Feeling the lack of preorder/backorder support

So, my Tsunami KS is about to come to an end, and I’m considering how best to support preorders. For my previous KS, I stuck a big link up the top to Tindie, and took preorders there, which worked really well*.

However, with the changes now I can’t do that any longer. Tindie’s data says I should still send people here so they can click the “notify me” button when it’s in stock, and that I’ll get a larger conversion rate if I do.

I’m prepared to believe that data for ‘internal’ Tindie orders on existing products, but what about a just-finished KS? Everyone in the KS round just ‘preordered’ my product and had no trouble doing so; to direct latecomers now to a page where they can only ask to be reminded when it’s out seems like throwing sales away.

What do you think? Is the propensity to buy for a visitor coming from a recently finished Kickstarter page higher than average? Will I lose out by disregarding preorders in favor of reminders?

Better yet, is there a way I can use this opportunity to run a trial and find out?

I just finished my KS and had the “notify me” on the product page. Quite a few people were interested who missed the campaign, but when I made it available for purchase, only one sold in a week. ONLY ONE! The absence of pre-orders hurts new KS item the same way it hurts old items. I already lost few hundreds of dollars after the pre-orders feature have been turned off.

I don’t have a kickstarter but I can tell you that not having backorders as an option has caused me to hold back releasing a few products until I could build up more stock. The WIOT board was due out a month ago but since I only had 5 on hand I delayed it until we got more stock. We have another product that is in the same situation that we have not yet released.

What do the Tindie numbers indicate on this subject? Are sales after someone clicks the “notify me” button, up, down or the same as before?

I hear the concern on this but I disagree. Post crowdfunding, if a customer is interested in a project, clicks on the link to Tindie, and sees the only option is to join the waiting list, more people will join the waiting list than preorder. With even the preorder option there, fewer preordered a product than bought when it came back in stock. With a waiting list, the top of the funnel is larger which results in more sales. Short term, it may feel like you are missing sales, but that isn’t the case.

Unfortunately we have too few Kickstarters to get any statistically significant data back on whether a recent KS breaks from the overall Tindie data. So I can only go off what we have seen.

@ubldit If you put inventory back in stock and a person doesn’t purchase, we will email them again when they come back in stock down the road. I’m not sure what the concern is to not sell inventory you currently hold?

We have yet to rerun the numbers but overall the site is doing great. Image is of traffic all time by quarter. Last year’s Q1 was down 15% after the holidays, this year we were up. We haven’t seen any hit from removing backorders. Maybe that will show up this quarter, but I doubt it. We have yet to receive a single email from a customer on ‘Where is backorder!?’

Emile, to clarify I’m not referring to putting items “back” in stock. I’m talking about launching a new product. We are still learning so it’s more of an issue of being afraid to make the wrong move.

I’m just glad indiegogo does post-campaign back orders…

Without any way to do an AB test, I think it’s impossible to say definitively about the effect of backorders vs waitlists, particularly in the just-post-KS case. There are so many confounding variables, such as the UI and overall process for each option, that I don’t think it’s fair to extrapolate from your current data that waitlists are more effective than backorders globally.

My main concern is a bit broader: Tindie is moving away from things that help makers start and grow their businesses, and becoming just an online store with no real distinguishing features. Early on, Tindie’s crowdfunding-like preorders helped me run a low-impact preorder round for my first products, which gave me the capital I needed to produce the first run. Now, Tindie doesn’t offer that option: if a maker can’t afford to buy the parts to get started, they have to go elsewhere.

I can understand Tindie’s reluctance to be competing with KS in the crowdfunding business. But by systematically eliminating features that would provide makers with a head start, you’re removing any reason for people to use Tindie in the first place.

On crowdfunding, we will never compete with KS or Indiegogo. That ship sailed.

Tindie is built upon 2 things - community & in stock sales. The community - from hobbyists to Fortune 500 companies - is unique from every other marketplace out there. Any maker business gets visibility on Tindie for free to an increasing global community that you just don’t get anywhere else. The second part is in stock sales and the simple idea that maker’s should get the vast majority of the revenue. Compared to e-retail sites, our margins are dramatically better for maker businesses. As it stands today, the vast majority of online sales don’t happen on crowdfunding but with in-stock purchases. To simplify that - most customers do not want to be the test case for a crowdfunding campaign. Our business customers will never support crowdfunding campaigns as an example.

Your first point is correct - this is a bit of an apples to oranges comparison. However the reasons to “use Tindie in the first place” are very simple. Our data only shows that more and more people agree.

