The Basics of Shopify and Printful
Shopify and Printful come together to create the ultimate print-on-demand and ecommerce ecosystem.
Before jumping into the tutorial, we want to explain to you the basics of both Shopify and Printful, along with details on how they differ and how they come together to provide this print-on-demand system.
Shopify offers an all-in-one, hosted ecommerce platform with tools for designing an online store, selling products, and accepting payments from customers. It's a complete website designer and online store manager with features for handling orders, marketing your shop, and tracking customers' shopping habits.
Shopify is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms on the market, and it's our favorite solution for launching an online store, whether that store is a small startup or a rapidly growing enterprise.
Pricing for Shopify ranges from $9 per month to $299 per month. However, the $9 per month option doesn't give you a complete online store, only buttons to add to a previously created website. The $79 per month Shopify plan has the best value for legitimate online stores. You can also opt for the $29 per month Basic Shopify plan if you have a smaller store. Check out our guide on Shopify pricing for the full scoop.
In terms of a print-on-demand store, Shopify serves as your storefront. You would then combine it with an app that offers the POD services and list those products on your Shopify website. That's why we recommend Printful since it's a popular POD solution in the Shopify App Store and it has a wonderful integration with Shopify.
Printful is a separate entity from Shopify. It's a completely different company that offers print-on-demand services and the products that go with it. This model allows you to design your own products (like t-shirts, mugs, and hats), list them on your website (through Shopify), and only have those products printed and sent to customers when someone purchases the item from your store.
In short, Printful acts as a printer and shipper, expanding upon the basic dropshipping model where the supplier stores your goods and only ships them when a customer wants them. This all cuts down on upfront costs, shipping backlogs, and storage costs.
Printful is free to use. The only time Printful gets paid is when you sell an item. The cost per product is higher than if you were to buy wholesale and store the inventory in your home, yet you save in many other areas of the process.
To give you an example of your costs, you may decide to design a t-shirt from Printful that's listed as $9 on the Printful website. However, you can make your own price for customers. So, you selling that shirt for $20 makes you an $11 profit.
Some other expenses include any sample products you order (they're discounted) and if you plan on using the Printful storage and fulfillment program for products not made by Printful.
💡 Note: Keep in mind that Printful isn't your only option for selling POD items through Shopify. View our article featuring the best print on demand Shopify apps to locate other options like Spocket or Printify.
Along with a beautiful design interface and a low-cost pricing model, Printful offers global fulfillment for selling to people in other countries. It has fulfillment centers inside the United States, Canada, Spain, and Latvia. The Latvia and Spain locations cover most of the EU, Eastern Europe, and parts of Asia.
Furthermore, Printful has an automated process to fulfill your order, along with white label packaging, and reviews on the products to figure out if what you're selling is high-quality. And as mentioned, you can test out the products prior to committing to them.
Here is what you will learn in this guide:
How to Set Up Your Shopify Store
The first step in the entire process involves signing up for Shopify and setting up your store. You don't need to configure every aspect of your store to link it to Printful, but it's a good idea to at least activate things like payments and your theme.
Read our Shopify tutorial here to get a full, in-depth look into making an online store with Shopify.
Here's a shortened version to help you get started quickly:
Start by going to the Shopify website and typing in your email address. Click on the Start Free Trial button to proceed.
You'll have to walk through a few signup questions prior to getting to your dashboard. However, all Shopify plans come with a free trial, so you don't have to type in any credit card information until that trial expires. This also means you can set up your website without paying for anything.
Once you're through with those initial questions, peruse the dashboard to get a good feel for it. You can view orders, products, and customers all from the main menu, along with pages for analytics, discounts, and marketing.
The first order of business is to add a Shopify theme to make your site pretty. We also want to customize the theme so it fits your brand.
To do so, click on the Online Store button in the main menu.
You may already have a default theme implemented in your dashboard. If that's the case, feel free to click on the Customize button if it works for you.
To explore the many other themes available, scroll down on the page and either click on Explore Free Themes or Visit Theme Store.
The free themes come up in the dashboard and offer nice designs without the price tag. You can test and select these themes and add them to your store right from the popup window. As an alternative, going to the Shopify Theme Store reveals a long list of premium themes, most of which have more advanced features and prices ranging from $50 to $100 (one-time fee).
Once you find a theme, activate it on Shopify to show it within the Themes pages. Now, you can click on the Customize button to change elements of the theme like the logo, color, and homepage design.
The Shopify editor gives you a frontend visual view of the website. Although it doesn't have a true drag-and-drop builder, the editor features some draggable modules on the lefthand side, where you insert content blocks and move them up and down to reorder them on the homepage and other pages.
Click on any of these content blocks to adjust the unique settings for each one. You can also add new blocks that weren't initially included with the theme. Some blocks include Images, Videos, News, and more.
As an example, Shopify has a Header block where you upload an image for your logo and include other items like your favicon and header spacing.
We recommend walking through all of those content modules to ensure every aspect of your site looks and works well.
Afterward, go back to the dashboard to configure your payments.
The payments are located in the Settings panel. The Settings button is on the lower lefthand corner of the dashboard.
