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Handling the holiday heat with Printify

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Handling the holiday heat with Printify

The last few months of the year always see massive volumes of print on demand sales traffic. This is fantastic news for any merchant that can handle the increased load. After all, more purchases equal more profits. 

The coming eCommerce rush is anticipated to be bigger than ever before. But even if it wasn’t, the best way for POD vendors to capitalize on holiday peaks is to start selling earlier. This way, you can initiate the peaks earlier, mitigating hurdles like production delays, shipping scrambles, stocking issues, and even supplier closures.

Table of Contents

A different kind of holiday season

While 2020 experienced some serious business disruptions, things continue looking good for eCommerce as a whole. According to respected sources like Let’s Talk About Money, online transactions currently account for near 15% of the world’s total retail sales. Furthermore, this prevalence is commonly anticipated to rise as high as 22% by 2023, then to a staggering 95% by 2040. Cut through those numbers and the message is clear: Online business is moving up fast. 

However, this trend means that digital suppliers are about to be tested like never before. In order to get ahead of the needs of ever-expanding customer bases, industry giants like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Best Buy, and many others are making significant changes relative to last year. 

Amazon has made some big waves recently by announcing they’ll be expanding their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals and discounts. As giants like Amazon often set industry trends, many other retail entities are making similar adjustments. 

It’s key for print on demand merchants to follow suit and widen customers shopping windows. This applies to a range of activities, from choosing to open a POD store, releasing Christmas-themed products, introducing discounts, or enacting any other activity geared toward driving traffic to your store. As the New York Times suggests in their Brace for Holiday ‘Shipageddon’ article, “If you’re that person who waits until the last minute… don’t. Really.” As it stands, American carriers are applying a surcharge for shipping during the holiday rush.

Printify’s holiday preparations

In weeks following the emergence of COVID-19, several print providers were forced to shut down or severely slowed production speeds. These occurrences resulted in problems for every further step of the supply chain. So, in order to make sure that potential closures, reductions, or other inconveniences won’t ruin the holidays, we’ve made several critical improvements.

Print provider capacity increases

In order to make sure all our merchants are supported, we’ve reached out to and connected several new print providers to the Printify network. While we’re continually working to expand, we’re pleased to welcome Duplium, Print Pigeons, SwiftPOD, The Print Bar, Drive Fulfillment, Stoked on Printing, Awkward Styles, Colorway, Miami Sublimation, Uniqcube, Stakes Manufacturing, and FYBY. These partners each bring new products, production capacities, and opportunities into the fold. Since this March, we’ve increased our capacity for direct-to-garment (DTG) production on a given workday by over 300%.

Order routing

In short, this is a security net for print-on-demand products. Suppose a print provider experiences some difficulties that result in diminished production, out-of-stock items, or even discontinuance. Before order routing, a merchant selling through that print provider would be helpless until the situation was resolved. But with the implementation of order routing, POD vendors have the option to automatically move products away from blockages in the supply chain and on to other partners that can fulfill the item(s).

Currently, 96% of direct-to-garment products are routable. However, we are actively working to make mugs and other sublimation products routable, too.

This can be a result of differences between the price of the original product and the price of its replacement, changes in shipping parameters, or a combination of the two.

First, we try to keep the price as similar as possible to the original order. Then, we strive to keep things within the same country as the original print provider. This helps keep shipping times similar. 

Currently, you can’t pick the print providers for order routing. However, we are working on this and plan to implement it in future.

This actually depends on you. There’s an option to select only exact product matches in your Order Routing Settings. If you don’t select a strict substitution, routed products may be replaced with close alternatives. It’s also possible that some designs can be slightly scaled down. On the other hand, if a new print area is larger than the original, the design will stay the same.

If this happens, the order will be put “On Hold”. From there, you have the option to edit manually or cancel it.

Orders will only be routed if something goes wrong with a print provider (out of stock issues, discontinuance, delays, etc.). As long as a print provider functions normally, order routing won’t be necessary.

Order routing

Simply sign in to your store’s preferences page to enable this automatic safety function. If you’d like more details regarding how order routing works, here’s a great resource.

How to communicate effectively with Merchant Support

Printify maintains an elite team of professional support specialists – each striving to provide speedy assistance to any merchant that reaches out.

If you do need to get in contact, it’s best to consider the subject matter relative to the department you’re contacting. If you reach out to the wrong team, it takes a while to reroute that inquiry to the proper channel.

If you require assistance with:

1. General topics: For help along these lines (things like design guidelines, technical questions, etc.), there’s a convenient chat bubble in the bottom left corner of your screen that can filter incoming inquiries.

