April 4, 2020
How Printful Adds Products: Behind The Scenes of Print On Demand

How Printful Adds Products: Behind The Scenes of Print On Demand

Hey everybody, it’s Wes from Printful. I’m joined by a really special guest today
– Elina, the head of our new product development and merchandising team. We’re in Riga, Latvia, our Europe fulfillment
center. We’re on the production floor so if you
hear any noises – that’s what’s up. Today we’re going to learn what it takes
to add a product to Printful’s catalog. So if you stay until the end of this video,
you’ll see the entire process from an idea to a finished product you can add to your
store. Ok, Elina, let’s talk about the types of
products we offer. Can you give us an overview of the types of
products we add to Printful? We offer two types of products – one of the
categories is the products we buy ready-made blanks for. Our t-shirts, mugs, hats and everything else. And the other category is the products we
make ourselves. Like our cut & sew leggings, where we make
everything in-house – from the construction to the finished product. I imagine adding a product to our catalog
isn’t super easy – just because we already have a white shirt doesn’t mean we can just
throw another white shirt in. Yeah, it’s not easy at all. We want to give our customers the best quality
products for all techniques we offer – DTG, embroidery, engraving, sublimation and cut
& sew. So it’s not just having a product, taking
a photo of it and then adding it to our website. Is that the main chunk of what you do in the
new product development team – you’re constantly adding new things to Pritnful? It’s not only adding new products on a daily
basis, we also look after all our existing products to make sure they’re the best quality,
that we catch out any bugs – software or fulfillment. Sometimes we have to discontinue products,
because our suppliers run out of stock. We maintain the stock levels for products. And we’re constantly adding new mockups,
new product photos, thinking of new ways to grow those products and make them sell better. How long does it actually take to add a new
product, because it sounds like a lot. Does it move along quickly? Depends which category we’re talking about. For example, we make our cut & sew products
from scratch, so we have to define the pattern, how the product is going to fit. We have to do multiple fittings on different
people to make sure that it fits just right, the sizing is on point. That could take a minimum of three months,
if the product isn’t very complicated. However for DTG and Embroidery, and some non-apparel
categories, where we get the blank product and then have to figure out how we’re going
to decorate it, that could take a lot quicker. We also experiment a lot. One of our recent big experiments was the
jewelry category. We have never engraved products before, so
we figured it out as we went along. That usually takes a lot longer as well, because
we have to get to know the technology we’re working with, we have to figure out what the
product is going to be like, what the quality product looks like, define all of that. That’s really exciting but also time consuming. I imagine with things like jewelry you have
to think about how you’re going to physically handle it when using the machinery, how does
it go to shipping, storage and all that. We research a lot. Usually we come up with our own unique way
to produce product. That’s what I like about this department
– you get to experiment a lot. Have there been times where we’ve tread
really hard but haven’t been able to launch a product? Yeah, if we can’t get a quality product,
we do everything we can but it just doesn’t work, we better not launch it. We get a lot of requests for products that
are more feasible to do in bulk. Sometimes we figure out how to transform the
process to do one-offs. But sometimes it just doesn’t make sense
and the price would either be ridiculous or there would be some other factor that wouldn’t
make sense for our customers. Can you give me an example of a product we’ve
tested that’s better in bulk rather than doing it in one-offs? I don’t want to give any examples, because
we’re always looking into new things. We’re a tech company so the fact that technology
is not there yet for one technique, doesn’t mean it never will or that we’ll never figure
it out. So I don’t want to give any spoilers. We’re definitely exploring a lot of different
areas. All right, you mentioned that the DTG process
is a bit different than the cut & sew process in how we add products. So today we’re going to look at an example
of adding a DTG product and then a cut & sew product to Printful. Yes, we’re going to look at some of the
products we already offer and walk you through the behind-the-scenes process of how everything
happens. One of them is going to be a DTG product,
a hoodie. The second one is going to be one of our latest
additions, the very trendy cut & sew fanny pack. Very cool! I’m excited about that. Before we jump in, go ahead and subscribe
to our channel so you never miss new videos just like this! Let’s start with direct to garment. What is the first step in adding a new DTG
