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How to Grow Your Brand with Product Personalization

By Reading Time: 7 minutes

Once upon a time product customization was, in fact, the basis of production.

Apparel, shoes, and accessories all used to be tailor-made. This changed with the industrial revolution and mass production. But now that we’ve seen the flipside of mass production (everyone wearing the same thing), personalization — also known as customization — is making a comeback.

As put forth in the State of Fashion 2018 report, personalization is set to be one of the main trends of the year, taking shape in many different ways from customized products, to curated recommendations, to communications and storytelling.

Do you want to miss out on the trend and risk losing sales? We didn’t think so. Read on to find out why this couldn’t be a better time to offer product personalization for your buyers.

The new saturation

Thanks to the growth of ecommerce and the increasing popularity of services like Printful, shoppers are veering away from cookie-cutter, store-bought items and enjoying the hunt for unique products.

This, in turn, allows and encourages merchants to create niche products for niche audiences.
However, this eventually leads to another form of saturation, where the monotony of chain stores is swapped for an overwhelming potpourri of individuality.

Enter product personalization the forgotten ace up retailers’ sleeves that’ll help you set yourself apart from this new crowd.

Printful Customizable products Ray Ban
Ray Bans are an essential for spectacle lovers. These days, a bespoke pair is just a few clicks away.

The time is now and here’s why

Nowadays people want to stand out. And if it’s possible, they want their purchases to come with a sense of exclusivity, uniqueness, and even luxury. This is the perfect set-up for product customization. You can sell custom products at a higher price, and it’s one that your customers are willing to pay.

According to the results of a 2017 Deloitte research on spending habits among millennials — the next generation of spenders —, more than 70% of US-based respondents said they’d be willing to pay more for a personalized fashion item. A statistic not to be taken lightly.

Going beyond dollars and cents, it has been shown that customization options also enhance the customer experience and increase their loyalty and engagement. This ultimately leads to higher customer acquisition and retention.

So think of personalization not only in terms of sales, but also as an opportunity for your customers to interact with your brand. The data you collect from personalization is a great source of inspiration on how you can further expand your catalog and build your brand image — your customers are literally telling you what kind of designs they want.

Learn more: How to Start a Clothing Brand: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide

Another benefit that comes with personalization is its shareability on social media. People have always been eager to show off their creativity, not to mention any custom, cool swag they might get their hands on.

Printful Customizable products Vans
Personalization as a great source of user-generated content. This is how Vans does it.

Your customers will create and share original content featuring your products, so make sure to incorporate it in your marketing strategy. That could mean reposting customer photos, using them for promos (with permission!), or creating custom hashtags for special events and campaigns.

Making personalization work for you

While personalization is an exciting feature to offer your customers, it’s best to decide what purpose it will serve. Are you thinking of making it as the focal point of your store? Or, alternatively, do you see it as another way to build your brand and boost engagement?

When you implement a customization feature on your site, make sure it’s easy to use. Otherwise, you may end up scaring away your customers with too many bells and whistles. It’s a good idea to offer them a template to work with — confronting a blank canvas may end up too overwhelming.

Let’s talk about the ways you can market products for personalization:

  • As gifts. Personalized products are the perfect gift for special events and holidays, they can be both practical and thoughtful. Here are some of the most obvious occasions, but there are plenty more you could add to your marketing calendar: birthdays, graduations, first day of school, weddings, baby showers, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s/Father’s Day.
  • As part of a theme or campaign. This may be combined with a holiday or special event, but it doesn’t have to. The theme can be related to your existing designs or be something entirely new: quotes, jokes, symbols, catchphrases, and everything in between.
  • As an exclusive pop-up feature on your store. This may tie in with the idea of custom products as gifts, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be so. You can present it as a way to create a personalized special something for oneself.

These are just the basics. Remember that you can get as creative as you want. You can start off with something simple, like monogramming. It’s an everlasting trend, and, chances are, everyone has something in their home with their name or initials on it.

Printful Customizable Products LeRose
Weddings: the $300+ billion industry known for all-customized everything.

How to set up product personalization with Printful

If you’d like to give customization a go, there are a couple of ways you can do it with Printful. We have a step by step video guide:

Note that the possibilities depend on the specs of a given product and which of those you’d like to make customizable on your store. Say, for a Bella+Canvas 3001 t-shirt, your customers will be able to decide on the shirt color and design. For our all-over print tote, it’ll be the handle color and design. However, in both cases, you can let people personalize just the design.

1. Manual orders

The first one is by creating custom orders manually. You’ll have to set up your store so that your customers see their options, specify the elements they’d like to personalize, and submit the shipping details. Then you can create their custom orders based on their submissions.

2. Printful + Zakeke

The second one is for WooCommerce and Shopify users — you can try out Printful’s new integration with Zakeke, a cloud service that lets your customers personalize products on your store.