Find and click on the Payments link to proceed.
You have several payment options to choose from, but the most economical is Shopify Payments. Click to activate Shopify Payments and fill in your banking information.
You also have payment methods like PayPal and Amazon Pay, just in case you'd like to offer some alternative payment methods for your customers. In addition, a third-party provider button is available if you find one that's less expensive for you or more reliable in your part of the world.
Those are the primary parts of the Shopify site that need setting up. There's much more to it than that, so we suggest you click around the dashboard to customize as much as possible. We also recommend checking out that guide we linked to for a more in-depth tutorial.
How to Connect Printful with Shopify
Your Shopify site is ready, or almost ready. Now it's time to learn how to use Printful with Shopify by connecting the two.
As mentioned earlier, Printful doesn't have any upfront fees, so you'll actually have two weeks of no payments, due to the Shopify free trial.
Connecting Shopify with Printful enables product syncing between the two, seeing as how you'll design your products in Printful and sell them on Shopify. Therefore, we need a way to present the items on your Shopify store and send all orders back to Printful.
To complete the connection process, click on the Apps menu item in the Shopify dashboard.
Select the Shop For Apps button to open the Shopify App Store.
You're more than welcome to browse around the App Store to locate other apps to enhance your business. We also suggest looking at other POD apps that may have printable products compared to Printful.
However, we prefer Printful due to a wide range of factors, primarily its quality control, fast shipping, and reasonable prices.
Therefore, search for Printful in the Shopify App Store.
Select the Printful app when you see it appear.
This brings up the entire Printful app page with information about its features and pricing, similar to any app page you would see on your Android or Apple phone.
Click the Add App button to link it to Shopify.
Click the Install App button when you get redirected back to the Shopify dashboard.
This page tells you that Printful has the ability to view your Shopify account data and complete other automated tasks like editing products and orders. These are only done with your permission.
The installation sends you to the Printful website.
Log into your account if you already have one. Otherwise, select your sign-up process: with Facebook, Apple, Google, or your email address.
Once signed up, it sends you to the Printful dashboard.
You may see a notification that your Printful account is now linked to Shopify. However, you also may have to verify your email address prior to that occurring.
Regardless, you can go to the Stores tab in the Printful menu to see if your store is activated. Look for a green Active icon to verify the connection.
You can also go back to the Shopify dashboard and click on the Apps menu item to see if the process was successful.
Scroll down on the list of installed apps to locate the Printful app.
You're now ready to start making print-on-demand items in Printful and adding them to your Shopify store with the syncing process.
Researching a Niche
An important part of selling POD products is deciding on a niche that's both in demand and something you might enjoy selling.
It's also a good idea to land on a niche that's known for its t-shirts, mugs, or other printable items like phone cases or backpacks.
Use our guide on finding a niche to get started on the right foot. We also have a tutorial on locating niche products (not just a niche for your store, which is essential when identifying the perfect fit for your POD shop).
In general, the following steps help quite a bit for landing on a niche that works for print-on-demand stores:
- Research popular industries and items on places like Google Trends and Amazon. Look for items that sell well on a regular basis or in an industry that's lucrative but still has room for your own unique printed products.
- Make a list of industries that are both profitable and you enjoy.
- Utilize the Google Keyword Planner to see if there's a chance for you to make progress with search engine optimization.
- Cut down your niche list to something that's more specific, like a specific breed of dogs instead of a general dog store.
- Once you have a store niche, think about if settling on a product niche makes sense. For example, selling phone cases with dog designs is more likely to make an impact (at least when getting started) than a store with hats, shirts, phone cases, and earrings with dog-inspired designs.
- Complete a competitor analysis by searching online and checking on which other types of businesses are selling similar products. Is the market too competitive or do you have a chance?
Choosing the Right Products
Printful offers hundreds of printable products to choose from, many of which allow for digital printing, embroidery, or direct-to-garment printing methods, just to name a few.
During your niche research, we recommend going through the Printful product library to understand what's available and factor in which items people in your industry may be more likely to purchase. For instance, you may find that dog owners love buying backpacks with dog designs to carry treats and toys.
To look at the product selection, go to Printful and click on the Stores tab.
Find your Shopify store and select the Add Product button.
A popup window appears for you to filter and search through the myriad of products available for printing.
They're organized from most popular to least popular, and they have a few collections that may help with the categorization on your store.
For instance, they have a Men's Clothing section, one for Women's Clothing, Jackets, Hoodies, and more.
Scroll down a bit further to peruse other interesting items like pillows, stickers, accessories, hats, and bean bags.
Some of these products are far more likely to sell than others, so we recommend checking out the Printful blog to learn about the items that are more likely to make you a profit. It may seem fun to sell bean bag chairs, but I can't imagine they're that lucrative.
As mentioned, the higher items on this filtered list are the ones that sell the most.
Therefore, it's not a bad idea to start your store with shirts only, seeing as how those make the most money.
After you find a bit of success, consider expanding into other clothing items like pants or hats. We've also found that stickers are becoming more popular.
Researching the products you want to sell is of the utmost importance, especially considering each product category has multiple styles, colors, and brands.