product to Printful? First we need to have an idea. We look at our customer’s requests, feedback,
reviews on some of our existing products, to see if we can do anything differently,
offer something new and fresh. Next we look at fashion trends, what’s happening
in retail, what are people buying. We try to validate this idea by looking at
where we can solve a problem, offer something unique, different, stylish. We look at sales data to make sure we’re
adding something that’s selling, something we see potential in. Of course we want to work on products our
team is passionate about. I remember some of my teammates saying they
don’t want to put their names next to a bad quality product. So that’s the level we’re aiming for. So you’ve done you market research, you’ve
picked the product you want to add what do you do then? When talking about DTG, finding reliable suppliers
is the next big thing, because stock is very important for us. When launching a product the worst thing that
can happen is it running out of stock not only with us but also with our suppliers. That’s the main reason we discontinue products. We don’t want to add products that don’t
have reliable stock levels, we need to have them in thousands otherwise we could run out
really quickly. Sometimes we like a product from our suppliers
website but we end up finding out it’s not selling and they’re planning on discontinuing
it so it’s really important to communicate with suppliers on a regular basis. Does this also take into account working across
our multiple locations? Yes, not all the products we offer are available
globally, not all of our suppliers offer them in every country. That’s why some of our products are launched
only in the USA or in Europe – because of the local availability. Lots of people have questions about product
colors – why certain colors are not available for this product but they’re available for
another product? People are always asking for more product
colors. The reality is – black and white will always
be the top selling colors. That’s just how it is. And that’s why it’s important to work
with our suppliers – to see what’s actually selling. We’re not adding all the color variants
available for certain products, because they’re not all popular. We usually start with the black and white
variants, and if we see that the product is selling and customers are asking for certain
colors – we’ll test them and add those. Offering more and more colors also adds new
challenges to our customers. If you’re adding a color that’s not popular
to your store, you might experience more frequent out of stock issues, because suppliers might
not be producing them as frequently as the black and white colors. We try to find a balance between the stock
availability, color requests and storage space, to make it the most convenient for our customers. Once we have all of that figured out – we
know what colors and sizes we’re going to offer – we order product samples, to see how
they look in real life. We order them to all of our locations where
the product’s going to be fulfilled at, because we have to test them in every one
of them. I actually just took a trip to Charlotte,
North Carolina and sat down with Justin, who showed us the testing process on our example
hoodie. I’m here in Charlotte, North Carolina today
with Justin our technical team coordinator. We’re going to talk more about the testing
process and he’s going to walk us through some of the steps, and you’ll get a behind-the-scenes
look of what that all entails. So, Justin, tell me about the testing process. We have our new product development team,
they decide what product we’re trying to add. What happens at that point? Like you mentioned our new product development
team will send me products, we take them to the machines, load the proper pallets or any
materials needed to test them, and make sure to fine-tune the printing settings for that
product in each specific color, so the quality we give our customers is up to the standards
here at Printful. How many tests does it usually take before
we can add a product? That’s a difficult one to answer, it’s across
the world. Sometimes we’re adding a product that’s
similar to something we already carry and it might be as simple as one or two print
tests and we’re good to go after the wash test. Other times we have a completely new product
and process. And we might have to spend multiple days or
weeks to get the settings fine-tuned. From my understanding there’s a difference
between product colors, is that true? I guess the main two factors here would be
the fabric itself, the structure of the garment – whether it’s polyester, cotton or a combination. As well as the color, because at the factory
where the t-shirts are made, they apply a dye to achieve that color. Sometimes this dye makes it difficult for
the quality of ink to lay down. Or when it goes through the curing stage,
through the dryer, those colors tend to reactivate and they’ll show through the print. All right, Justin, you’ll show a demo of
what the testing process looks like? Yes, today we’ll hopefully be able to achieve