2. Order in production: Here, the best way is to request support is through your Printify “My Orders” page. There’s a handy “Request support” clicker near the upper right corner.

Here are a few possible reasons to do this:

3. Post-order/ Order fulfilled: If there’s an issue with an order that’s been fulfilled (like the printing is crooked, the product is flawed, shipping has failed, etc.), locate that order in the “My Orders” panel. Select the order encountering problems, and click “Submit Issue”. If there are any questions, please see this resource.

4. Self solution: We have a ton of free resources available to merchants. As such, it’s likely that we have the perfect material covering just about any problem that might arise. Feel free to dive into some of our helpful content.

It’s important to set realistic expectations regarding the speed of support responses during the holiday season. We’ve made quite a few recent improvements to improve the efficiency of our support facilities. 

For starters, we’ve increased the priority of all order-related inquiries. This means that more support agents will assist with delivery hiccups, order consulting, and last-minute order changes. 

Our goal is to provide effective responses to all order-related questions within 24 hours. But, as you can imagine, there will be far more than the usual number of requests during the months of November – January. Therefore, we ask you to bear with us during these busy times.

Seamless order fulfillment

So, while we’ve enacted measures to make sure that complications related to print providers, routing, and support are eased, there is another fundamental issue to consider: products that are out of stock (OOS) entirely.

Before one of our print providers can print a POD merchant’s merchandise for a customer, they source blank models from large-scale manufacturers. These manufacturers can also experience shortages, cuts, government shutdowns, etc. Even if a print provider is operational, they need those blanks.

Earlier this year, these exact circumstances led to worldwide out of stock issues, shortages, and delays. For example, while the massive supplier Gildan was able to keep its distribution centers open, its facilities were subjected to increasingly strict governmental health and safety measures. This resulted in lower overall production, leading to struggles with inventory readiness and output management. To overcome these obstacles, Gildan maintained a “back to basics” strategy of simplifying their portfolio and cutting expenses on production. 

Now, while we can’t perfectly control certain world events, we have reached out to a number of new brands to expand and reinforce our catalog in case of future disruptions. As such, we’re thrilled to welcome big-time brands like Champion, Hanes, Lane 7, and several others into our network. To make sure that supply remains unthreatened, 96% of DTG products are routable.

In another effort to reduce the possibility of a merchant being left with unfillable orders, we’ve removed low-performing products, rare colors, and odd sizes. This ensures more timely fulfillment. However, these safety precautions haven’t stopped us from regularly including new products in our catalog.

Fulfillment times and recommended production deadlines

One of the most common issues that merchants encounter is related to how long it takes for an order to be fulfilled. In order to find a better understanding of how long a product will take to fulfill, here’s the formula:

Production time + Shipping time = Fulfillment time

Now, make sure to only use business days in this calculation. That means five days a week minus holidays, rather than the whole seven. From there, all that’s left is to gather the information and add it up (note that this is a recommendation, not a guarantee). Please see this real-time update page regarding production flows.  

Also, be aware that many freight carriers do not operate over the weekends. This practice often results in buildups that affect regular working productivity. Furthermore, impediments like severe weather conditions, flight delays, COVID-19 related disruptions, strikes, and other adverse developments can all make large impacts in shipping times.

Incoming order filtering

While the print on demand environment has largely stabilized, we’re still taking steps to ensure a smooth end of the year. As it is possible that certain locations could possibly become adversely affected, we’ve implemented an order filtering feature that helps merchants reduce their exposure to shipping restrictions. 

Our system continually monitors the status of orders, locations, and providers that can be adversely affected. If your order’s destination is affected, firstly, the order is placed on hold, rather than moved to production. Then, a notification of that order’s status change will be displayed on the merchant’s “My Orders” page.

Recommended production deadlines

In the past, large shipping services like UPS have released “cut-off” dates that indicated when an item needed to be purchased in order to arrive by Christmas. Carriers have openly announced that there are no promises regarding cut-off dates for this year. Furthermore, international shipments are not expected to support daily updates for those tracking packages. Then, certain carriers are considering not scanning labels at all in an effort to improve shipping speeds.

That being said, we’ve done our best to collect all relevant information from printing partners, carriers, and other participants. By analyzing this data, we’re able to present these recommended production deadlines. Please be aware that these are simply helpful estimations, not set-in-stone facts.

Again, please consider these dates as guidelines, rather than rules. These are simply suggested order submission deadlines so that orders are more likely to be delivered by December 24. 

Due to the global economic uncertainty (shipping carriers experiencing operational problems, complications related to COVID-19, etc.), some orders may be delayed beyond these projections. Interested in upgrading shipping for your orders? Learn more here.

