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Kickstarter vs Indiegogo – Why The Platform Matters

There are dozens of product crowdfunding platforms vying to host your campaign, but for the vast majority of creators, it should boil down to a choice between just two: Kickstarter vs Indiegogo.

Related article: How Does Crowdfunding Work?

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have achieved such dominance because of a phenomenon known as “network effects”. To better understand network effects, let’s look at Airbnb – a company which most readers will already be familiar with. People who need to rent a home for a few nights tend to go to Airbnb first because they have the widest selection of accommodation available. Airbnb is a highly attractive place for property owners too, because Airbnb has more potential customers searching for places to rent than comparable websites. Additionally, now that Airbnb has become established as the largest provider of short-term home rentals, Airbnb-specific support services have appeared – handling cleaning, listing optimization, and property management. These all serve to entrench Airbnb’s market-leading position even further.

Crowdfunding platforms are subject to the same kinds of network effects. The largest marketplaces have an advantage due to their size – a fact which self-reinforces itself as both campaigns and backers tend to favor the larger platforms over their smaller competitors. It means that audience attention becomes increasingly concentrated in situations where network effects are at play. The same result is observable elsewhere: To name a few, TripAdvisor dominates travel reviews, amazon.com dominates e-commerce, and LinkedIn dominates professional social networking.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have risen to the top of the pile for product crowdfunding. Campaign creators who list with them get the chance to access the vast audiences these platforms have built, while smaller platforms cannot offer this to the same extent. Campaigns listing on Kickstarter or Indiegogo still need to get the ball rolling and drive the *initial* funding themselves, but listings on smaller crowdfunding platforms may need to drive almost *all* the funding on their own.

Imagine if Airbnb did not have an audience of accommodation-seekers, and instead asked property owners to find their own guests and bring them to the Airbnb platform. In that scenario, property owners would have very little reason to use Airbnb or pay their fees. Airbnb occupies a space as a middleman taking a cut on every transaction, which they justify largely because they have become a place for buyers and sellers to find each other. That ridiculous-sounding “Airbnb without audience” is actually quite analogous to small crowdfunding platforms. Frankly, crowdfunding platforms without their own backer audience are just not as useful for creators seeking funding.

Apart from access to their database of backers, there is one other way crowdfunding platforms add value: through their ability to host the online campaign page. Crowdfunding campaign pages take people’s contact information, accept credit card payments, and get backers to sign up to a standard set of legal terms and conditions. Setting up that same level of functionality on a website of your own is not trivial. Starting a campaign on a crowdfunding platform doesn’t require getting your own hosting, domain name, or doing any coding. Instead, crowdfunding platforms make it simple to upload all the content.

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have have invested a lot into optimizing their user experience. They are visually appealing and intuitive for backers to use, and campaign creators are able to easily track who has pledged and for how much. Their brand name recognition also means that backers will tend to have more trust in backing a Kickstarter or Indiegogo campaign than backing a campaign hosted on a smaller platform.

Now the reasons for favoring the world’s two biggest crowdfunding platforms have been established, we can look closer at comparing Kickstarter vs Indiegogo. They have much in common, but Kickstarter and Indiegogo have also developed divergent attitudes in certain respects.

What are the key differences of Kickstarter vs Indiegogo?

  • Kickstarter is committed to a more standardized experience, with more stringent standards for the campaigns they allow to list.
  • Meanwhile, Indiegogo styles itself as the more inclusive and flexible option, making crowdfunding possible for a broader range of creators.

As Jason Vissers writes on Merchant Maverick, “Essentially, Kickstarter’s model offers more protection to the backer, while Indiegogo’s model is more lenient for campaigners.” These structural differences between Kickstarter vs Indiegogo matter to your campaign and how it will be conducted.

What’s The Same

Both the big two crowdfunding platforms are similar in concept, providing the architecture for creators to upload information about what they are trying to make, and to solicit funds from backers. Let’s first look at the factors which both platforms have in common.

Campaign Page Layout

Although the content of each campaign is obviously different, the placement of the various elements is the same on Kickstarter and Indiegogo: both platforms have the video placed at the top-left, the amount of money raised on the top-right, the main body of text and images below the fold, and the frequently asked questions at the very bottom. Both platforms have done extensive testing on where these elements should be placed, and have arrived at a similar answer to each other.

Fundraising Duration

Kickstarter and Indiegogo each allow their campaigns a maximum of 60 days from launch to completion. Although both have the same duration cap, Indiegogo campaigns have the option of Flexible Funding and post-campaign ordering through InDemand (explained in greater detail below). This means the Indiegogo end dates can be less of a strict cutoff point, if these options are enabled.

