How to Sell Products With Ecommerce Order Fulfillment
Starting an online business in today’s world is a matter of days, if not hours. All you need is an idea, the internet, and a sum of money that doesn’t rob you of your entire savings.
However, if you’re only testing the waters of ecommerce, going from an idea to someone buying your product can take longer.
I tested those waters. Didn’t take me a day, took me several – and I’m documenting the whole thing on our blog. Part one was about how I came up with my idea and found my product.
In part two, I’ll tell you how I submitted my products to Printful’s ecommerce order fulfillment service Warehousing & Fulfillment, set up my storefront, and launched my marketing campaigns so you can avoid some of the worries I had.
How to submit products for warehousing
Just to recap, I had decided to start selling postcards on our ecommerce store Startup Vitamins, and get them outsourced from China.
With my postcards printed, I could start focusing on setting up Warehousing & Fulfillment.
Printful’s Warehousing & Fulfillment doesn’t have a separate account, it’s a built-in section of your Dashboard, so if you already have a Printful account, you don’t need anything extra to get started and add your products.
The service has affordable pricing, so it helps you save precious time and money you’d otherwise spend fulfilling orders yourself.
The steps to add new products go like this:
- Before sending your products over to Printful, you submit an application to give us some info on what you want to store with us
- You wait for your products to be approved
- Once they’re approved, you deliver the products to our fulfillment warehouses in Charlotte or Riga
- Printful lets you know when they’ve arrived and are stocked
Here’s a more in-depth step-by-step:
1. Add new product
Go to Dashboard > Warehouse > Inventory > Add new product. Provide the necessary info on each product you want to add:
- Title of the product. To make life easier for future me, I included both the name of the product and the title of the design.
- Retail price. Enter the price of the product as it will be seen on your storefront and select the right currency. For Startup Vitamins, it’s USD.
- Product category. For me – “Postcard.” If you don’t see a suitable category and you’re not keen on filing your products under “Other,” you can reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org and request to have a category added.
- Dimensions. Rather than measuring the items yourself, ask your supplier for precise product dimensions.
- Product image. This is the photo that’ll be pushed to your storefront.
- SKU (stock keeping unit). This one’s optional, it’s intended for Warehousing customers who have their own internal inventory management systems.
Then, click “Add” to submit your products for review. Shortly after submitting mine, I received a confirmation message:
2. Wait for approval
Then there’s a short wait until Printful approves your products. I received a success message for each of my 8 postcards in 3 days’ time:
3. Create shipments
Once your items are approved, you can send them to Printful’s fulfillment warehouses. To do so, you must first create a Warehousing shipment on your Dashboard. Head to Dashboard > Warehouse > Shipments > Create shipment.
Here’s where you add the products you want to send, specify how many of each you’re sending, and provide the delivery method.
Both warehouses offer two options: you can have your items delivered via mail or drop them off yourself. If you mail them, you must provide the shipping carrier and tracking number for each shipment.
I created two shipments, one for Charlotte and one for Riga, and included the carrier and tracking info my supplier had given me.
After the shipments were submitted, I could return to the Dashboard at any time to check on their status. For a while, it was “in transit”:
4. Get final confirmation
Finally, Printful will let you know when your shipments have reached their destination. I received a confirmation email when the postcards arrived at the facilities, and then another one when they’d been stocked.
In this experiment, I was so focused on the physical product, I only started submitting the items for Warehousing after the postcards had been shipped from China. Everything went smoothly, but it could have turned out differently.
What if the items had been shipped from somewhere nearby, and what if my postcards had arrived before having been approved as Warehousing items? What if my items hadn’t been approved at all?
Luckily, there was no confusion, but that will not always be the case. I recommend having the goods shipped to Printful only after your Warehousing items have been approved.
It’s important to figure out the timeline of ordering products from your supplier and submitting them for Warehousing. Make sure your products are approved by Printful before they arrive at the fulfillment warehouse.
Creating product photos and descriptions
The Startup Vitamins site is custom-built, so the images that go with each Warehousing product listing aren’t pushed to the store. It would have been fine to go with the basic mockups I submitted, but we always recommend taking it up a notch to make your products more eye-catching and build your visual identity.
And so I organized a photo shoot. We shot the photos as mockup templates, using a blank postcard we had at the office. The real images would be photoshopped on later.
This saved us loads of time – imagine having to do a photo shoot to get a perfect photo for 8 different postcards?
We tried both flat lay photos and human mockups. The flat lays were a lot more fun because we could play around creating interesting office-themed backdrops for the postcards. We used the flatlays as the primary product images.
Figure out what style of photography will bring out your product the best.
