The personal website of Chris Coyier

WooCommerce + Printify: Almost!

Printify is a pretty neat company. They print custom designs onto products and ship them. (Printful is a similar alternative).

They are the technology middle man. They don’t actually do the printing, they outsource that to actual printing companies around the world. Those companies print and then ship the product. Printify is very upfront about this, and you can see which products are printed and shipped by what companies.

Printify is the website where you pick the products, design them, price them, and list them for sale.

It is also the dashboard where you can see the status of all orders.

What it’s not is a storefront. Printify expects you to bring your own storefront website. Meaning a Shopify site or BigCommerce site or even an Etsy account (that feels weird to me, isn’t Etsy like homemade goods not dropshipped stuff? But OK).

As a WordPress person, WooCommerce is the interesting one to me. You don’t even need a special plugin to make it work, Printify uses the WooCommerce APIs already on your site to make it all happen. You even create and manage the products right on Printify, and it syncs those products over to your WooCommerce store.

Once that’s set up, now people order directly from your store and Printify immediately gets the order. They farm that order out to of their printing partners who prints and ships it directly to the customer. This is all appealing, as it means you can have a nice store on your site and have to manage very little.

I once worked with my friend Sara Cope for years and years on a product-shipping business. Sara had multiple walls of her house filled with products that she would package and ship. This meant that:

  1. We had to print the products ahead of time, always keeping an inventory
  2. Packaging and shipping was entirely manual, involving literally driving to the post office to send things.
  3. People didn’t get shipping notifications. We’d have to dig up reciepts and stuff.

An awful lot of work. The big idea is that if you grow large enough you can finesse the margins to be worth it. We never really got there.

If you don’t really care about making all that much money, you just think having a store would be neat because it’s fun and good for your brand or whatever, this Printify + WooCommerce setup is far easier to handle.

That’s not to say that you can’t make money though. Because it’s your storefront and you collect the money, you can charge whatever you want. The trick is making sure you’re charging well over what Printify charges you (make sure to factor in shipping costs correctly!).

The kicker is that because you’re the storefront and you’re making money off the top (hopefully), you’re also the customer support.

People buy things from your store, so it’s absolutely sensible that you are who they contact with questions and problems about their order. This is an email that you’re definitely going to get:

So now that’s your problem, and the solution is to go to the Printify dashboard, find the order, and see what kind of state it’s in.

  • Sometimes the order is stuck somehow and you have to kick it along.
  • If it’s too early, you won’t have any information about the order other than, perhaps, that it’s “In production” and they’ll just have to wait.
  • If the item has shipped, you can get tracking information from the dashboard, and then pass it along to them.

That last one is a bit helpful, but tracking on international orders isn’t very helpful. I’m in the US (and our products ship from printers in the US) so the tracking tends to stop when the product leaves the country. (This makes me think I should look at products that have international printers as well as domestic… hmm…)

Shipping, in general, is long. I don’t have a great understanding of it since people don’t exactly write to me to tell me when they’ve gotten their item, but from what I can tell, domestic orders are at least a couple of weeks, and international orders are at least 6 weeks. Not terrible, but longer than most people expect.

Here’s the weird part.

I can put an order in directly right from the Printify dashboard. If I do, I can check this all-important checkbox, which automatically sends me tracking information:

And it totally works!

Printify even goes so far as to not brand the email, so it looks like it comes from our store.

But!

If an order comes from WooCommerce, that checkbox isn’t checked, so the customer never gets a shipping/tracking notification.

Only if you catch the order right after they place, hop into the Printify dashboard and edit the order such that it has that checkbox checked will they.

If that one thing was fixed, it would reduce like 80% of customer support emails. That’s what the “Almost!” refers to in the post title. I feel like this one little issue with the integration is almost enough to not use it. I’m curious if it’s just a bug, or some setting that I’m missing, or what, but I’ve tried customer support and they confirmed it:

So, if you wish for your customers to receive the tracking via email, you can edit the order and tick the box before sending it to production.