Kickstarter vs Indiegogo Fees

There are no upfront fees to start a project on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Instead, they make their money through taking a percentage of the funds successfully raised. These platform fees are deducted before the cash hits the campaign creator’s bank account. Right now, the fee both Kickstarter and Indiegogo take is 5%. Platform fees are subject to change, so check Kickstarter and Indiegogo’s own websites for the most up-to-date information.

Payments Processor

Payment processing fees are another substantial cost to factor in. Both Kickstarter and Indiegogo use a company called “Stripe” as their sole payment processing option, meaning the fees are essentially indistinguishable between the two platforms. Reckon on an additional 3 – 5% of payment processing fees, depending on the mixture of small and large pledges, and the countries your backers come from.

The Strict Rules

Kickstarter and Indiegogo have certain strict criteria which, depending on your circumstances, may immediately eliminate one (or both) of them. It makes the platform choice very straightforward if only one of them is open to you, so let’s handle these considerations first.

Community Projects Are Possible On Indiegogo

Certain projects categories are possible on Indiegogo which are not possible on Kickstarter. Indiegogo supports community projects – as in, fundraising for cause-oriented ventures like human rights, wellness, and the environment. Kickstarter does not allow community projects – it is only for creative projects like gadgets, games, films and books (which Indiegogo does too). Kickstarter *requires* that projects are creating something to share with those who pledge, whereas Indiegogo merely *recommends* offering perks to backers.

Kickstarter Campaigns Require A Working Prototype

If a project involves manufacturing and distributing something complex, Kickstarter requires creators to show a fully functioning prototype of the product before being allowed to launch. They enforce this through requiring photographs of the prototype in its current state of development. They forbid photorealistic renderings and heavily edited images or video, in order to prevent creators from showing backers functionality which does not yet exist. 

Indiegogo allows projects at an even earlier stage of development than having a working prototype – even if there is just a concept. Regardless of platform rules, having a working prototype is still advisable because it leads to greater trust with potential backers, as well as making it easier to ultimately deliver the final product on time and within budget. But even developing a prototype can be expensive enough to be beyond the financial resources of some creators – in which case, be aware that Kickstarter will not be able to host your campaign.

Kickstarter Is Only For New Products

Kickstarter only hosts projects being offered for the very first time. Raising money on their platform will not be possible if it has been sold somewhere else, even if that product has not been delivered yet, and even if only a very small number of units were sold. Be careful, because some creators have found themselves unwittingly excluded from Kickstarter because they had pre-sold a few units on their website without knowing the implications.

Different Countries Are Supported

When creators first click “Start A Campaign”, both Kickstarter and Indiegogo immediately ask where they (or their company) are located. Later, before a campaign can go live to the public, this will need to be proved by uploading a government-issued identity document. Big countries like the United States and the United Kingdom are supported by both platforms, but those from smaller countries may be open to only one platform – or neither platform. If your country is supported by neither Kickstarter or Indiegogo, you will need to look into alternative platforms.

For instance, as of the time of writing New Zealand creators were only welcome on Kickstarter (not Indiegogo), while creators from Finland could only use Indiegogo (not Kickstarter). The list of supported countries is constantly changing, so visit the websites of Kickstarter and Indiegogo directly to get the latest lists. Note that these geographical restrictions only concern the creators. Backers can pledge their support from anywhere, so long as they are at least 18 years old and have a credit card.

Other Differences

If your intended project satisfies the strict rules of both Kickstarter and Indiegogo, there is still a choice to make. Here are the rest of the factors to weigh up. between Kickstarter vs Indiegogo

Kickstarter Has A Larger Audience

Earlier, the importance of audience size was emphasized as the chief reason for favoring Kickstarter and Indiegogo instead of smaller platforms. Out of Kickstarter and Indiegogo, it is clear that Kickstarter has the bigger audience. There are many ways that audience size can be measured, but to give an indication – as of publication, Kickstarter had roughly 2x the monthly website visitors, 3x the social media followers on Twitter, and 4x the monthly Google searches. Historically, more very large campaigns have funded on Kickstarter than on Indiegogo. 

The Communities Are Different

With that said, sheer numbers do not matter if it’s the wrong audience. Just think – it would be useless to open a steak restaurant in a neighborhood full of vegetarians, even if it were an enormous neighborhood. The size of the platform’s specific audience for *projects like yours* is ultimately more important than overall size. The audiences of Kickstarter and Indiegogo do not exactly overlap – for example, Kickstarter is well-known as the go-to place for board games and complex technology, while Indiegogo is strongly associated with politically-controversial projects. Also, Kickstarter’s community is more skewed towards males, while Indiegogo’s demographics are more balanced between male and female.

