign are being shipped from within Europe, and more specifically from the Schengen Area. There is indeed quite some confusion between European Union, Euro Area and Schengen Area. The Schengen Area is an agreement among many countries that basically allows free movement of goods, that is, no custom fees. Europe is indeed strongly interconnected, and is was necessary to move products around without wasting time and money at customs.
Why is an EU friendly campaign important?
If you live in the United States, that is a fair question to ask: as a consumer, you probably never had to pay customs on anything you bought abroad. The US have a very high allowance, so that a normal purchase will almost never trigger custom fees. Europe is not like that.
With some exceptions, most European countries have a €22 limit on a purchase, after which customs fee will trigger: you will have to pay VAT (Value Added Tax), and some additional charges, something that will usually work out to 25%-30% of the purchase amount. And yes, the limit and the % apply to the purchase value, not to the cost of production of the item (even though many non-EU fulfillers know that and will under-declare the purchase value, a practice that could potentially cost you a fine if caught).
Take a $15 deck of playing cards, add $10 in shipping and 30% of the total. That works out to $35.
It is also about convenience
Even more important than the expense is the stress. Paying customs is annoying, is something else you need to do. A lot of European backers could decide not to back just to avoid going through the hassle.
How much more expensive is an EU friendly campaign?
If you print outside of Europe and send your decks to a European fulfiller, you can reduce the cost of purchase for the final customer:
Take that $15 deck. It will cost probably $1 a deck to ship a batch to Europe, you’ll pay around $4 in custom fees and another $9 to ship to the final user. Total cost for the backer is below $30.
Still a lot more than what a US backer would pay – but a lower amount, and communicating that clearly in the campaign could encourage EU backers to pay the higher shipping cost knowing that they will not be charged any additional amount.
The decision you are left with is whether you want to subsidize EU friendly shipping, or charge it in full. In my opinion, it is always preferable to pass shipping and similar costs plainly down the line. It just looks fair to backers that will not have an advantage. Just be transparent in how much you charge, so that it does not look like you are the one scamming them.
Issues of EU friendly Kickstarter campaigns
There are two main disadvantages to a EU friendly Kickstarter campaign.
Number one: Additional layer.
First, it is never good to add an additional layer, that is, it is always preferable to reduce the amount of hands your product touches to the minimum. Additional steps make it easier for someone to make a mistake, or for some extenuating circumstance to delay delivery.
Number two: Need to trust them.
I have been recently contacted by a company on Instagram that was offering to fulfill my project in Europe. They were offering absolutely amazing prices, maybe 30% cheaper than competition. Issue: their website looked very phony, and they had some serious issue with their email client, because most emails I was sending were not being delivered. Not sure if they were a scam, but I passed. Think about it: you are entrusting possibly thousands of dollars worth to someone you have never seen. What if they disappear? Exactly. Do your due diligence, and as always, if it looks to good to be true, it probably is not true. Curious about the art of getting quotes? Here an article about this.
Conclusion: what about a hybrid EU friendly Kickstarter campaign?
In my opinion, a very interesting concept is a hybrid campaign. Talking about playing cards: 1-deck purchases will often go below the radar. 6 and more decks would surely get caught. What about only applying this concept to bigger pledges? First, a backer purchasing many decks is the most scared about custom fees: if they hit, they will be hefty. Second, it could encourage a backer that was maybe in doubt between the 3-deck and 6-deck pledge level to go for the latter.
If you are interested in knowing more about EU-friendly shipping, this article by Stonemeier is a great place to continue.