With the images done, I could move on to a bit of copywriting for the product descriptions.
Here’s what I came up with:
Why not revive the lost art of penmanship? These postcards are great for inspiring the team with some words of awesome, surprising a friend on the other side of the globe, or for adding a dash of motivation to your work space.
The product description is in keeping with the Startup Vitamins brand voice – friendly and inviting, but not overly quirky. Notice that I used some important Startup Vitamins keywords: postcards, inspiring, team, friend, motivation, work space.
Deciding on the price
One of the last steps was one of the most important ones – figuring out the retail price of a Startup Vitamins postcard. As a business, this is where you make money, so it’s important to get it right.
Already when I’d settled on selling postcards, the research I did on the postcard market showed me there’s a lot of variation and potential. Depending on the paper quality and type of illustration, merchants are charging anywhere from $1 to at least $5 per postcard.
I compared the prices of other Startup Vitamins products. Our stickers are $2.30 a pop, and a 6-pack of pencils is $6, so I figured charging somewhere in between for the postcard should do the trick.
Finally, I factored in the resources put in by my talented team that made all aspects of the finished product look as good as it does. I was very aware of the fact that it was part of their regular job – if I were doing it on my own, I would’ve had to hire them as freelancers.
This is the pricing I came up with:
- 1 postcard: $4.30
- 3 cards of the same kind: $12
Set a retail price that allows you to offer discounts and special offers without losing profit. Make sure to factor in Warehousing & Fulfillment fees as well.
When it comes to shipping, I calculated all my prices with the shipping rate calculator in the Warehouse section of the Dashboard. It was as easy as selecting the products from my inventory and then pressing a button. I used the rates from the calculator to set up shipping costs on my store.
If you’re still figuring out the shipping costs before you commit to Printful’s warehousing services, use the shipping rate calculator on their Warehousing & Fulfillment page.
Launching the product
Our basic Startup Vitamins product launch campaign consists of the following:
- An email to our subscribers
- Social media posts
- Setting the new product as featured on our store
- A repromo of all of the above
The Startup Vitamins style of communication is quite blunt. One of our main marketing channels is email – we try not to over-saturate our customers’ inboxes, but if we want to draw attention, we do it with short, image-based emails.
No need to overdo it – an interesting product will sell itself.
I launched the postcards on a Thursday, and I made my first sale that evening. I was pretty excited, but grounded enough to take a closer look at the order.
Test, test, test – if possible, make sure you’re the recipient of the first order of a new product. Keep an eye on the first incoming orders as well.
Slowly and steadily postcard orders started rolling in, about 10 postcards over a 5-day period.
The postcards usually served as a kind of “order filler” along with bigger items such as mugs and posters.
It was clear that the postcards had potential, and that if I wanted to get this product on the Startup Vitamins sticker level (one of our top products), I’d have to crank up my marketing efforts.
One order gave me an idea for my next campaign – someone had ordered postcards with a set of pencils. Pretty obvious as far as cross-selling goes, but very satisfying to see customers see the connection themselves.
Take note of customer shopping patterns for future marketing campaigns.
My biggest conclusion is technically a no-brainer, but one that bears repeating. Working on an online store and transferring your vision of a product to reality requires time, patience, and drive.
Here’s an approximate timeline of how much time I spent on each major task:
|Initial brainstorm and research||3 days|
|Survey content||1 day|
|Survey duration||5 days|
|Feedback analysis||1 day|
|Supplier research||2 days|
|Sample order negotiation||5 days|
|Preparing final print files||5 days|
|Finalizing the order||5 days|
|Warehousing submissions||1 day|
|Photo shoot||2 days|
|Image editing||5 days|
|Preparing the storefront||10 days|
|Launch marketing||1 day|
It’s a month and a half of planning, doing, re-doing, and communicating.
Time for the big reveal – I started my first brainstorm in March 2018. I launched the postcards in December. Do you see what I mean when I said you need time, patience, and drive to launch a product?
This doesn’t mean it takes nearly a year to add 8 postcards to an ecommerce store. It means your timeline is up to you. Which brings me to my next big conclusion.
The success of your new product is directly proportional to the goal you’ve set for yourself. What do you want to achieve with this new thing you’re selling? Is it bigger sales? Is it higher customer engagement? Increased brand awareness, perhaps?
I realized the work I put into this project and how I felt about the result was based on my internal goal to add a brand new Startup Vitamins product using Printful Warehousing & Fulfillment and share the experiment with you guys.
Turning the product into a best-seller, however, is a different goal and an entirely different mindset. Let me know in the comments if it’s anything you’d be interested in reading!
You are your own benchmark. Set specific goals for the business decisions you make.