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If you run online stores, you must ship every single product correctly. Every single time.
But there's a catch!
You can sell thousands of products online – but you have to pack, bag-and-tag, and ship your products perfectly. Otherwise, you'll lose money and time as you struggle to keep up with refunds, exchanges, and angry customers that leave bad reviews.
There's good news, though. It's easy to sell and ship t-shirts and other screen printed apparel (they're the "perfect e-commerce product," after all). You just have to follow 9 simple steps to make it easier.
Why you'd want to hear from Steven at Campus Ink:
An early adopter of Printavo Merch, Steven has built a business around online stores. His network of university-based students utilize online stores to collect orders – while his shop prints and ships the orders. After more than $1M in sales purely through Printavo Merch, Steven has perfected a system for delivering perfect custom t-shirts and merchandise directly to customers.
A tailored experience
You're under a magnifying glass with online stores! You don't know which business your customer owns, what they do, or who they're connected with in your community – so get it right.
Spoilage is not an option
50 shirts were ordered? You're going to print 50 shirts. Don't overprint (that can blow your profit margin). Ship everything on time and send everyone exactly what they ordered. Remember: one bad order can ruin everything. Spoilage is not an option!
Use a Master List to check each and every order against
You must use some kind of Master List once your online store is closed – this is the key that you check all the work against. Print off several copies and agree on a single, simple way to use them.
Steven and the Campus Ink team use Printavo Merch's CSV export once their stores close.
The goal: nothing is missing.
How to do it: as items arrive, count them in and cross them off of your Master List.
This is the first layer of insurance.
You are simply making sure that each and every t-shirt, hoodie, or different piece of merchandise comes to your shop and is ready to print.
This is probably a part of your production process already. But it's even more crucial for online store orders.
The goal: you print exactly what was ordered – nothing more or less.
How to do it: sort your printed products on tables. Small, medium, large (and so on) – for each style and design.
Once you've printed everything for your orders, you're going to fold, sort, and lay it all out.
You're setting yourself up to take a big-picture overview of what you printed during this step. Everything should exactly correspond to what was ordered.
The goal: ensure printed exactly what each customer ordered.
How to do it: carefully check the total expected number of each style, design, and size for all orders.
This overall survey ensures that you don't need to re-burn screens, re-print shirts, or scramble to find missing items.
Take the big-picture approach and make sure you have every small, medium, large (and more) size accounted for.
You total the number of each size – and ensure you have that many printed.
There should be no extras or missing pieces – but now is the time to correct that if it happens. Not later!
The goal: ensure no physical errors with Packing Slips
How to do it: after you print your Packing Slips, compare them your Master List of orders.
This may seem frivolous...but it's not.
What if your printer breaks? What if you misplace a Packing Slip?
Surprisingly, this is a common spot for errors.
Always double-check that every single Packing Slip for every order has been printed and is correct.
The goal: add another layer of accuracy to your shipping process.
How it works: each filter you've added – checking in, sorting, matching against your Master List, and now adding Packing Slips to each order – adds another layer of security.
Pre-bagging is one of the most essential ways to minimize spoilage while shipping your online store orders.
Before anything goes into a bag, be sure everything is meticulously prepared and organized. During this step, you actually start building individual orders.
All you need to do is place each order on a table, place the Packing Slip on it, and then check this against your Master List.
Work through one order at a time, drawing from the supply of organized sizes and designs you built earlier.
The goal: make sure every single order is ready to go – before you ever put a single order into a bag.
How it works: since you've counted when the items came in, counted as you checked the print totals, and checked against the Master List – everything should be perfect aligned here.
If you have extras, or are short a few pieces, now is the time to scramble your team and figure out where things went wrong.
It's almost always the case that something has been misallocated to the wrong order.
Since you haven't bagged anything yet, it's easy to fix problems and find out which order is short (or oversupplied).
After this step, no changes can be made. All errors should be caught by the multiple redundant steps you've taken. You are only bagging the orders from here on out!
The goal: have a consistent packaging type for each size order
How it works: consistent packaging keeps things organized and simple.
If you're mailing one shirt to one person, keep it simple with a polymailer.
If you're sending group orders, however – or simply larger bulk orders – you may want to spring for a nicer bagged container.
Never bag items before all of the orders have been checked and completed.
There are two reasons to wait to bag-and-tag until the very end: it makes bagging faster and it ensures that any errors in orders are easily caught and corrected. You don't have to search through sealed bags and ruin your hard work because one or two shirts are missing!
The goal: market your business and make an impression – and get a review!
How to do it: include a postcard with every single order. It should, at a minimum, include a thank you, who to contact in case something is wrong, and how to leave a review for your business.
This is where online stores become incredibly powerful: you don't just touch one organizer for one event.
You make an impression on every single customer – and they'll remember that you knocked it out of the park.
The goal: have one designated person distribute items for group orders (if applicable)
How to do it: send a simple, one-page letter that explains a stern policy that outlines two MAJOR policies you should have.
First, your shop is not responsible for orders that are lost during distribution!
Second, require that the organization designate a single person that's responsible for distributing the items!
Make the organizer that's responsible for dealing with the merchandise feel like a superstar. They didn't want to be a shirt-distributing jockey – so make it easy.
This is an essential step in successful group orders. You must eliminate the possibility that people take the wrong items – or worse, steal other people's items.
Do everything in your power to avoid giving a group a box of merchandise and no plan to distribute it.
Every business will have different costs associated with shipping and bagging-and-tagging.
Assume a 10% markup (after associated procurement, administrative, and print costs) for shipping your online store orders. You should consider this part of your pricing – and may need to re-evaluate it if you find shipping costs are higher than you anticipate.