really good quality on some pocket hoodies we carry. Here’s the first item I received from out
new product development team. It’s a black hoodie with a pretty heavy
thickness, made of cotton. Of course the concern with and item like this
is that we have a large pocket here that’s a lot more elevated from the actual print
area. I know right away that my typical printing
height is going to be far too low. So I’ll move the print heads over. It’s really vital for us in DTG to ensure
that the garment doesn’t strike against the print heads, because it would be really
bad for the pre-treatment or inks we use to get up there. So now, as you can see, although you still
want the print heads as close as possible to the garment, we have enough slack here
to feel comfortable, where we won’t strike the pocket and we’ll get a good quality
print. I’m going to lock those settings in. And referencing a previous product, I’ll
add in the spray, white underbase and color settings. We’ll give it an initial go and hope it
looks good. Although typically it won’t, because it’s
a new product. So here’s our initial result. As you can see, it looks a bit insufficient. The quality is not quite up to our standards,
we have a lot of the black garment showing through the print. That’s not what we want. We want the print to be solid, covering the
garment completely. So we’re going to have to elevate our setting
and try to maintain a better coverage. The New product team will usually send me
multiple samples. I might have to request even more, depending
on how difficult the garment is. Load another one and try again. It’s really just a trial and error. How do you feel about this one? We elevated, the print looks a lot smoother. I don’t see any of the sweater’s fibers
showing through, the colors look good, and they’re not bleeding together. I’m actually quite satisfied with this print
and as long as it cures well in the dryer, I would totally go with these settings. Yea, you can tell this little area here looks
much better. You could see all the black shining through
on this before. This area with the gradient happening is especially
difficult for a printer to achieve, but right here there’s really nothing showing through. The quality of the print overall is really
good. Typically when we’re adding a new product,
I’ll get multiple variations of product colors. This is the same hoodie but in grey. I can take the settings I used just now and
knowing that this is a much lighter garment, I’ll tone them down slightly and work from
there. Our initial garment gave us a baseline for
this one. Looks good. Right off the batt This is one of the situations
where we got a bit lucky. Using our initial item as a reference, we
were able to dial the settings in really quickly and this was a one-and-done. I’m quite satisfied with the print as long
as it cures well. Once we get the total quality good to go,
we cure it to make sure it looks good off the printer and dry. Once that’s determined we have to move on
to other style of print offerings, to make sure the settings we found for the front print
work for all of them. We head over to do a back print, labels if
offered, sleeves, and anything else we’re going to offer for this product. Then we have to do three full wash cycles
at least. I even try to go up to five a lot of times. So that’s three washes and three dries to
make sure the prints won’t wash out or fade too heavily after washing for the customer. Can you give me some reasons why we can’t
add a product? And an example of a product we tried adding
but it didn’t work? Yes, there’s a racerback tank we wanted
to add and the structure of the garment was so thin and the stitches were so far apart,
the ink would literally fall directly through the garment in the palete underneath. So after removing it from the printer, it
left residue on the garment or large pinholes in the print. We did many variations of settings but no
matter what we did, we weren’t able to get the quality to where we wanted it to be, so
we decided not to add it to our selection. Other times specific print placements don’t
work. We carry a flowy women’s tank top where
the front print looks beautiful but one you try to add an inside label – such a small
print in such a small area bleeds through the garment. So we decided to offer front and back prints,
but we can’t do an inside label. This is one of the tank tops you mentioned
earlier, with kind of a scrunched up part at the back. One of the issues here, it’s pretty obvious
– for when it prints, all the other shirts were smooth and flat, but here’s this action
going on. We have some items with a structure of the
garment like this with the wrinkles. There’s two factors here. We’re going to have to elevate the print
height so much for these that the print quality is going to be subpar. And also it probably won’t look good printing
across a bunch of hills and valleys. For that reason we’re not going to offer
a back print on this, because we don’t want to give our customers something they’re
not going to be satisfied with. This is what happens in these instances. These big wrinkles create creases in the garment
