To the non-techie, “API” (or Application Programming Interface) can sound like an incredibly daunting thing. But fear not, the API is here to make your life easier, not give you headaches. Here you’ll learn more about the API, find out if it’s for you, and learn about the ways automated drop-shipping can save you money, frustration, and time.
API Basics – what does it do?
API stands for “Application Programming Interface“. This is what makes two applications (in this case, your e-commerce store and Printful) communicate to each other.
The practical use in the case of Printful is that by connecting your store and Printful via API, all of your orders on your store are automatically sent to Printful to be fulfilled. It’s useful if your store doesn’t have an integration already made (we’ve got integrations for Shopify, WooCommerce, Big Cartel, Storenvy, Bigcommerce, and Gumroad), or if your store has more complicated and demanding needs for its order fulfillment, that isn’t covered by default ecom stores or our plug-and-play integrations.
Full custom integrations that save time and money
Besides saving you time, the API makes your life easier. By automating different processes, you’re also making sure that your customers get faster results, and since technology (specifically a server) is managing these processes, it leaves less room for human error (which is understandable, but by avoiding error you save money – no more re-shipments because of a typo in the address).
Because of the API, you can completely customize your store’s integration. That lets you do things that other platforms don’t let you do, or that might be unique to your own product.
For example – when you have custom print files
The online store of inspiring quotes called Behappy.me (one of our sister sites) has thousands of individual products (thousands of quotes, all available on several products like t-shirts, posters, mugs and more). If they were to connect to Shopify, it would take an unimaginable time to add each different product to the Shopify integration. So much manual work doesn’t make sense. But with the API, you can generate unique, on-demand or customized orders. For example, if you generate a completely different print file for each order (say, if it includes a name).
You’ll need a programmer
Here’s the downside – if you don’t have programming experience, it’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to connect the API to your store by yourself. This is one of those situations when you just have to bite the bullet and get some external help from a programmer who can set it up for you.
However there are some ways around it – we’ve built a few solutions that easily integrate with your ecom store. We have integrations for Shopify, WooCommerce, Big Cartel, Storenvy, Bigcommerce, and Gumroad. These will connect your store to Printful.
Other things you can do with the API:
Automatic shipping notifications: this one of the things that can be done with the “webhooks” function (which essentially tells you any changes to your order). Through the API you can find out automatically when your client’s order was shipped, their shipping info, tracking number, and automatically have the email sent to them. Groovy, eh?
Other things that can be done through webhooks are finding out if your order has been cancelled or failed for some reason (like an invalid print file)
Accurate shipping rates based on your customer’s location: this way when you have an international customer, and a local customer ordering your stuff, you can charge them the shipping that they need. So that no one gets cheated, and so that you don’t have any surprises when it turns out that your shipping price is more than your profit.
There are so many other features that we won’t bore you with right now, that will make your developer’s life so much easier. Help them out, send them this link: https://www.printful.com/docs
How you can get started
To get started, we’ve made sure that there are client libraries available for a few programming languages to make your life easier. Those languages are: PHP, Ruby, Python, Node.js
You can play around with our API to check out how it works by using the “Try it” function available on our documentation page:
We’re always looking for feedback on how we can make the process easier for you, your team, your programmer, etc. Drop us a line if you have any suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org