April 9, 2016

"Back" Wisely - Shopping Experience on Kickstarter

I like to browse various projects on Kickstarter especially those innovative gadgets, and "Back" is the language there meaning "buy to support". I've only backed 2 projects there, bought one solar powered charger for electronic devices like iPhone/iPad, another one is a iPhone bumper case and screen protector. But neither the products nor experience were good, probably even the worst purchase for me in 2015.

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Here are the 3 facts that made it terrible, for me at least.

1. Shipping Problem

The projects on Kickstarter are new. They're unlike any traditional stuff, the ideas are creative, producers/startups behind it are driven by their visions, the intro video is beautifully crafted, the webpage is full of detailed information, screenshots and product updates, and you're invited to be part of the big dream, to make it happen they need your support.

But purchasing experience might not reach the expectation.

The shipping of both products(bought from 2 different startups) were massively delayed, massively! They may be good at making the prototype, but when it comes to mass production it could be a totally different story. For both I had received 4 or 5 emails telling the shipping was delayed because there were unexpected difficulties during the mass production process.

2. More Like an Immature Prototype

There're so many flaws in every details. It's really hard not to sound like I'm ranting.

For example the solar charger I bought was described it doesn't require direct sunlight, but that's simply a false statement. Even in a great sunny day once the direct sunlight goes off the thing just stops working, "It's still 10 AM, the sky is blue the world is bright and you just won't work!", I yelled that day. So far I still don't have any successful "charge" experience.

Portability is supposed to be a key feature of the product. The intro video demonstrated the usage as: put it on the table when you sit or hang it on your bag when you move, portability™. But what they didn't tell you the extra work required to "assemble" or "unassembled" it when you change the "mode". And that's not like 1, 2, 3 done, it may take minutes..! I've seen tons of people asking the same question on the forum and yet the official response was, "basically you just choose one way to use it, we're not expecting you to switch from one mode to another frequently". Ouch!

Lastly, it just feels cheap. I know it's very subjective and may even sound irrational, but remember those experiences when you first touch any Apple products, you feel like you're holding a great piece of work, you sense the craftsmanship. Comparing things to Apple product probably is unfair for startups but still, it feels like "put this plastic bag on your head to pretend it's a raincoat". How can you not be aware of these flaws when you're making and selling it?

3. The Psychology

I've figured out an interesting transition of me after watching intro videos. The producers are not just selling the product itself, but also selling you a dream, a vision, "let's make it happen together". They are passionate, young or equally energized, they make a good point why the thing is important to them, to you and to the world, and they are trying to make a good impact to the world.

And here is the interesting part, after I watch all the videos, read all the updates, check all the backers' comments, I'm already emotionally deeply involved. It'd make me feel proud of myself by "backing" this stuff. It raises my emotional level, it makes me feel good, which is rarely seen in day to day purchase. Self-justification kicks in, it makes me blind about evaluating the real value of the product.

In conclusion, I'm not saying you shouldn't support or buy from Kickstarter, or persuade you to stop using it. I'm saying you should be more open mind, more tolerant to possible delayed shipping, or some product flaws in some details.

There're lots of $1 backers, if you do love the idea but after thorough consideration decide to "back off", it's always ok to buy them a cup of coffee to show your support.

And those gadgets or stuff in the retail stores or shopping sites, they maybe look less shinny, less innovative than stuff on Kickstarter, but it might be just good enough to be used in your daily life.

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Qihuan Piao

Qihuan Piao

(aka kinopyo) is Chinese based in Tokyo. Software writer. He shares stories inspired him in this blog. His infamous line - "I feel calm when I kill those monsters, or people (in game)" shocks his friends deeply.

He also writes in Japanese and Chinese.