and the ink doesn’t lay down well, so we have missing parts of our image. As well as a lot of blurring in the logo. We of course don’t want to ship that out
to a customer. Justin, thank you so much for showing us this
process and telling me about all the steps. My mind was blown at how many steps you have
to do. Thank you for showing us. Appreciate the visit, my pleasure guys! So we have a product that has made it through
the testing process, we have suppliers, we can print on it. What’s the next step? Now – photos. We have to make sure that we have a blank
product photo where you can put your design on. Photos is a big deal when selling online. We’re not just adding photos to our product
catalog, we’re also offering multiple mockups so our customers can sell the product in their
online stores or marketplaces. You can not only use the mockups to push to
your store, you can also use them on your social media, there’s lots of different
purposes. We want to make sure they appear as realistic
as possible, so it’s not just some 3D, fake mockup. Even if the tiniest pixel is off we have to
take care of that. Sometimes it’s challenging. We can spend an hour making sure the shadows
are right, what about the colors, are the shades matching the actual products. There’s a whole process that happens behind-the-scenes. Since we’re talking about technical things,
I imagine the next part of the process might be the developers actually coding so you can
add the product to your store. Yes, they do their magic to connect all the
dots between production, mockups, order flow, payments. Even the tiniest thing, for example, adding
sleeve printing to an existing product needs developers as well as the production tested. So that takes some time to add. While our team is working on adding the product,
we also have to get marketing involved to make sure we have all our product descriptions
written in multiple languages. We have to make sure our customers actually
find out about the product when we’re ready to launch. That’s why we send out our newsletters on
Fridays, so make sure to subscribe to our product newsletter. Yes, subscribe so you always know what new
products are being added. Now it sounds like our product is done and
ready to go, we can pin that to our board. No. After the product is launched we’re all
very excited, waiting for the first orders to come in. We monitor the stock situation to see what
the demand is like. If it goes up quickly we make sure to order
extra stock so it doesn’t run out. We look at the first orders to see what kind
of designs customers are ordering, if we can spot any trends. It seems like it’s an ongoing process. Yes, and after a couple of months we look
at the sales data to see if the product is growing, we gather feedback, look at the reviews. It’s an ongoing process, that’s the world
of merchandising. It seems like a whole lot to add a new product. Can you tell me what are the differences between
the DTG and the cut & sew processes. I imagine some parts are very similar and
others are completely different. Starting with the similar parts – the product
idea, market research and validation, product photography, those parts are similar. As well as testing that happens in between. The main difference is that we have to come
up with the product itself, how it’s going to look. We have to make sure we have the patterns
right, deciding how we’re going to go about it, try multiple versions to find the best
one. We do a lot of fittings to make sure the sizing
is right. We have to try out different fabrics. Sometimes we end up testing 20 different fabrics
just for a single product. Other times even sourcing the threads is a
separate process. Oh, the ones used for sewing the leggings. Then we have to test how the product stretches,
how it looks after a wash. We have to do sweat tests, that’s a thing. If we’re developing an athletic t-shirt,
we want to have somebody wear it to the gym or running to make sure it fulfills its purpose. Depends on how difficult the product is. Sewing a pillow might be pretty easy, but
you still have to make sure you have the fabric, the zipper, the insert. Whereas for products like backpacks, they
consist of five to six different parts and take a lot longer to sew together. Actually I met up with Ilva. She’s from the new product development team
and specializes in cut & sew products. She showed us all the technical parts of creating
our fanny pack. Hey everybody, I’m here with Ilva. Why don’t you tell us about what you’re
going to show us here today? Hello. I’m going to tell you about how we start
the process of designing things and come to the final idea. First we do some research, check what’s
trendy now, what’s the best option we can offer to our customers. Then we sketch some ideas and choose the best
option in terms of the shape, materials and everything. So this is for the fanny pack? Yes. This is the final design we decided on. We take out ideas that are not viable, maybe
too crazy for production or that might not be trendy in half a year. We want to make our products sustainable in
a long way. When we’ve come to the final design, we
can start thinking about the materials we need. If we can choose some of the materials we