Tips and tricks

As always, people connect with stores that relay a tone of professionalism cut with personality. To help make sure that your store is in peak condition to meet the holiday rush, here are a few helpful suggestions:

  • Start your holiday sales early.
  • Enable order routing. Security is a great thing.
  • If you’d like a refresher regarding the basics of POD, take a look at this beginner-oriented article.
  • Make sure that you have the resources to handle incoming customer support inquiries. If you plan to scale up your business to USD 10,000 (or more) in sales, some virtual assistants could be a lifesaver. Many of your peers find them in places like Fiverr.
  • Stay on top of your product descriptions and store policies regarding how shipping and production times change. Here’s that link again
  • A top banner is also a good move for letting customers know that production and shipping times can be affected. It’s also a great place to link to your store’s policies regarding delays and complications. People appreciate transparency. 
  • We don’t want to leave anyone without a gift under their Christmas tree, so from Dec 11 to 25, we will offer refunds instead of reprints for domestic orders. From Dec 1 to Dec 25 we will offer refunds instead of reprints for international orders.
  • Use the proper channel to submit inquiries about your Printify orders. This way, you’ll be able to get the right person for a faster response.
  • As high-demand items can run out of stock, consider diversifying your product offerings by including a few of these top holiday picks: mugs, ornaments, calendars, blankets, etc. 
  • Here’s how to manage your orders. By staying on top of the information provided in your order management panel, you’ll be better able to serve your customer community. There are filtering options, tracking capabilities, support capacities, etc., all readily available. 
  • Statistically speaking, most orders with the status “In production” are simply waiting their turn to be printed in a provider’s warehouse. If this is not the case, know that our support team is actively monitoring the situation. We will reach out to you personally if action is needed from your end.

Support templates for merchants

Templates to help you answer your customers’ burning holiday questions

Hi there,

During the busy holidays, the production time for most orders ranges around 4-10 business days. Please note, shipping times are not included in this estimate. The total fulfillment time will be longer than just the provided production estimate.
Your orders will still be processed as quickly as possible. When they are shipped, we’ll be sure to send you a notification.  

Wishing you a wonderful Christmas!

Kind regards,
[ Your name ]

Hi there,

2020 has been a tumultuous year for shipping services. This means that shipping carriers are not offering any deliver-by guarantees this year. Subsequently, it means that this Christmas season, we are able to provide recommended holiday cut-off dates only. 

Orders submitted by December 11 will most likely reach the recipient located within the U.S. The recommended cut off date for international orders is December 1st.

Therefore – this year more strongly than ever – we urge you to submit your Christmas orders as early as possible, in order to avoid disappointment and ensure that you can focus on the festivities stress-free.

Warmest wishes for a happy holiday season from our team!

Kind regards,
[ Your name ]

Hi there,

It is our top priority to do whatever we can to ensure that your order arrives on time. With that said, unfortunately, shipping can’t be rushed or upgraded after an order has been placed.
We always recommend submitting orders as early as possible to minimize stressful situations, so that you can focus on the festivities.

Please kindly note that during this busy time of the year, shipping is also subject to additional delays by carriers – wholly out of our control.

Happy holidays from our team!

Kind regards,
[ Your name ]

*Note to the merchant: if you are a WooCommerce or Shopify user (and use the Printify Shipping Calculator for Shopify), consider offering your customers the option to choose express shipping (2-3 business days) at a store checkout. These are the print providers whose products will have the express shipping option.

Hi there,

We thank you for the order and greatly appreciate your business with us.

Your order goes through several steps from the moment payment is confirmed to when the order arrives at your door. As soon as the order is printed, packaged, and given to the carrier, a tracking number will be generated. You will receive this tracking number via email notification. You’ll be able to follow the order-delivery status by clicking on the provided tracking link.

Our team wishes you wonderful and safe holidays!

Kind regards,
[ Your name ]

*Note to the merchant: please keep in mind that the following print providers do not offer tracking services: ArtsAdd, WPaPS, Prodigi. When using these entities, the tracking message should be erased.

Hi there,

We thank you for your order and greatly appreciate your business with us.
Your order has been shipped and is on its way to the proper destination. You can follow its tracking status here [ add tracking link ].

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season!

Kind regards,
[ Your name ]

Hi there,

We’re sorry to hear that there is an issue with the received order. It will be our pleasure to remedy this by sending you a free replacement or issuing a refund. Please let us know which option is preferable. 

Please kindly send us a photo of the defective product for our records.

As shipping services are expected to decline during December 11 – 25, only refunds can be offered during this period.

Wishing a Merry Christmas to you and your family – we’ll be looking forward to your response!

Kind regards
[ Your name ]

Make it happen today!

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