For instance, the Men's T-shirt section offers a handful of shirts. Go to the bottom area of each product listing to figure out which product works best for you.
The first Bella + Canva shirt has a cost of $12.95 (your product cost, not what you'll be selling it for), thousands of good reviews, and numerous color options.
The Gildan shirt, on the other hand, is much cheaper for you, but you're stuck with only five colors, most of which are different shades of black and white.
The Bella + Canva shirt is usually the best route, but you also may be able to boost your profits by selling all of your black and white designs as the Gildan t-shirt.
Regardless, we encourage you to continue your research by clicking on each product.
You can check the detailed reviews to see what people like and don't like about the item.
They also have a Pricing tab where you learn about the additional costs factored into each product. A simple design printed on the front of a t-shirt won't affect the cost, but anything extra, like a print on the sleeve, raises the cost.
Finally, select the Info tab to check on the product specifications and materials. There's an incredible amount of information here that may sway your decision to go with the shirt or not.
For instance, most Bella + Canva shirts (it depends on the color) are 100% cotton. That may not align with your business if you're thinking about selling the absolute softest t-shirts on the market. However, many people also like cotton t-shirts, so it's a reliable and sturdy option. You can also see information like if the shirt has a tear-away label and if the athletic or heathered colors are softer with other materials.
How to Design Products, Make Mockups, and Upload Them to Your Store
Creating a mockup and uploading a product all happens in the Printful dashboard, whereas the original design process can be done with third-party software, by hiring a designer, making your own designs, or by opting for the design services provided by Printful.
First off, we'll talk about how to add a product to Printful. This process involves pricing your item, putting the design on the product, and syncing it with your Shopify site.
To begin, click on the Add Product button for the right store inside the Printful dashboard.
Browse the list of products available and select a category to choose a specific product.
For this tutorial, we'll go with the bestselling Bella + Canvas shirt seeing as how it's fairly affordable and has many colors.
This brings you to a page to configure your design. You must click on the area of the mockup that asks you to Drop Design Here.
It functions as a media upload tool, with options to either upload an original design from your computer or choose from some sample files made by Printful.
For this example, we'll choose one of the sample designs from Printful. Click a design you like to have it uploaded to Printful.
Printful adds the design to the preview model. You're able to change the size and location of the design by clicking on the editing tools and dragging it to the optimal position.
To the left, the designer page has several buttons to expand upon what you already have. For instance, you can add text, clipart, or a quick design. They even have a button to look at and buy premium images.
Consider further managing what your design looks like by changing the rotation, alignment, and how much it gets cropped.
Some products in Printful offer ways to print on multiple areas of the item. T-shirts, for example, usually have tabs to put a design on the back, label, and sleeve.
Again, click on the Drop Design Here button to upload an image that's appropriate for that part of the shirt.
Keep an eye on the pricing for your products as every additional element pushes the price higher, making it more costly for you.
As you can see, the price range went up after I included the sleeve design.
We also encourage you to select multiple colored shirts and whichever sizes you want to make available on your website. You can also choose your printing method.
All of the color and sizing options appear under the Product tab, so you may have to click on that to open the preferences away from the Design tab.
To continue, click on the Proceed to Media button.
The next page asks you to select your product mockups. Printful provides a wide range of mockups where your design gets placed onto a human model or in a photo to present it as you would see in the real world.
Go ahead and scroll through the mockup options. Then, choose the one that looks best for your business. Keep in mind that all Printful items have different mockups. Having said that, product mockups are known to improve your sales, so it's prudent to have them on your site. In addition, you cut down any time and money required to hold a photoshoot for your online store.
Moving onward, you'll see a pop-up window to edit fields for the product title, description, and sizing guide.
These fields dictate what eventually gets synced to your online store. Although Printful provides some decent copy, we recommend rewriting all of these to align with your branding and provide a better reading experience.
Also on the popup, you can add tags, product collections, and free shipping markers.
Click the button to Proceed to Pricing when you're done.
Printful has a pricing tool that tells you the Printful Price (your cost per item), along with the Retail Price, and your Profit.
You can type in your desired profit for each item after factoring in all of your costs to make each shirt. You can increase the Printful Price by a dollar number or percentage, then look at the last column to see how much profit that would make you.
Don't forget to fill in the pricing for all product sizes. It's common to make the rather large items a little more expensive.
After that, click on the Submit to Store button.
This syncs all product details like pricing, mockups, and descriptions, to your Shopify site.
Once it's done, look under your store to see which products have been synced.
Also, navigate to your Shopify store to view the new product in your Products list.
Finally, take a look at the product on the frontend of your store. Check for typos and missing information, and think about whether or not you like the way the product page looks overall.
A looming question remains: how do you go about making designs or acquiring designs that sell?
You have three options to consider for sourcing designs:
- Hire a designer.
- Make the designs yourself.
- Pay for a t-shirt design database or premade vector images.
Hiring a designer is one of the easiest ways to get high-quality designs for your products. However, I've also experienced situations where I pay more money than I ever imagined for a design and it doesn't turn out great. This is definitely one of the more expensive routes, but you can save money and filter out the lower quality designers by looking at agency and freelancer portfolios.