The Zakeke tool is flexible, allowing you to upload your own fonts, clipart, or images. You can also define the format and the quality of the print, and disable certain customization options.

This is how the Printful + Zakeke integration works:

  1. Choose a product from the Printful catalog on Zakeke that you want to offer for personalization and add it to your store blank or with a base design;
  2. Shoppers are then able to personalize it on your store via Zakeke by adding texts, images, clipart, or other artwork;
  3. Once your customer places an order, Printful takes care of the fulfillment and shipping.

Setting up Zakeke for your Printful account is simple, here’s what you do:

  1. Make sure you have the Printful app installed;
  2. Get the Zakeke app for your WooCommerce or Shopify store and configure the integration;
  3. Once it’s done, open the Zakeke app and head to Configure -> Products and select Printful as the supplier;
  4. The app is going to ask you to copy/paste your store’s Printful API key. Make sure to enable the API key otherwise the services won’t connect!

Next, start adding products through Configure -> Products. Select your products, variants, and price. When the product is set up, you’ll have to wait a few seconds for it to be generated. It’ll appear on your store with a Customize button.

All that’s left is the design. You don’t have to upload one, the fun part is up to your customers! But if you’re going for a theme or campaign, you’ll want to create a design template and specify which elements are intended for customization.

On Printful’s side, Printful products customized through Zakeke will be automatically synced with Printful and appear as separate products on your store’s synced product list. You’ll see the orders on your Printful Dashboard as per usual, and the customized files won’t interfere with your Printful File library.

3. Printful product customization tool for Shopify and WooCommerce

The product personalization tool for Printful + Shopify users is a must-try. More details and a video tutorial are available here, but these are the basic steps on how to get started:

  1. Enable the personalization tool on your Printful Dashboard
  2. Create a product for personalization (available for DTG and embroidery products, as well as wall art)
  3. Choose the design elements for personalization (texts for embroidery products, images or both for DTG products and wall art)
  4. Push the product to your store (be mindful of the digitization fee that would apply to each unique embroidery design)
  5. Your customer personalizes the product, buys it, and we fulfill it

4. Printful product personalization option on Etsy

Printful product personalization is now available for Printful + Etsy users as well! This video tutorial will show you how to set it up.

It’s pretty simple:

  1. Make sure the personalization option is enabled on your Printful Dashboard
  2. Enable the feature on your Etsy store
  3. Enter customization guidelines for your customers
  4. When you get an order with a product for personalization, it’ll appear on your Printful Dashboard with a blue icon for manual confirmation
  5. Open the order, edit the product according to your customer’s wishes, and complete the order

Learn more:

We’re working on adding a product personalization feature for other Printful integrations, too. We’ll keep you posted on updates!

5. New: Personalizing products on WooCommerce

The product personalization tool has been added for Printful + WooCommerce as well. A more detailed guide can be found here, but here is the basic overview.

  1. Update your Printful WooCommerce plugin to at least version 2.1
  2. Create a new product for personalization (available for DTG and embroidery products, as well as wall art)
  3. Create the section of the design you wish to keep fixed
  4. Add the text (for embroidery), images or both (for DTG products and wall art) you want your customer to be able to personalize (making sure to check the personalization button)
  5. Push the product to your WooCommerce store (be mindful of the digitization fee that would apply to each unique embroidery design)
  6. That’s it! Your customer can now personalize their product

Disclaimer: If the customer doesn’t apply their personalized design to the product, the product will be automatically printed with your placeholder design.

In conclusion

Still unsure whether product customization/personalization is something you want to offer for your customers? Let’s go over the main reasons why it’s become such an ecommerce buzzword and why you should make it a part of your vocabulary:

  • It boosts sales. People are willing to pay a premium price for tailor-made products;
  • It attracts valuable customers and keeps them satisfied. A store with personalization options has more added value than a traditional store;
  • It increases customer loyalty. Customers who have customized a product engage with the brand more and visit the respective website more frequently;
  • It builds brand awareness. Personalization is a good way to stay on top of the competition;
  • It allows merchants to learn about their customers. The more you know about your customers’ needs, the more you can give them exactly what they’re looking for.

Can’t see why you shouldn’t give it a go! If you’ve already tried your hand at offering product personalization, we’d love to hear more about your experience — leave us a comment below!

Marianna Zvaigzne is the Head of Brand Language at Printful. With the help of her team, she’s pinning down what it means to “sound like Printful” and keeps Printful copywriters on their toes with animated editing sessions and writing workshops.


  1. Darren Ackers

    Hi, your plugin on Woo is very good.

    When using personalization is it possible for custom customer text to push through and display on the add to cart and check out page?

    On my site, the custom text is not showing on the check out or add to cart.

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