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Kickstarter launches terrific new iPhone app, but their fulfillment still needs a lot of work

Kickstarter has, at long last, launched their iPhone app. It's focused on helping you discover interesting projects to back, getting updates from your friends and the stuff you've backed, and, if you're a creator, keeping your backers informed and updated. According to Perry Chen, Yancey Strickler, and Charles Adler, writing on the Kickstarter Blog:

The app is a whole new way to experience Kickstarter. We took things we've learned from the past three years of building the site, and applied them to a total redesign for the iPhone. We redesigned the project page, browse pages, and others. And we focused on making three things really useful and fun: finding new projects, keeping up to date with projects you've backed, and offering great tools for creators.

The app looks clean, flows quickly and smoothly, and once you login via Facebook, let's you do pretty much everything you need to do on Kickstarter while mobile. In terms of design and implementation, it looks to be a home run. If you enjoy Kickstarter and you have an iPhone, get the app.

Now here's the point where I go off the rails. As good as the Kickstarter app experience is, Kickstarter's fulfillment process remains poor. I get the whole argument about "backing" isn't "buying", but that's sophistry. Kickstarter, from inception, was set up as a way to get creators money and people, stuff. It's ecommerce as surely as Apple Online or Amazon. If that's not the service they want to provide, they should disallow any reward offering beyond a simple, sincere acknowledgement. Once rewards become goods and services, it's ecommerce.

Of course, there's absolutely a huge difference between Kickstarter and more conventional ecommerce sites in that unfunded projects will never ship, and even funded projects may fail due to the people behind them. But Kickstarter's current problem is far more elementary, and far less forgivable than this: Funded projects that are successfully completed can still fail to get into the hands of backers due to simple logistical confusion.

Kickstarter can't fulfill.

I've backed a dozen or more projects. By which I mean I've hit the button and pledged money. I've gotten maybe 2 or 3 of them. Some never shipped, others are still delayed, but several simply never got fulfilled. Invariably, somewhere along the way, the backer needed my address, or to confirm billing, or product details, and I needed to visit their website and login to some extra account, or... the list goes on and on.

Worse, I've seldom if ever been aware of any of the above. I've found out while checking junk, or when I happen to login to Kickstarter, or when I'm trying to find out where something is that should have shipped long ago.

Just today, curious why I hadn't heard word one about my Pebble still, I went poking around inside Kickstarter, found nothing, started searching, came across a separate Kickstarter site, found out I had to login there, and was promptly asked for my shipping address. They didn't have it. And I only found out by happenstance.

The process should be: I click, they ship. That's it. Instead, it currently involves multiple, unnecessary points of failure that results in projects not getting all the money they should, customers not getting the awesome stuff they expect, and a poor experience for everyone. If they have limitations due to Amazon handling transactions, or concerns about sharing user information, figure them out. That's not the customers' problem. Make it "just work".

I click, they ship. That should be it.

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

  • Yeah i agree. I've backed several projects, only to never hear anything, or get anything. Don't think i'll be backing anymore projects, I don't have the disposable income or the time to be chasing people around for something I was told I would get. I've gotten burned too many times.
  • Sounds a lot like the high profile Taktik phone case fiasco currently going on. Sadly kickstarter and the "consumers" are the ones left holding the bag.
  • I've been very pleased with the communications I've received from the half dozen or so Kickstarter projects I've supported. I've received frequent email updates as they've moved from pledges to actual production on all of them and specific instructions and deadlines when necessary. One of the projects, Pen Type-A (, ran into significant delays but they kept us informed thru every step and described the obstacles in great detail. Frankly, even if they had failed to ship a final product I'd have considered the money well spent as the email updates and play-by-play was a fascinating look behind the scenes of manufacturing a deceptively simple product and how tempting it is to cut corners just to see that product shipped.
  • Rene you make a great point and one that keeps me from ever investing in Kick Starter projects. Not to sound too Shark Tank but if I invest I understand there are risks with this form of research and development. But, if the risk is successful, I want a return on the reward. I hope the folks at Kick Starter are listening.
  • Kickstarter fulfillment does NOT need work, because Kickstarter doesn't do fulfillment. That is up to the creators. I too backed the Pebble watch. I received semi-regular status updates via email, and could check the Kickstarter site whenever I liked. One specific update email from Pebble asked users to confirm their address - which is a good thing because I had moved since becoming a backer and needed to have the Pebble shipped to the new address. With as many updates as Pebble sent out, and being that this project was far behind the initially projected schedule, I find it incredible that any backer would be clueless to the status or to the fact that it was up to the backer to confirm their shipping address before they would receive their Pebble. I became a backer of Pebble late in the game, and I've now been wearing it for about a week. Just because Rene is clueless does not mean their is anything wrong with the way Kickstarter works. Just because Rene thinks that once projects "become goods and services it's ecommerce" doesn't mean it is ecommerce. And it can't be as simple as "I click, they ship." That works for ecommerce when the item(s) are shipped within days of the order being placed, but certainly not when many months pass before being shipped. If Pebble just shipped without getting shipping address confirmation from me, it would have been shipped to the wrong address, long after the USPS mail forwarding expired. And I still wouldn't have my Pebble, like clueless Rene.
  • Rene, after reading your article I decided to analyze my Kickstarter activity. Overall, I am happy to have helped some of the low dollar support projects. My larger contributions have been the tech projects which have been a mixed bag. I think it boils down to the manufacturing process. BTW, I feel that many of the projects did a good job of keeping me informed. Analysis 76 projects backed
    24 not funded
    4 cancelled
    2 ongoing 46 funded
    30 delivered
    16 ongoing Delivered in a manner as suggested in offering with a little leeway 23.
    Number who've had money a year and not delivered, 4 --John