Here are some recommendations of places to locate freelancers and agencies to make custom designs:
- Printful has its own team of in-house designers to hire.
- 99designs offers a platform for viewing design portfolios and running contests to see which designer creates the best artwork for your store.
- PeoplePerHour, Upwork, and Fiverr all offer marketplaces for locating designers. Do your research, because although many of the services are cheap it's harder to find top-notch workers.
- DeviantArt, and many other designer showcase websites, allow you to look through beautiful designs and potentially contact those that align with your brand.
- Penji runs like an agency but with subscription-based design services where you pay around $400 per month for an unlimited number of designs. The results look promising and it's a great way to save money if you plan on having lots of designs in your store, or ongoing work for the Penji team.
One way to save money is to make the designs yourself. Starting a design from scratch is only recommended if you have training and experience with tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. Don't try to learn to be a professional designer if you don't already have training. It's unlikely anyone will want to buy your work.
However, for those with a little design experience and the willingness to learn, you're able to utilize one of the many visual design tools that help beginners produce professional designs. Some of our favorite online design tools include:
- PlaceIt – An incredible subscription service for generating beautiful merchandise designs and the mockups to go with them. This is our first recommendation for all merchandise sellers on Printful. The company was made specifically for situations like this.
- Canva – Work with the many t-shirts and merchandise design templates provided for you. Canva provides a simple drag-and-drop editor and options to export your designs or even have them printed through Canva. We highly recommend testing out the free version to see if it works for you.
The final option is to pay for a t-shirt design database or a vector/stock image subscription. The idea behind this strategy is to locate finished creations that the designers sell for lower prices. You also may simply want to choose stock images or vectors to make for simpler product designs, or to complement some text you add to a t-shirt, mug, or backpack.
Some databases to look into include:
- Getty Images – Printful actually gives you access to some of the Getty images library as an active user. It's best for vectors and stock images.
- Vecteezy – One of the best, and least expensive, marketplaces for finding modern vector graphics for your designs. There's a free membership and an affordable premium membership to get the best content.
- FreeVector – An alternative to Vecteezy that may have some different designs to choose from. We suggest checking both Vecteezy and FreeVector when looking for new vectors.
- BuyTshirtDesigns – This site sells print-ready t-shirt and merchandise designs, often packaged into bundles to get the best bang for your buck.
- TshirtFactory – Yet another premade vector merch and t-shirt collection where you pay for a themed bundle to use on many of your products.
- Designous – Offers editable t-shirt and merch designs ready to import to Printful.
Ordering Test Items
So far, we've mentioned that it's possible to order test items prior to listing the products on your Shopify store and selling them to customers.
Here's the golden rule with product samples: never assume that a product example is a waste of time and money. Have a sample of every product you plan on selling sent to your home. It's hard to tell whether or not your design will print well on a certain color, and the last thing you want is a bunch of returns or chargebacks from customers.
Having said that, let's explore how Printful handles product samples, along with the steps you take to order a sample and send it to your doorstep.
To begin, here are some important points that relate to your product samples:
- All samples from Printful are discounted, starting at 20% off the base price (that's the cost of the item, not how much you charge for it on your store).
- You can make one sample order per month.
- Each order allows for three samples within that order.
- There are ways to increase the number of sample orders allowed by Printful. It depends on how many sales you have.
- Some locations receive free shipping for their product samples.
- Blatant abuse of the sample policy is grounds for account deactivation.
- The sample orders get shipped to you exactly as they would your customers. So examine everything from the packaging, the return address, the product, and the receipt insert, as you want to make your brand look as professional as possible.
To order a sample, go to the Printful website and click on the New Order button.
It's usually visible in the upper right hand corner but they also place the New Order button in other areas, like under the Stores tab and while you're designing your products.
This brings up a popup that asks you to either create a Basic Order or a Sample Order. Basic orders are great if you need to manually type in an order that came in from a customer. You can also use it to get more samples if the sample restrictions are too limiting for you.
However, we suggest starting out with the sample orders, since you receive a 20% off discount. As explained earlier, you're limited to one order per month with three products in each order. Those limits are increased as you bring in more sales.
Click on the Create Your Order button to proceed.
Moving forward, Printful explains the limit on only including three products in your order.
Select the Add Product button to choose which products you want to include with the sample order.
The next popup window asks you to choose a product variant. For example, you may have created a shirt with multiple sizes and colors. They want you to select which ones they should send as samples.
As a rule of thumb, go for a size that would work for you. If ordering a shirt, get a size that fits you. If you're ordering a painting, consider a size that'll look nice in your home. After all, you are actually purchasing the item, so you can use it yourself.
Also, consider which variants you have questions about. For instance, you may have a design with red colors that may not look that great when printed on a light red shirt. If you're concerned in any way, order a sample.
On this page, click the Choose button for the variants you want to add to the sample order.
Next, take a look at the quantity and pricing. You should see the base cost for that product, along with the 20% discount applied for the sample order.
If everything looks satisfactory, click on the Continue to Shipping button.
