The Tampere premises of Backstage Rock Shop send over 30,000 packages to customers worldwide every year. The packages contain official artists’ fan products, primarily clothing and recordings, but also pins, rings, mugs and even dishcloths.
The company’s turnover comes from the fan merchandise online store and also from selling products at artists’ gigs.
Backstage Rock Shop sells over 20 artists’ official merchandise. CEO Matti Lehtonen says that the company stands out from others in that Backstage Rock Shop is the artists’ official online store.
“Most of our product range is exclusively available from us. When we sign a contract with an artist, we run the official online store, which the artist also promotes. That’s our biggest competitive advantage.”
Lehtonen says that the online store is performing well in customer service and marketing.
“Deliveries and customer service have to be fast. Customers are most disappointed by slowness and a lack of information. I think our returns rate is between 4 and 5%” Lehtonen says.
Over half of the packages sold by the online store are sent abroad. The largest single destination countries after Finland are the US, the UK and Germany.
Shopify and official fan merchandise come together
The company’s two online stores, Mad Supply and Backstage Rock Shop, merged into one online store in 2017. The online stores’ old service provider stopped providing the ecommerce platform and at the same time recommended Backstage Rock Shop switch to Shopify.
“Our previous ecommerce platform provider recommended it to us: they also have a Shopify store of their own and they did a lot of research before choosing Shopify. We looked into whether Shopify would suit us.”
The old online store that the fan merchandise retailer had to give up had been tailored to Backstage Rock Shop’s needs. Some adjustments had to be made when it started to use Shopify. Woolman got involved when Backstage Rock Shop needed help with the technical delivery related to VAT.
“About half of our orders go abroad, of which a large proportion is outside the EU, where customers do not pay VAT. For Shopify, the fact that we sold products from Finland both VAT-free and at three VAT rates was a sheer impossibility. That’s just what we got cracking on solving,” Lehtonen says.
Since using Shopify, Matti Lehtonen says that it has been very good for customers: it is fast and reliable. The online store can be made visible with small changes.
“Compared to the old platform, it’s very different. The logic of how things work is very American. There are a lot of good new things that used to be technically impossible, but there are also bad sides. But it’s exactly the same in every ecommerce platform: a combination that suits the retailer’s needs has to be found.”
The Backstage Rock Shop online store also uses the Woolman's Nordic Shipping App which enables searches of Posti, Matkahuolto and DB Schenker pick-up points and the transfer of address labels to the Shopify store.
“With Woolman, we’ve started using direct integrations to two delivery methods. This speeds up order processing at our end considerably, making the delivery chain processing more efficient,” Lehtonen says.
The fan merchandise is delivered worldwide. During the first month Backstage Rock Shop used Shopify, packages were dispatched to 48 countries.
“If you could combine these three things, it would reduce the threshold to buying.”
A man in a black hoodie picks up a pile of books from the other wall of the hall. He runs his finger through the list on the table – Tuomari Nurmio’s book Dumari is going to be sold at the next gig. Next, the man who goes to count cloth bags, Jyrki, says he is a handyman.
As he lists all the tasks and roles he has in various situations, the reason for the job title becomes clear. In the online store, Jyrki is responsible for orders sent by FedEx outside the EU which require the completion of customs forms.
Alongside many other things, he is the one who often travels with bands to gigs to sell the artist’s official merchandise. Why does someone put on an artist’s T-shirt? Does anyone still buy hard copies of music? Jyrki’s answer to these questions comes from support for the band.
“When our salespeople travel with the band, they’re a part of that crew. When the customers see that our salespeople are part of that same group, and that they travel with the band and crew, they make an association: if I buy this product, the band will also get a share of this.”
Money changes hands, but, as Jyrki also mentions, there is a spiritual connection.
“These things are part of the rock canon, a cliché of the rock world, kind of us versus them. People think ‘only I understand’, ‘only I have this big spiritual connection to this orchestra’. People want to show they listen to certain music.
“It’s difficult to see anything bad in that,” Jyrki says in conclusion.
“Most people wear clothes when they move about. For textiles, this is connected with the need to wear them.
“If you can combine these three things, it lowers the threshold to buying,” Jyrki says with a smile and arranges the cloth bags with Nurmio’s books in a neat stack.
“There are a lot of things you can be involved with”
Band hoodies and a couple of shirts move down a long white table to the far end. The packing room is full of movement and orders are moving a step closer to the customer. What does warehouse manager Antti Matikainen think of the new Shopify online store?
“Now Shopify is starting to feel quite nice. It’s brought in a lot of new features we didn’t have in the old store. It’s speeded up a lot of admin areas. In the beginning some areas were missing and we had to build them ourselves. It’s getting good slowly,” Matikainen says with a laugh.
Matikainen says that work in the online store is varied. He doesn’t do all his work in either the office or the warehouse, but in both. Sari Jokinen, a customer service agent, packs the orders with Matikainen.
“Even though most of my mob is customer service, I also do order processing and dispatching. What often binds it all together is that customers give feedback about the packages they get. There are a lot of things you can be involved with,” Jokinen says with a smile.
“One of the advantages of a small company is that everyone does a little bit of everything in the end. Maybe it forms the whole time as the company and its orders grow,” Antti Matikainen comments.