Outsource order fulfillment and headache, spend time making music

This is the year of the independent artist.

Avoiding a record deal means creating your own path, but there’s still no tried and true formula for success. Instead of relying on labels to provide tools, today’s musicians must integrate services from a handful of different music businesses.

These services can be used in parallel to create a musician’s automated store. Today we’ll focus on one artist service: third party fulfillment.

What do you mean “fulfillment”?

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Order fulfillment simply means getting your products into the hands of customers who purchase them. If you’re operating your own store online and making just a few sales a week - you can likely fulfill orders by yourself. This is called merchant fulfillment.

Note: If you are an artist and haven’t yet set up your e-commerce, check out our past blog, “Using Shopify Lite to Sell Music From Your Site”.

The process of merchant fulfillment is a familiar one. First, you order boxes of CD’s or other physical merchandise to your house and store it as inventory. When someone places an order, you pack a box with merch, print out a shipping label and bring the completed package to the post office. Send the customer a tracking number and voila! Sale complete. Fulfilling a few orders a week on your own is a cost-efficient and manageable task. But eventually your growth may exceed your capabilities - or you may simply wish to allocate your time elsewhere.

So… what is third party fulfillment?

Third party fulfillment is part of a larger subset, third-party logistics. Large third party fulfillment services maintain a warehouse and complete the same tasks as a merchant fulfiller. In summary, they:

  • Receive and store inventory

  • Package orders

  • Ship boxes

  • Send shipping info to your e-commerce hub

Bringing on a third party to fulfill orders saves you time each week. As most fulfillment services integrate with e-commerce platforms like Shopify, outsourcing this segment of your business can be a key component in automating your entire store. For help deciding if you’re ready to bring on a third party fulfillment service, check out this great Shopify Blog Post.

How do I choose a third-party fulfillment service?

Shopify integrates with most fulfillment services. In fact, their only requirement is that the warehouse can process orders by email. We’ve selected some of our favorites based on ease of use, integrations and resources available. Warehouse fulfillment centers have very specific requirements for receiving boxes of merchandise. So any mistake on your end will translate into late orders and unhappy customers.

Amplifier: a powerful self-service logistics platform

Amplifier stands out to us because of their excellent help center and seamless integration with Shopify. They walk you through packaging and labeling boxes of merch to expedite their receiving process, so your customers get products on time.

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Amplifier also allows your suppliers to send merchandise directly to their warehouse. But you can still stay on top of the entire supply chain - Amplifier gives feedback about your suppliers, in real time. If there is a late shipment, an incorrectly labeled box, or missing inventory, they’ll let you know asap. The Amplifier platform is packed full of these features, and many more.

Shopify orders are sent to Amplifier automatically and inventory is synced between the two. They can process incoming shipments from multiple sources (CD manufacturer, screen printer etc). Once Amplifier packages and ship an order, tracking info is sent to Shopify and on to the customer automatically. Whenever a service uses the phrase “set and forget”, that is a good sign - and code for “automation”.

FBA and more

We also love Fulfillment by Amazon - another service completely integrated with Shopify. Products listed by FBA are eligible for free shipping through Prime, which your customers are sure to love. Selecting one of the top e-commerce companies in the world to handle your order fulfillment ensures reliability and cost efficiency.

For tons of fulfillment services that integrate with Shopify, search “fulfillment” in the Shopify app store.

While each service offers something similar, there are variations that may work better for your business. It all depends on how your e-commerce is set up, your sales volume, and of course personal preference. The goal is to find a service you’re comfortable using. But don’t be overwhelmed - once you decide on a third party fulfillment service, you can spend less time managing your growing business, and more time making music.

Up next in our Musician’s Automated Store Series: Print on Demand.

-Joe