The following page includes an address book area to add sample recipients. Use this module to send samples to other people in your organization. If it's only you, skip to the part where you fill in your name and contact information.
The address fields are the most important, as these determine your shipping rates for the samples.
Scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Calculate Shipping button.
You'll now see options for shipping. If you're located in one of the preferred areas, click on Free Shipping. Otherwise, go for the Flat Rate shipping option, which is usually fairly cheap anyway.
Again, double-check the total price for your sample. They add tax to the total but other than that it should be cheaper than the actual cost you would usually pay for the item.
Select the Continue to Review button.
This page shows where your product is shipping from. You have the ability to change the shipping location in your main profile and shipping settings.
You can fund your Printful wallet (which is an excellent idea for future orders) or pay for the sample item by typing in your credit card information.
Finally, check the total price one more time and click on the Pay Securely Now button.
This activates the sample order, sends you an email to track that order, and starts the process for shipping the product to your doorstep.
We can't over-express the importance of ordering samples when selling through a POD store with Printful and Shopify. So many problems happen if you start sending out items that haven't gone through a proper quality control process. Yes, Printful has its own quality control, but designer error often comes into play where you may have uploaded a blurry image or one that doesn't print well on certain colors.
It's a small price to pay for making your customers happy and removing the chances of multiple returns, or worse, chargebacks (which could end up costing you more money than the actual product). It's a wise choice in the process of learning how to use Printful with Shopify.
Brand Your Store
Now it's time to turn back to your Shopify store. You may have already synced a few products between Shopify and Printful and added them to a collection, though it's essential to customize your online store to ensure that it has the right style. For instance, selling outdoor-oriented phone cases may require a rustic logo with green and brown colors. On the other hand, a parenting-themed merchandise store might stick to whimsical fonts and blue, pink, or yellow colors.
Luckily, Shopify makes it easy to complete these changes.
As the basic modifications, we recommerce looking into the following customization settings:
- Your logo.
- Store and domain name.
- The primary website colors.
- All multimedia elements.
A few of the previous sections in this article outline how to insert a logo and grab a domain name. Use those steps to manage your site identity. We also have a guide on how to create your own Shopify logo with the Hatchful Logo Builder. Use that as a starting point to either make a logo or establish which style you want to go with. We also suggest looking into how to add a favicon, since that comes into play for branding as well.
As for the primary website colors, all aspects of your Shopify theme customization happen within the theme editor.
Go to Online Store > Themes > Customize in the Shopify dashboard.
Each element of the theme's design is stacked as a content item in the leftside panel.
However, the global customization settings are located in the Theme Settings.
Therefore, click on the Theme Settings button in the lower-left corner.
To adjust all the colors on your website, click on the Colors tab.
You have several settings to modify. Some of them may not need any changes, but we recommend you at least test out each of them to see if you can make them more suitable for your brand.
For example, when we change the Background color we immediately see it rendered in the visual editor.
Feel free to go through all of these color options, like the colors for headings, text, backgrounds, and menus.
For fonts, go back one step to click on the Typography button.
Each Shopify theme is different, but you can usually adjust fonts for the headings and body text.
As a quick example, you can look at the heading text on the right side of the screenshot below.
Making a change to another font reveals the results in the visual editor. As you can see, we're now using a Garamond font instead of a Helvetica font.
The last order of business for branding your store involves checking on all media items already on your website.
Do you need to replace demo content from the theme to make it more suitable for your company? Is it possible that some of the images or videos you uploaded already don't look great in their current format?
Click on all of the media-oriented content modules to make them as professional and relevant as possible. For instance, you may need to modify the image or video module to reflect what you're selling, especially if you have new product designs coming in from Printful.
Price Your Products
Selecting the right price establishes how much money you can make from your sales and how likely people are to purchase your products. Price an item too high and you may end up losing customers. Price an item too low and you miss out on potential profits.
This section of how to use Printful with Shopify details how to configure your profit margins within Printful (which then syncs with Shopify, along with tips on how to formulate your pricing strategy overall).
Starting out, it's important to understand how Printful pricing works and which tools are available for factoring in costs and profit margins.
A wonderful place to start is the Printful Payments Guide, which contains a profit calculator for a handful of commonly sold products. The interactive calculator lets you type in theoretical quantities and pricing. Based on the costs, it then shows the profit for your sales.
The real pricing calculator comes into play when you add and design a product inside Printful.
The first time we see costs, or the amount you must pay Printful in order to sell one of their products, is when you search for a new product inside the Printful dashboard.
As you can see, we can look at several hats and compare their costs, along with other benefits like the number of colors and ratings.
It appears most hats cost $14-$15, so that means we must think of a price that's higher than $14-$15 yet not too high so as to scare away customers. Everything on top of that $15 is profit for your store.
After designing the product and typing in details, click on the Proceed to Pricing button.
This brings you to the page where you determine your profit margins.
Much like the mock calculator on the Printful website, this popup shows the Printful Price (or your cost for that item), the Retail Price (a suggested price and a field to type in your own retail price), and the Profit (calculated based on your retail pricing).