Kickstarter Has Stricter Quality Control

As mentioned above, Kickstarter requires campaigns to have a working prototype. Kickstarter also manually reviews campaigns in the Design and Technology category to make sure they meet Kickstarter’s rules – a process which takes around 2-3 business days on average. This extra quality control makes Kickstarter more discerning about their campaigns than Indiegogo. Consequently, Kickstarter has developed a stronger reputation for the campaigns that list there. Kickstarter also has a higher success rate, because some would-be campaigns get eliminated before they even get the chance to go live. Kickstarter’s reputation means that media are often more willing to feature a Kickstarter campaign than an Indiegogo campaign.

Indiegogo E-Mails Daily, Kickstarter E-Mails Weekly

Indiegogo promotes their campaigns through a daily “In The Know” e-mail, while Kickstarter sends out something similar with a weekly “Projects We Love” message. Indiegogo’s higher frequency means there is a better chance of getting featured in an Indiegogo e-mail blast, but potentially less benefit because Indiegogo’s e-mail subscribers are probably paying less attention to each message. So, Kickstarter campaigns who get featured in the e-mail newsletter get a larger benefit, but it’s a higher hurdle to achieve it because you have to be a stand-out campaign for the whole week, not just for a single day.

Indiegogo’s Flexible Funding Goal Option

One of the fundamental differences between Kickstarter and Indiegogo is their approach to campaigns which fail to make it to their stated funding goal – for example, if a project set the goal of $10,000, but ended up raising only $7,000.

In that scenario, a Kickstarter campaign would fail, and all backers would get their money refunded to them. Conversely, Indiegogo campaigns can start with a “Flexible Goal”, which means they stand to receive all funds raised, even if it does not reach its stated goal. Indiegogo campaigns may choose Fixed Funding or Flexible Funding before the campaign starts, but Kickstarter does not offer the Flexible Funding as an option. 

Indiegogo’s Support Team

Neither Kickstarter or Indiegogo provide a phone number, preferring to deal with inquiries through FAQs and e-mail. Of the creators who funded through Indiegogo, many mentioned Indiegogo’s superior campaign support as a key reason why they chose them instead of Kickstarter. It is widely acknowledged that Indiegogo’s staff are more reachable and responsive, whereas it is tough to get in touch with a human at Kickstarter, and you might need to wait several days for replies.

Indiegogo Has Better Tracking Analytics

Effective digital marketing means tracking efforts to results. With tracking, you can do more of what’s working, and change or stop what is not working. In this respect, Indiegogo wins hands down. Kickstarter campaigns can install Google Analytics, a tool which shows traffic sources to your campaign page – but it cannot tell you where the money pledged is coming from.

Here’s why this matters: say you were undertaking just two promotion channels: media outreach, and paid traffic. For the sake of simplicity, let’s imagine both efforts cost the same. Through Google Analytics, you can see 1,000 page visits stemming from media outreach, and just 100 hits from paid traffic. Since both cost the same and media outreach generated 10x the page views of paid traffic, it would be tempting to stop paid traffic, and double-down on media outreach, right?

Not quite. The raw amount of traffic from each promotion channel matters less than how well it converts into backing. To know that, you need to be able to track what happened with each visitor after they arrived on your page. It may turn out that you got just 5 backers from those 1,000 visits from media outreach, while paid traffic gave you 10 backers from 100 visitors. Paid traffic got a better result on the outcome that you actually care about – people pulling out their credit cards and backing the campaign. In this scenario the right thing to do would actually be to stop media outreach and double-down on paid traffic – the opposite action to what might seem correct if conversion data is invisible.

Indiegogo campaigns can get this critical conversion information through the installation of Facebook pixels – essentially, small files which get automatically downloaded to computers which visit a campaign, and sends data back depending on which actions people end up taking. Kickstarter does not have this native feature – a particularly major drawback for campaigns intending to use paid traffic extensively.

The use of Facebook pixels also allows for Facebook retargeting – essentially meaning that those who visit your campaign page can be served Facebook ads, based on the fact they have shown interest by clicking your campaign page. Retargeting can lead to conversions that you would not have had otherwise.

Indiegogo Provides Backer Contact Information Immediately

Speaking of Facebook targeting – Indiegogo provides the e-mail addresses of backers right away. This means campaign creators can start using lookalike audiences with Facebook ads right away. Kickstarter waits until the end of the campaign before revealing backer e-mail addresses, meaning campaign creators who want their backers emails will need to get them through other means, such as running a mid-campaign survey.

Kickstarter Only Charges Backers At The End

Kickstarter backers can cancel their pledge anytime before the campaign is over, and their credit card will not be charged – it is as though their pledge had never happened at all. Indiegogo charges the credit cards of backers immediately, and refunds them at the end if the campaign is unsuccessful.

