We’re entering mid-November, a magical time when people are reviewing their end-of-the-year to-do lists while getting into the holiday spirit.
You’ve probably realized by now that retailers both online and off take certain measures to prepare for this frenzy. With each day bringing us closer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, anyone who’s selling anything is going over their arsenal of peak season provisions.
We’ve also been checking things off our pre-holiday prep list. To put your mind at ease, we’ll be telling you about the most important ones in this blog post. Read on to find out what Printful is doing this holiday season and pick up a few tips for your store while you’re at it.
This is our 4th holiday season. With 200+ people currently on our fulfillment team and more than 1,000,000 shirts printed this year alone, we’ve gained a fair share of experience that helps us tackle each holiday season with a better idea of what to expect.
Although each year is slightly different, one thing stays the same – we start our prep well in advance, and no matter what else is going on at the time, peak season becomes our number one priority.
These are the highlights of what we did to prepare for last year. You can think of this as the holy trifecta of our pre-holiday prep, things that we repeat year after year:
- Taking on seasonal fulfillment staff to print your orders
- Hiring more customer support reps to field your questions
- Actively communicating with our suppliers and stocking up on our most popular products to minimize re-stock delays
So we have the experience and the foundations of our holiday strategy. But what else has Printful been up to? And what can you do to prepare? Well, scroll right on to find out.
Peak prep 2017: game plan
This year we put together a comprehensive, data-laden, department-by-department drill-down of everything we did to prepare, from embroidery to screen printing. Here are the main points:
- Our current fulfillment capacity
- The expected capacity during the holidays
- Extra shifts to be added
- Supplies to be provided
- Emergency contacts for each department
- Backup plans (e.g. for unexpected machine downtime)
It takes a bit of patience to sit down and gather the information to make such predictions, but it’s worth it. We suggest you do the same – get a list going of all the possible bumps in the road and what you need to do to overcome them.
If you look at our Holiday Ecommerce Editorial Calendar, now is the time to once again go over your store and Printful account from A to Z to check that everything is working properly.
Go over this short list of questions: can you reply to each and every one of them with a Hell yeah? If not, try to get rid of the No’s and I dunno’s ASAP.
1. Do all my print files meet the Printful guidelines?
We have detailed print file guidelines available on our products page for each product category, like these ones for t-shirts. Read our content policy to make sure that we can accept and print the designs that you’ve submitted.
It’s also a good idea to order our color swatches and go through the color matching process to check if the colors you see on your screen look the same printed.
2. Are my products synced properly?
It’s crucial to sync everything correctly before orders start coming in. Otherwise your customers may end up with the wrong products or variants.
If you’re using our product push generator and have synced all products automatically, you shouldn’t run into any problems. But if you’ve made some manual changes or synced products manually, it might be useful to check just to be safe.
The most common issue is syncing the wrong size, in which case your customer will get a different size from the one they ordered.
3. Is my payment method set up correctly?
You have to set up a payment method so we can charge you for your orders as soon as they are imported into Printful. We accept credit cards, debit cards, and PayPal.
Fulfillment won’t start until the order is paid for. If you haven’t added a payment method, your orders will fail, which may extend the fulfillment time because you’ll have to manually pay for and approve your failed orders.
If you’re not sure about set-up, check out this video guide!
4. Is my store’s checkout process running smoothly?
One way to test your checkout process and order import is by enabling manual order fulfillment in your Printful account and placing an order from your store as if you were a customer.
Enabling the manual order fulfillment is very important in this step because you don’t want your order to actually get fulfilled, you just want to test the process. You can enable manual order fulfillment by going to Stores > Edit > Orders > Manually confirm imported orders.
You still have to pay for the order in your store, but since you’re paying yourself, you’re not actually losing any money. If everything’s set up right, you’ll be able to place your order, choose the shipping method, pay for the order, and see the order import into your Printful account.
As you’ve set up manual order fulfillment for this test, your order will get imported into your Printful account with a status that you need to confirm the order before we can proceed. You can then delete the order and turn the automatic order fulfillment back on.
5. Am I confident with my product?
The best way to make sure the products you’re selling are just as you imagined is by placing sample orders. Learn how to do that here.
The Printful team is always keeping their eyes open for iffy print files, and we do offer the courtesy of putting orders that don’t meet our quality standards on hold. However, at the end of the day, the quality of the final product is in your hands just as much as it is in ours. As a store owner, you have to ensure that your print files are high quality and in compliance with our guidelines.
If you feel that something isn’t quite right with your set-up, consult the FAQs for both Printful and your ecommerce platform, or get in touch with their support teams.
During the holidays, it’s normal to experience around 3x more sales in comparison to the rest of the year. So you’ll get sales, but it will also slow down some things for your store.
Take your server. Traffic is going to skyrocket during those crucial sales days, and there’s a possibility that your server will slow down. To be on the safe side, talk to your service provider (host) to double check if they are ready for Black Friday-Cyber Monday and the increased traffic that goes along with it.
As for Printful, we always keep one eye on our servers and make sure that we have plans B and C to fall back on if things go awry.
A word on site speed.
We know that site speed is one of the biggest deal-breakers in online shopping – slow loading times equals unhappy customers and abandoned carts. So check your site speed, there are plenty of online tools for that, like this one.
So if you use a lot of apps and plug-ins for your store, think about the way they will behave during those peak sales. Monitor your site closely, and if it looks like there are apps that are slowing things down instead of speeding them up, you might want to disable them.
You can also reach out to the support team of your ecommerce platform to get more advice on how to make your store run smoother and faster.
Speaking of support.
Yep, it’s not just the traffic – expect everything to become amplified.
No matter how many support emails you receive on a day-to-day basis, you can expect that number to jump a tad higher when Black Friday hits. Are you ready to answer all your customers’ questions and offer help?
We’ve learned that our customers reach out to us the most around the holidays, so for us, hiring more full- and part-time reps is a peak season must.
Don’t forget that for every customer who emails you about an issue, there are at least ten who don’t. So make sure your store’s FAQs are up to date and easy to find.
One of the most urgent questions from your customers might be, are my gifts going to arrive on time? So keep your customers in the loop and let them know about this year’s order deadlines, whether it’s via email, on social media, or on your site.
Sharing the deadlines on your site is easy: simply copy/paste the HTML code for the tables you need, and post them where your customer will see them. Click here for more on shipping deadlines and free visuals for your order deadline reminders.
It’s going to be a busy few weeks for all of us. As your holiday to-do list expands with last-minute prep work, know that Printful always has your back!
Those of you running your ecommerce business as a side gig, think about how the holidays are going to affect your schedule and overall well-being. Depending on the activity and sales on your store, you may want to take a few days off to manage the increased holiday traffic.
And for those of you rocking it full-time – stay focused, take deep breaths, and go make your holiday ecommerce vision a reality!
Best of luck, everyone!