You can also decide to increase the Printful Price by a default dollar amount or a percentage to make it easier. This way, every product you create could render a 30% profit, or maybe you want to make a flat $10 on every item you sell. In general, it's best to manually price every product and stick with a percentage for your margins.
Now the looming question: what's the right price?
That's a tough one, but we have some thoughts and tips to guide you:
- No one will buy a product that's not in demand or has a poor design, regardless of your pricing.
- Sometimes even a high-quality item won't sell if it's priced too high.
- Printful has recommended pricing for all of its items. That's a great starting point if you're unsure.
- Printful offers monthly discounts for up to 9% off based on your sales volume.
And here are some tips on how to factor in your total costs so that your profit margins cover everything:
- Include marketing and website management costs into your overall costs.
- Include design fees, subscriptions, advertising, and other expenses into the costs you need to make up with your profits.
- Consider offering free shipping, but factor this into your overall pricing for each product.
- If charging for shipping, make it abundantly clear throughout the sales process. Also, try to keep shipping costs on the lower side, as its one of the main reasons customers abandon their carts.
Publish Necessary Legal and Informational Pages
Learning how to use Printful with Shopify brings forth many situations where you have to follow local and federal laws. That goes for where you plan on running your business and sometimes where you ship your products.
Because of this, it's important to publish the necessary legal and informational pages on your website, many of which provide details about the following:
- Your return/refund policy.
- Shipping policy.
- Terms of service.
Luckily, Shopify offers a Legal page builder which automatically generates appropriate language for those pages. All you have to do is implement the right template and read through it to change anything that's different for your company. Shopify also automatically inserts your company name and customer support email based on the contact information you have in your Shopify settings.
To generate these pages, go to Settings > Legal in the Shopify dashboard.
You'll find four fields for the necessary legal and informational pages, all of which are empty when you start out. You can either type in your own policies or click on the Replace With Template button to pull from the suggested language provided by Shopify.
For instance, you can choose the template for your Refund Policy and it shows up in the field.
They also have one for the Terms of Service.
Again, we highly recommend that you still read through all of these policies and make any necessary changes. The last thing you want is to not know what's going on with your legal documentation.
The last field is for the Shipping Policy. Since this is usually so unique to each individual company, Shopify doesn't offer a template.
Instead, check out the Printful Shipping page to pull information and copy it into your Shipping Policy page. Fill in details like shipping rates and speeds to certain locations, along with different shipping times for certain products.
The last part is to ensure your customers have access to a link to these pages.
It's commonplace to include links to legal pages in the footer of your website. It's not necessary to have them on your main menu. You also may consider having links to your Shipping and Return policy on product pages. Some Shopify themes include these by default.
To add legal pages to your menu, go to Online Store > Navigation in the Shopify dashboard.
Click on the Footer menu or create a new menu if you plan on placing these legal page links somewhere else.
Remember, it's not suggested you put the legal page links in your main menu. That only clutters up the navigation, and the main menu is best used for directing customers to your product pages and categories.
Click the Add Menu Item button.
Select the Link field to reveal a dropdown of suggested links and pages already created on your website.
Scroll through the choices to land on the Policies button.
This shows all the Policy pages you already created.
For instance, we can add the Privacy, Refund, and Terms of Services pages all in the same footer menu.
Add them one by one and watch as they get placed into the list of links in your footer menu.
Be sure to click the Save Menu button for the changes to appear on the frontend of your website.
Now, go to the frontend of your website and scroll to the footer at the bottom.
As you can see, all three of those page links are now shown in the footer menu.
It's also a good idea to actually click those links to see how they appear on your website. The screenshot below is the Refund Policy.
If you notice any typos or wrong information, go back into the Legal section of Shopify to fix the errors.
Here are a few other legal tips to cover while you build your POD store:
- Printful asks that you submit legal and tax information before selling.
- Make sure you look up business licensing requirements in your area.
- Speak to a tax professional to figure out how much you have to charge to cover your own tax expenses.
Billing and Shipping
Running a Printful Print On Demand store through Shopify means that you collect all payments through Shopify. Most payment gateways charge a standard 2.9% +$0.30 per transaction fee for credit cards. Everything else gets deposited into your own account.
That leaves a separate part of billing that still needs to be covered. In short, your Printful costs aren't automatically paid when you make a sale through Shopify. Therefore, you're required to add a payment method in Printful so that all of those costs get covered.
Let's break that down into a few steps:
- The customer pays you through the Shopify store.
- The payment gateway collects a credit card fee and gives you the entire profit.
- None of that money goes to Printful automatically.
- Your Printful payment method (or Printful wallet) gets charged whenever a sale is made.
With two dashboards (Printful and Shopify) you must always maintain enough money inside your Printful wallet to pay off the base product costs.
As an alternative, you can simply put a credit card or checking account on file for Printful to automatically withdraw from your accounts.
Printful also offers a Payments page for you to see all past payments and download reports for your own records. You can cross-reference with Shopify reports and check every month or quarter to ensure the costs line up and you're making enough to cover all expenses.
As for shipping, we already talked about how to add a shipping page to your website. That's an essential part of informing your customers and managing expectations.
