How to Start T-shirt WooCommerce Store – Integration with Printful

Have any amazing designs or illustrations that you think they would look great on a t-shirt? Or maybe you often think of a few clever puns or jokes that would certainly sell on T-shirts? In short, do you often think that you would like to set up a T-shirt business but you don’t know where to start?

The good thing about living in 2017 is that, if you have ideas and some computer knowledge, you can open up a store everywhere, without the need of a physical location, too many employees and a huge capital upfront. You can easily create an online store with WordPress and WooCommerce.

In this article, we will address some specific topics that one has to consider in order to create a t-shirt store with WordPress and WooCommerce. As always, we will focus more on the technical side of setting up the site, however we will also visit some concepts that can be important in the t-shirt business.

What you will need

  1. A good web hosting service with experience in handling WordPress sites.
    An important thing to consider when choosing a host is your business plan and have an idea on how much you might want to scale your business in the future. While a sharing host from a reputable company will be very cheap and probably good enough to start you off, you have to keep in mind that WordPress with WooCommerce can be memory-hogging. If you receive too many visitors, then, yay! your business is going great!!! But… the increased number of queries might exhaust your resources and the big number of visitors might go over your bandwidth limit.

    But, my shared hosting plan offers unlimited bandwidth, memory and CPU usage…

    Well, not really, though they will have you believe that they do. The reality is that they offer a vast amount of resources that is to be shared among all the users of your server. However, if by chance you happen to go overboard, then, well, a good host will politely warn you and suggest you to update your plan – however the bad hosting company, will simply take your site down.
    So, as, hopefully, your business will scale eventually, maybe it is a good idea to invest into a VPS (virtual private server) or a managed hosting specialized in WordPress, with a good offer on resources.

  2. The latest version of WordPress installed (v4.8.2, as of the time of this writing) and the latest WooCommerce (currently v3.2.1)
  3. Branding! Your company’s name, tagline, easy-to-remember domain name (ideally, {your-company-name.com), your logo, business email, a landline or mobile phone number to serve your business, etc.
  4. A printing company that will handle your t-shirt printing (some ideas offered later on this article)
  5. Stock of t-shirts and storage space (more about this later)
  6. A way to package and ship your t-shirts to your clients.

Let’s first build out WooCommerce shop.

In a previous article we have detailed how to build a WooCommerce shop, step by step. Follow these steps and you will have a simple, clean WooCommerce store with the basic configuration in place. Now it is time to choose a good theme to represent your brand and your business.

Storefront theme for WooCommerce screenshot

A very popular and very good choice is the free theme Storefront, the official theme for WooCommerce. Built by Automattic and based on the Underscores starter theme, it is a well-coded, fully responsive and very extensible theme. It gives you a huge head-start, by offering a modern, minimalist design, a valid schema markup for improved SEO, full integration with the Customizer, so that you can change your site’s colors and fonts at will, a fully localized markup so that you can run your site to the language of your choice and adhering to the very exacting standards of the WordPress.org team for code quality, accessibility and integration with plugins.

However, we realize that you might find Storefront to be a bit simpler and more basic than what you would like. Of course, you are free to fully customize it from top to bottom, either by custom coding the theme templates and stylesheets on a custom theme, or by using one of the compatible page builders, such as Site Origin PageBuilder, Beaver Builder and even Visual Composer. This will of course take time though, and you might even need to hire a front-end designer to correctly customize things for you. In this case, you might want to consider some extra options, specifically tailored for t-shirt/fashion stores.

TEEPRO

TEEPRO theme banner

TEEPRO is a popular and well-received premium theme, sold on Themeforest, that specializes in creating T-shirt WooCommerce stores. It offers several features that you are going to want, should you decide to run a t-shirt store, such as product image zoom, as well as configurable products: products that the client can see them in different colors with a mouse click, or select the sizes they want.

Here is a demo of TEEPRO, showcasing many of these capabilities.

Avaz

Avaz theme banner

Avaz is built on Bootstrap 3.x, which is immediately obvious when you see the sleek and clean design of the Avaz demo. It is a nice, simple and clean theme, that offers several homepage options and header styles and bundles, like many Themeforest themes, the premium plugins Visual Composer and Slider Revolution for easier building your pages layout and easy integrating sliders. While it does not have any outstanding features, it is a really good looking theme, which makes use of many elements of modern design, such as Bootstrap, Font Awesome, Google Fonts, full WPML integration for multilingual sites. As of the time of this writing, it has not yet bumped the maximum version of supported WooCommerce; however it supports seamlessly WooCommerce v.3.1.2 and it is only a week since the release of the newest version, so it will probably soon support it as well.

Boutique

Boutique theme banner

Boutique is another popular Themeforest premium theme that is designed specifically for clothing stores, though its design can be used for multiple purposes. Like Avaz, it bundles Visual Composer and Slider Revolution and offers demo data that can be installed with a simple click. Boutique uses flat design and it is evident that its multiple homepage layouts were well-thought out and crafted so that especially clothing products really jump out. You can see a demo here

Some additional concepts.