Indiegogo Can Take Orders After The Campaign

Once the countdown timer on a Kickstarter campaign hits zero, that’s it – no more money can be accepted from backers. The article Kickstarter Is Not A Store on Kickstarter’s own blog summarizes their attitude – Kickstarter wants their platform to exclusively be about creators and audiences working together on projects still in development, rather than shop for existing items.

Indiegogo has taken the opposite approach. They are happy to offer product which are finished and ready to be shipped. Indiegogo has `a feature called “InDemand”, which allows campaigns to continue taking orders and payments indefinitely, even after the campaign closing date has passed, and without needing to set a further funding goal.

After their fundraising campaign is over, creators need a place to send people who were late to the campaign. Telling them to order on your website would be one solution, but many creators do not have their online presence ready immediately after crowdfunding. InDemand gives ongoing exposure on the Indiegogo platform, meaning they can continue growing their community even if their website does not yet have high traffic. However, InDemand is not a long-term selling solution. Rather, it bridges the gap between crowdfunding and selling on your own. Eventually, it is better to switch to your own store with a brand that is your own. You will also want to cut out the fees that InDemand charges.

Notably, InDemand is available to campaigns which originally listed on Kickstarter and other crowdfunding platforms, albeit with higher fees than those charged to Indiegogo campaigns. It means it is possible to run the main campaign on Kickstarter, and then change over to Indiegogo afterwards to use InDemand to continue selling. It is easy for Kickstarter campaigns to transition to InDemand, and many do.

Making The Decision

As you can see, there is a long list of differentiators and neither Kickstarter or Indiegogo outperforms on every measure – the winner of Kickstarter vs Indiegogo depends on your situation.

In a nutshell, Kickstarter is larger and more restrictive (and therefore their campaigns have a higher success rate). Indiegogo has more options in how to run a campaign, better analytics tracking, and more personalized support. There is no “right answer”, but you do need to make a choice.

How To Choose

So, with all the facts now laid out, let’s finally make a judgment call between Kickstarter vs Indiegogo for your fundraising effort to give it the best possible chance of success.

  • Begin with the points in the “Strict Rules” section, because these are definite pass/fail tests which, depending on your circumstances, might make the Kickstarter vs Indiegogo decision for you.
  • If both platforms are open to you, ask whether any of the other features unique to one of the platforms are must-haves. For example, if you absolutely need to keep whatever money you raise whether or not you meet your funding goal, then your decision must be Indiegogo because Kickstarter does not offer Flexible Funding.
  • If the decision is still not clear, look for the platform with the best match for your audience – as in, the one with the best success rate with projects similar to yours. If it is even, then the platform with the biggest overall audience (Kickstarter) should win out.

When To Consider Alternative Platforms

Although for all the reasons mentioned at the beginning, Kickstarter and Indiegogo are to be preferred in the vast majority of cases, there are situations where it could make sense to host your campaign on a platform other than these two. Apart from campaigns which neither Kickstarter and Indiegogo will accept, here are three more

Projects Which Don’t Need Interest Beyond Their Own Crowd

Kickstarter and Indiegogo add value (and therefore justify their fees) through the vast global database of backers they have built. However, campaigns which are confident of raising all the money need through the crowd they have built themselves may wish to use a platform with lower fees, and therefore get to keep more of the money they raise from this crowd.

Projects Which Are Strongly Local

Fundraising for projects such as food trucks, cafes and local performances will not benefit from the wide international audiences of Kickstarter and Indiegogo. If people need to be within a local geographical area for it to make sense for them to back your campaign, a local crowdfunding platform could be a better option. It may also be easier to get local media attention for a campaign listed on a home-grown crowdfunding platform.

Projects In Non-English Language

The audiences of both Kickstarter and Indiegogo are predominantly English-speaking. So if your desired project heavily involves a language other than English (for example, a foreign language documentary or book project), it will be hard to get much uptake from the people browsing the platform. Additionally, the members of your own crowd will have to deal with English-language menus and instructions on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which they will not be able to understand if they don’t speak English themselves. In this case, a platform that caters specifically to the language you need will be more relevant for the supporters you need to bring on board.

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It is absolutely worth taking the time to do a careful evaluation between Kickstarter vs Indiegogo before deciding.

The New Book - Rewards Crowdfunding.

Launching 10th December 2019

  How Rewards Crowdfunding Works

  Learn From Rewards Crowdfunding Success Stories

  How To Build Your Crowd, Even If You Don't Have One Yet

  The Differences Between Kickstarter vs Indiegogo

  Everything Else You Need To Launch Your Own Campaign!