already have for other styles we’re making or need to find new materials. If we can use our existing fabrics for a new
product, if it’s suitable and good for it of course we do that. But if we have a product that needs completely
new materials, then we do a lot of research, order many samples, do a lot of testing to
make sure that it’s good quality, it’s long lasting for the end user. And then make the final choice of the fabric. We do quite a lot of research on all the materials
we use, so it might take a long time to find the fabric, the right zipper, buckle to put
together a nice product for a good price. Ok, so we have our sketches, materials, patterns
– what’s the next step? Then we start sewing them and going through
the sample making process. And you’re actually going to take me to
our fulfillment center and we’re going to check that out. Yeah. So we’re here. This is I assume the first step in the process
of making a fanny pack. This is the very beginning when we start to
see it in real life. What are these parts here? This looks like the top. This is the front, you can see the pleats
there. This is the backside, the inside pocket. It’s folded in half, hanging on the inside
so you can put your phone in there. And this is the top part, where the zipper
goes. We have our print, what’s next? Now we’re going to put it in the heat press
and activate the ink and add backing to the fabric, so it’s more stable and durable. It’s black on the inside, so it’s nice
for a bag. Wait, so that adheres to the print? Yes
So this is pretty crazy, because before it was all really dull, but now they’re super
bright. That’s what this process does – activates
it. And now we can see it’s adhered to the back. Now we can go and get it cut out. Now we have sent the pieces to the seamstresses
and they’re assembling them. When your testing in this step, adding it
together, do you often find that we would need an extra piece here, or we should do
another seam here? Or do you already go into it knowing those
things. The development process takes quite a while
to find the best technical solutions, because it’s one thing to just make something that
looks good, but we have to make it easily producible so the seamstresses can make it
nice without crazy efforts and it’s fast to produce. Everything can be precise and thought through. So this is the process of making a fanny pack,
from printing till the finished product. Nice, looks amazing. And that’s a fanny pack. We talked a lot about DTG and cut & sew products,
are there other techniques out there we should cover? Non-apparel or home & living products like
our mugs, phone cases. The interesting thing with that is – we don’t
only offer different kinds of products, they also use different techniques. For example, we print stickers with a different
technique than mugs. We print phone cases with the UV printing
method. What’s interesting there is – you have to
explore new techniques as you’re researching a new product. Sometimes we’ll add a new product that uses
one of our already offered techniquest. That’s one of the main differences for this
department. With the tech side, can you talk about our
website as well, the things that are changing, for example, with our mockup generator? Printful’s mockup generator is always changing
and upgrading, becoming better. We want it to be a universal tool. So our customers can come to Printful, pick
a product, and design it right there. We want to remove as many barriers as possible,
be it creating a design or mockup, doing anything else with the product, we want to be able
to provide that. It’s awesome that if you don’t have money
to get a subscription to a design service, hire a designer you can do all that in the
mockup generator. You can use free fonts and cliparts, sample
designs we offer for any kind of product together with a mockup. Great quality can only be achieved with all
of this hard work and all the steps we just talked about. Quality is definitely something we strive
for in everything that we do – products, software anything else. Thank you so much for taking time out of your
busy day to talk to me about all these steps. Justin and Ilva, thank you as well for everything
you showed me. If you’d like to see more content like this,
don’t forget to subscribe to our channel and hit that little bell icon to get notified
when we publish a new video. And let us know in the comment section below
what other types of videos you’d like us to make.

1 thought on “How Printful Adds Products: Behind The Scenes of Print On Demand

  1. Take an exclusive behind the scenes look at what it takes to add products to our catalog. Fix yourself a fresh cup of tea and settle in for an informative ride!
    📝 Table of contents:

    📍 00:00:13
    – Overview of adding products to Printful

    📍 00:04:41 – How to add a DTG product to Printful?
    📍 00:07:46 – A Closer look at DTG product testing
    📍 00:17:51 – How to add a cut & sew product to Printful?
    📍 00:19:11 – How Printful's fanny packs are made?
    📍 00:23:25 – Other techniques and the mockup generator

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *