Blackbox Product Launch
In the summer of 2014, Cards Against Humanity wanted to start a shipping company. They’d integrated their sales system with a trusted network of international warehouses and they’d negotiated low shipping rates from selling so many copies of Cards Against Humanity. They wanted to offer that shipping network and those lower shipping rates to independent designers.
One of the CAH founders had said:
“I want to start the shipping company we wish we had when we started Cards Against Humanity three years ago.”
But there were some problems to solve:
- We didn’t know what it was like to run a Kickstarter in 2014
- We didn’t know how to ship other people’s stuff internationally
- We didn't know what we didn't know
We figured out that our ideal customers were designers who had to fulfill a huge Kickstarter first, then sell the rest of their inventory later. We figured out how to ship to most countries, and we settled on a brand identity that was less jokey and more direct than Cards Against Humanity's.
Then, in July 2015, we shipped roughly 200,000 packages to 122 countries from 6 warehouses in 3 continents as part of fulfilling Exploding Kittens’ massively successful Kickstarter. Here's their writeup on how everything went.
Check out this unboxing video to see what the final product looked like:
I interviewed independent designers to find out what problems needed solving. Before we started any product design, I interviewed 16 designers about what it’s like to run an independent business and/or fulfill a Kickstarter. This helped us understand our potential client base and know which shipping challenges need the most attention. Turns out, Kickstarter creators needed the most help, and international shipping is, hands down, the most nightmarish part of fulfilling a Kickstarter, complete with unexpectedly high costs and customs snafus.
I conducted an contextual inquiry at one of our warehouses. A couple coworkers and I took a road trip to our Indiana warehouse and I asked our warehouse partners everything I could: how new products are received, how inventory is managed, what a physical shipping station looks like. Since so much of our company involved the physical shipment of packages, we could design better if we knew how a warehouse actually worked.
I sent test shipments to tricky countries before launch. Knowing that some countries are particularly difficult to ship to, I organized test shipments to Exploding Kittens backers in our most difficult-to-ship-to countries. We reached out to 105 Exploding Kittens backers in 35 countries (with permission!) and offered to send them copies of Cards Against Humanity. Eight countries failed to receive our packages, so we sent 24 more packages to 8 countries using another courier. When launch day came, we knew which countries were safe to ship to with our usual methods, and which would require special attention. Turns out, sending packages to Russia or Brazil is nearly impossible, but we made it work.
I was our accounts manager. I was the primary point of contact with the Exploding Kittens team leading up to launch day. Understanding their needs and concerns helped us figure out the policies that would help Blackbox customer support team work smoothly with clients. For example, I helped set up a shared email inbox that the Blackbox and Exploding Kittens could use to transfer customer emails back and forth, since each team regularly got tons of questions meant for the other team.
I was also operations manager. I had regular phone calls with managers at all 6 of our warehouses. This included making sure every warehouse could print the personalized color comic that shipped with every Exploding Kittens order, and confirming that all our new inventory arrived safely. I’d chat with our UK warehouse over morning coffee and take calls from our Australia warehouse during dinner.