The good news is that Printful has a strong track record for delivering products in a timely manner. However, this is a print-on-demand operation, so the processing times get added to the overall shipping time, making it a little longer than if you were to ship a ready-to-go product from a warehouse.
Here are some thoughts to keep in mind about shipping when learning how to use Printful with Shopify:
- Printful takes about 2-7 days to print and fulfill an order. Most items are closer to 2 days, but you should remember that this time is all before it actually gets shipped.
- The average shipping time from Printful is around four days. So you should add this to the printing and fulfillment time.
- Shipping rates are based on the customer's location, the type of item, and how many products are in the order. For instance, a shirt costs $3.99 to ship to the USA but $4.39 to ship to Europe. All additional shirts in the order cost about an extra $1. Products matter too. A hoodie costs $6.50 to ship in the USA.
- The warehousing and fulfillment services from Printful provide same-day shipping for items that are already created.
- The Printful Shopify integration provides the option for live shipping rates, where the shipping costs are automatically calculated for the customer.
These shipping rates and times could also factor into which types of products you decide to sell in the first place. For instance, most jewelry shipped by Printful has a $0 shipping cost for almost every country that Printful services. That's a rather intriguing incentive to opt for a jewelry store.
On the other hand, some larger framed posters have shipping rates of $29.95 per product in the USA (and even higher shipping rates when sent to other countries), making those large products a little less desirable. However, you can typically explain this to customers seeing as how they should know that a massive poster with a frame is going to cost more to ship.
How to Customize Your Packing Slips and Return Labels
Printful provides packing slips with all products sent out through the company. Not only that, but you can brand each packing slip for free, by including your logo and information like your support contact details.
The packing slips also serve as receipts, making it easy for your customers to understand what they paid and purchased.
To customize the packing slips, go to Settings > Packing Slip in Printful.
Upload your logo (it will show in black and white), type in your customer support email, an optional phone number, and a message to your customer.
You can also select the Preview button to get an idea of what the packing slip looks like as a real print.
The printed version of the packing slip has a barcode for scanning, your logo, and all the necessary receipt information like the return address (talked about below) and the products purchased.
This is also an excellent opportunity to write a fun message and prompt those customers to visit your social media or use a coupon code when they come back to your store. Keep in mind that you can't have links on your packing slip so you'll have to generate coupon codes in Shopify and spell out URLs, as long as they're not too long and confusing.
It's also worth mentioning that Printful places a return address on all shipping and package slips, for when a customer wants to return an item.
The return address, by default, shows the closest Printful warehouse to your customer's location. This makes the return process much easier for you, seeing as how Printful collects all of the items and either uses them for a new order or disposes of them.
You also have an option to change that return address (from the default North Carolina location) if you'd rather the returned items get sent to your home, office, or other fulfillment company.
Receiving and Fulfilling Your Orders
Printful offers several fulfillment centers to choose from, some of which are set by default based on the shipping location, while others you can swap out if you plan on shipping to specific countries more than others.
To configure your fulfillment locations, go to Settings > Stores > Orders in Printful.
Right now, backup facilities are being used (due to Covid) all over the world to send out Printful orders. So you don't have much of a choice when it comes to fulfillment facilities. However, this section usually shows a few options to choose from.
Scroll down on the page and look for the Order Import Settings.
These settings indicate to Printful how you want to activate the printing and fulfillment process. On one hand, you could manually confirm all orders. On the other hand, there's a setting to automatically confirm orders as they come in through your Shopify store.
Although automated orders seem like the best bet, keep an eye on your orders and returns to make sure no fraudulent or fake orders are getting through. The main reason you would want to opt for manual order confirmation is to block the ones that are clearly fraudulent.
It's also not a bad idea to look into the Product Alternatives settings.
In short, checking the box tells Printful that you're willing to swap out a comparable product for the print if the original item is no longer in stock. Rest assured, Printful won't send out a women's shirt when you wanted a men's shirt. They only stick to alternatives that are almost exactly the same as what you selected from before. In general, they simply choose a different brand in the same size and color.
Finally, consider setting up your shipping notifications so that you know exactly when an order comes in and when it gets shipped to a customer.
Manage these settings by going to Settings > Notifications in the Printful dashboard.
Select the Orders and Products tab to get a long list of notification options.
Most of them are checked by default, but you should examine important notifications like Shipments and Products. Also think about receiving notifications in the Printful dashboard or App, as an additional way to see messages on top of the emails being sent.
With those notifications, you always know when an order comes in. You can then check the processing orders inside Printful and Shopify, seeing as how both of the platforms record the sales. In addition, you may have to go into Printful to manually activate fulfillment for all orders if you have that setting in place.
Selling on Other Marketplaces
Launching a POD store with Printful and Shopify means that you have the opportunity to sell on other platforms as well. It's easy to configure a Shopify store, but you also want to expand your reach where potential customers hang out online.
Some of these platforms include Amazon, eBay, and social networks like Facebook.
Therefore, we recommend setting up a connection between Shopify and those marketplaces depending on where else you want to sell.