To add my two cents. Recently my fairly popular product went out of stock. In a few weeks I accumulated waitlist for 8 or so. Once restocked, exactly half became orders. Contrast that with the backorders system where all but one I ever had became an order. One fell through due to some credit card issue. So from that point of view I fail to see how waitlist is better. People who need my products need them, so they’d rather place a backorder and be assured of getting them rather than get on a waitlist, then go back and order. Seems like too much work for buyer and too much risk for seller. Similarly, when one can’t afford to stock too many widgets, backorder becomes a sort of just in time manufacturing.

I have taken a wait and see approach to the absence of backorders. I prefer backordering since it gives a more reliable measure of current demand and lets me prioritize which products to make on any given day. I too have had the experience of seeing a large number of waitlist interest not materialize as real orders when items are put back in stock. Since I make stock to order, as it were, this seems somewhat wasteful or at least skews the making priority. Eventually I will sell the stock but my take is this: with backorders, I had a more reliable indicator of the most urgently needed products that allowed an efficient use of my making time. With waitlisting, I get no useful information about real demand. All in all I would prefer to have backordering available again.

Pesky Products

Thanks everyone for your thoughts on this change. To answer the feedback, I wrote a longer post on this and other changes we’ve recently rolled out. Rather than post it here as a reply, I made a new thread for longer discussion…

I am experiencing a problem recently with the waiting list and lack of backorders.
Our product is in limited production - only 1 or 2 per week in stock.
When customers on the waiting list are notified, there is a rush to place an order. Some of the orders get delayed at Paypal, leaving a customer with a cancelled order. Is this happening to other Tindarians? Is my situation unique?
I’ve had several frustrated customers wanting to know why their orders were cancelled when they were the first to place the order, etc.
I know part of the problem is our limited supply, but at this time, customers have expressed that they do not want to resort to “rushing to beat out” other people on the waiting list. I know that I have lost at least one potential customer due to the lack of a backorder option, where orders can be filled in the order in which they came. Many have expressed a desire to “pre-pay” to assure their ability to receive our product when they come back in stock.
I know the reasoning for the waiting list, and the conversion rate. I also like the idea of customers rushing to place and order, but there IS a backlash to the demand and availability.

We are in the process of ramping up production, but it may be a month or so until this can happen.
In the meantime, I’m answering angry emails.
-Louis Steele
Vibrato, LLC.

This is actually a different issue relating to fraud. We’ve talked about this a bit in the past but the gist is we have our own fraud system on top of Paypal & Stripe. Any payment provider has their own checks in place but they all aren’t adequate enough. When a fraudulent order gets past them and us, the seller ships the order and then Tindie is on the hook for the full amount once the processor notifies us it was fraudulent. Not a good thing…

To put some perspective on this, we have caught tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent orders. These are orders sellers and Tindie are protected from.

Some orders that come in, flag us for a manual check. The catch comes when many people order a product with limited inventory and an early order(s) were caught by our spam filter for manual verification. Therefore the early customer’s order was flagged for manual review - meanwhile another customer buys the inventory out from under that person. Not a good thing - and we agree its an issue.

This is really a tough situation because everyone is emailed once a product comes in.

One solution - batch the emails so everyone isn’t notified at once. That way we slow the current problem.

Another - we deduct inventory totals for orders that were flagged by the system. Currently we do not, which is what gets us into this situation. The problem comes when people come to Tindie, see its sold out, but then we put them back in stock and then what should we do? Notify people again? Probably not the best solution…

However I’m open to ideas on this. We are trying to protect everyone involved from fraud (a good thing). If payment processors were more safe, we wouldn’t have this situation. Unfortunately that isn’t the case so we do have to act on top of their systems.

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Thanks for explaining this to me! It does shed light on the reasoning, and brings up questions in my mind about the people who contact me wanting to circumvent Tindie and buy direct from me. Could these be fraudulent buyers!?
I did offer one irate customer free shipping and to invoice him thru Paypal because of his cancelled order. He never responded ( the “customer I lost”).
Thanks for your attention to this.

It’s hard to say without more data on that customer. It is for good reason

  • and I really mean it, I’m totally up for a better system if anyone can
    think of one. Fraud is a tricky problem
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Back to this topic- once again I see situations where people sign up for waitlist, I restock and then get 0 of conversions to real orders. Can we please bring backorders back? I am yet to see the logic of how it would hurt Tindie!

There are so many sellers that would like that reimplemented…
Anyway, have a look at crowd supply in the worst case.

Maybe the new (and old) overlords could change their mind?

I’ll be posting a blog post later this week of our plans for the next 90 days. We have been busy getting everything merged. Now that is done, we can begin working on the future.
So stay tuned…

Emile: how is that update coming along?