Product variations.

While TEEPRO really takes it one step further, you might have noticed in the other demos as well, in the product page, the dropdowns that allow you to select color or size.

Dropdown product options screenshot.

This is actually a built-in capability of WooCommerce, that is extremely useful for a clothing store. It is based on the use of Variable Product, a type of product with some extra options that allow you to create variations of the product.

Example of a variable product screenshot

For example, for the basic t-shirt called Ship Your Ideas you can have the following variations:

SIZE: Large SIZE: Small
Ship Your Ideas – Black – Large Ship Your Ideas – Black – Small
Ship Your Ideas – Blue – Large Ship Your Ideas – Blue – Small
Ship Your Ideas – Red – Large Ship Your Ideas – Red – Small

Why is this important? Because, for example, you might have full stock of blue and red variations of the t-shirt, but only a handful of black ones. Or the large size might cost more than the small size.

With product variations, you can can basically treat each variation as a different product and assign it its own stock amount, price, product image and more. Still, all the variations are grouped together in one product page and appear selectively once you choose the appropriate selection in the drop-down.

The WooCommerce docs linked above offer a very detailed tutorial on how to create a variable product, however, here is the basic idea behind it: You choose the different attributes (in the above example, you choose Colors: Black, Red, Blue and Sizes: Large, Small) and then WooCommerce automatically creates all the product variations combining all the options. Incredibly useful when you have a t-shirt with five sizes and 10 colors.

Dropshipping

This is a very useful concept that really liberates your online business for any need to keep a warehouse and calculate stock for each product. The idea is that you buy from a third party (usually the manufacturer or a wholesaler) the inventory you need and that third party is responsible both for storing your inventory, as well as for shipping the purchased product to your client.

The concept of dropshipping makes the maintenance of an online store much more straight-forward and easy. In fact, you sell the service rather than the physical product, you play the role of the middleman between your customer and the wholesaler. You don’t have to track inventory, pack and ship your orders, managing stock, handling returns, etc.

Within the scope of a WooCommerce store, there are a few ways that you can have a dropshipping business:

  1. Pass your client’s orders to your dropshipper through the interface they provide.
  2. Handle yourself the technical part of dropshipping.

There are a few plugins that allow dropshipping. WooCommerce Dropshipping by WooCommerce and WooCommerce Dropshippers by ArticNet are two solid options. Both allow you to assign a dropshipper to each product and both automatically notify your dropshipper for each purchase of a product assigned to them, forward them the client’s details (name, address, etc) and both generate a PDF packing slip.

AliExpress also offers a WordPress plugin, called AliDropship – they additionally offer you the advantage of the huge network of sellers and retailers of AliExpress.

What about printing my designs?

Let’s explore an additional option, that combines the advantages of dropshipping, but additionally takes care of printing your designs into t-shirts – or mugs, cups, posters, phone cases, pillows, even socks.

Printful is a service that offers printing on demand on a variety of products. It offers a straight-forward way to connect your WooCommerce store to their service and they really take it from there. All you have to do is to upload your designs, and when an order comes to your store, it goes directly to Printful, who print it, package it and ship it for you.

Printful provides a step-by-step video guide on how to connect your WooCommerce store to their service:

However, here is also an overview of the process:

  • Enable the REST API in WooCommerce
    In your dashboard, go to WooCommerce -> Settings and select the tab API. If it is not selected already, choose Enable the REST API and save the changes.

Enable REST API screenshot

Install Printful plugin screenshot

  • Connect WooCommerce to Printful

Upon activation, Printful will ask for permission to connect your e-shop to their servers. Once you approve the connection, you will be asked to sign in with your Printful account (or to create a new one, if you don’t have an existing account)

Approve connection to Printful screenshot Sing in Printful account screenshot
Approve connection to Printful Sing in Printful account
  • Create your first product in Printful
Create product in Printful screenshot Configure design screenshot Product title and description screenshot
Create product in Printful Configure design Product title and description

Finally, you can add your first product in Printful. You choose between one of the multiple products they print on (t-shirts, long sleeved shirts, hats, etc) and upload your design. As you can see in the picture, you can choose the product color, as well as where exactly you want to place your design. Finally, you assign your product a title and a description, you can attach a size-guide (so that your customers can choose whether they need Small, Medium or Large) and proceed to input the product price and associated taxes.

Final notes

We hope that this article has helped you explore the various options you have when building your WooCommerce clothing store. Printful is an all-in-one solution for your t-shirt business, however there are many more options that offer you more flexibility, in case that you already work with a printing store, or already have a physical clothing shop or retail business and you want to expand your network online.

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We provide WordPress & WooCommerce Support, Maintenance and Development Services.

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