To make this happen, you must go to the Shopify dashboard and locate the Sales Channels section of the menu. There's a “+” icon to click on and add any sales channel you want. This section offers several recommended sales channels, but you can also go to the app store to find more if needed.
As you can see, a wide variety of sales channels are available by default. Feel free to link to eBay, Etsy, your point of sale, or a Buy Button to place on other places like a blog. They even have options for you to sell on Facebook Messenger and Google Shopping.
As mentioned, you always have the option to click on the App Store link to seek out other channel apps.
They even have a collection of apps within the App Store called “Places to Sell.”
Facebook is considered a viable sales channel where you build a store on Facebook and sync the Shopify products with that social shop. Amazon has an app as well. The list goes on with options like Apple, Google, TikTok, and more.
Every time you add a new channel it shows up below that Sales Channels menu item. You can remove them whenever you want and add more whenever necessary.
One element to consider is that each sales channel has its own way of getting set up with the systems. Amazon, for example, requires you to open an Amazon store that's certified and approved for selling. Only after that can you link a store to your Shopify dashboard and start syncing your products. The same can be said for eBay, Google, and Facebook. You'll have to walk through the configuration for each platform in order to ensure everything works properly during your process of learning how to use Printful with Shopify.
Marketing Your Printful Products
A marketing strategy for printed products may sound like an intimidating endeavor, yet it's rather simple when working with Shopify. Printful doesn't offer many marketing solutions, but it does have solid mockups for you to use in campaigns for social media, email marketing, and on your website.
Shopify, however, serves as your go-to hub for constructing a top-notch marketing plan, whether that's through social media, email marketing, or advertising online.
To get started with marketing on Shopify, go to the Marketing menu item.
This reveals a myriad of options to choose from including the multiple email marketing apps, Snapchat Ads, and Microsoft Advertising.
You can install any marketing app you want from the Shopify App Store, of which there are many.
However, we enjoy the simplicity of the Create Campaign button, since it already has prebuilt campaigns and suggestions for the most popular platforms and sites where people tend to do their shopping.
Therefore, click on the View Campaign Templates button or the Create Campaign button. Both open a popup for launching individual marketing campaigns. Not to mention, your products get synced with the marketing campaigns so you can link directly to them.
You can switch through the categorized tabs to begin campaigns for Ads, Emails, Social Media, SMS, and more.
The Email tab offers an option to start creating email newsletters for your customers, all linked to your website and its product pages. You can also install a third-party email marketing app, since those typically have more features anyway.
There's also a Social Post tab in the marketing section. The primary way to make a social post is through Facebook, but it provides options to link your online store to other social networks, including Twitter and Pinterest.
Overall, you have a seemingly endless supply of apps and settings for marketing products through Shopify. We suggest you browse around in the Marketing section of Shopify but also go to the App Store to discover tools for getting reviews, launching loyalty programs, and running email marketing campaigns for all of your products. In addition, they have various apps for getting your products listed on search engine sales platforms like Google and Microsoft.
As a final note, Shopify offers several areas for configuring your SEO (search engine optimization), so make sure you look into that to boost your organic traffic.
Handling Customer Support
You may have heard about dropshipping, or a dropshipping store, in the past. Dropshipping has various pros (very inexpensive to start selling) and cons (shipping takes a long time). Printful is technically a dropshipping solution in that it fulfills the orders and sends them to your customers without you even touching the products.
However, it's all part of a POD system, so it has an advantage over regular dropshipping. The primary advantage is that Printful manages its own warehouses and can accept returns if someone sends back an item.
That means you don't have to worry much about accepting returns to your home or office.
However, you still need to handle aspects of customer support, like answering questions about returns, sales, and specific products.
When learning how to use Printful with Shopify, we recommend the following for handling customer support:
- Always have Printful's address on the return slip. This way you don't have to worry about accepting those returns.
- Include a chatbox on your Shopify store to answer quick questions and provide information to those in need.
- Always order samples so that you have a strong knowledge about your products. It's also a good idea to keep reference sheets and a link to the Printful product specs pages in case you need to get specific about a sizing or brand question.
- Include an email contact form as your main form of support. Although a phone number would be nice for people to call, it's often unrealistic when getting started.
- Compile a list of FAQs and publish them on a separate page. As the list grows, combine them into a knowledgebase for customers to search for answers.
- Include as much information about each product on the product pages, such as sizing charts, shipping times, and return policies.
From linking the two platforms to designing products, and handling orders to customer support, the Shopify and Printful POD combination makes for a wonderful ecommerce ecosystem. You have other options in Teespring, WooCommerce, and BigCommerce, but the Shopify and Printful integration works so well that we wouldn't recommend anything else.
Not only can you design your own products and use the mockup generator, but the products don't get printed until someone actually comes to your site and makes a purchase. That means no storage fees, minimal shipping hassles, and a decent amount of quality control for those who order test products prior to shipping to customers. In addition, Printful has a reasonable pricing structure and reviews for all products for you to decide on the best ones.
We wish you the best of luck on your Printful/Shopify POD journey. Let us know in the comments sections below if you have any questions about how to use Printful with Shopify for selling print-on-demand items.