The FutureProof Blog

Build a Dropshipping Store with WooCommerce & Printful

Getting started in online retail is tough. You might have the best T-shirt designs, or the most amazing graphic art, but the huge investment in stock and printing is a hurdle that many designers just can’t get over. But what if there was another way? A way to get off the ground and test the water without having to find thousands in start-up capital. Well there is… dropshipping. In this post, “Build a Dropshipping Store with WooCommerce & Printful” we’ll look at the whole process with a real life case study, a FutureProof Digital client in Galway.


This example is a perfect illustration of what can be done with a dropshipping store. Wanderly Wagon is a guided tour business located on the island of Inis Oírr, off the west coast of Galway and Clare. It would make no sense for them to design products, order stock in various sizes/colours etc. and try to sell that stock to tourists when they’re on the island.

The strategy here is to stock a huge range of products on the business’s website to people who have recently visited the island, some of which have taken the tour. The products are mostly t-shirts, but other souvenirs too.

What is Dropshipping ?

The definition of dropshipping; a retail fulfilment method whereby a store doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, when you sell a product, you purchase the item from a third party and have it shipped directly to the customer. You, the seller, doesn’t ever handle the product directly.

Dropshipping is appealing because it’s simple and cost effective. Yes, the margin might be lower on a per-product basis, but there’s way less risk. The entire supply chain process is streamlined, the supplier handles the inventory and shipping logistics, giving you the time to focus more on marketing and growth, rather than worrying about stock and deliveries.

Build a Dropshipping Store with WooCommerce & Printful

The Benefits of Dropshipping

Dropshipping has a number of benefits, especially for small business owners and start-up entrepreneurs. The big one is money; it significantly reduces the financial risks that come with traditional retail models. There’s no purchasing of inventory upfront, so you can start your business (or test a new business idea) with very little capital investment. No big bank loans.

From this small investment, dropshipping also offers huge scalability and flexibility. You can operate a dropshipping business from anywhere in the world (as long as there’s an internet connection), and easily scale your business with new products and suppliers. If you prefer an independent lifestyle, and the freedom to travel, a dropshipping E-Commerce store might just be perfect for you. 

Logistics and supply chain management are frightening things, trust me. Dropshipping that’s care of all that for you. By outsourcing stock and shipping to the experts, you can focus on marketing, your customers and growing your brand.

The Drawbacks of Dropshipping

Dropshipping isn’t perfect, and it isn’t for everyone. It’s important to understand the limitations as well. Since you rely on suppliers to manage stock and ship products, any issues on their end will directly impact your business, and there’s very little you can do about it, other than switch providers. 

Expect lower profit margins, compared to traditional retail. Because, you are, in effect, buying one product at a time, as and when you sell it, providers charge a premium, and when you factor in other costs; advertising, website maintenance, and card processing etc. profits might not be what you expect.

Competition is fierce in the dropshipping space; The barriers to entry are low, so basically everyone’s at it, and the market is completely saturated in certain niches. Standing out from the competition takes hard work, effective marketing, unique branding, and exceptional customer service.

Why WordPress & Why WooCommerce ?

The right platforms will make or break the success of your dropshipping store. There’s so much choice these days, butWordPress and WooCommerce are what we do here, so that’s what we’ll be focusing on. Click here to read a recent post about WordPress and why it’s the only CMS we use…

Choice of Themes

WordPress has thousands of themes specifically designed for e-commerce stores. Good themes are customizable and responsive, so your store can look exactly how you want it too; professional, and smooth across all devices. If you can, invest a little money in a premium theme, you can find a design that perfectly matches your brand and your products. WooCommerce themes often come with pre-designed layouts and built-in features designed for online shopping.

Plugins & Extensions

There’s a WordPress plugin for everything you can think of, and these tools will add every function you need; product filters, optimization features, email marketing integration, and more. With the right combination of plugins, you can build a super unique and highly functional experience for your customers, and really stand out. The WooCommerce ecosystem includes integrations with popular dropshipping services like Printful, which we’ll look at in more detail later.

No Transaction Fees or Monthly Charges

WooCommerce, unlike Shopify, charges no transaction fees or monthly charges, all you pay for is card processing. While some premium plugins or themes are extra, the core WooCommerce software is free, and that’s enough to get started. This makes it the affordable option, perfect for small business owners, with budget concerns.

No Product Restrictions

WooCommerce offers you complete freedom over the products you sell, without restriction. This flexibility allows you to experiment, different types of product, different niches, you can adapt to market trends and customer preferences. You can sell physical products, digital products, or even services, WooCommerce does it all.

Music Artist Website Merchandise Store

Get Started With WooCommerce

Now you understand the basics of dropshipping and WooCommerce, let’s get started building the store. This section will guide you through the essential steps to create, configure, and optimise your WooCommerce dropshipping store.

Step 1: Your WooCommerce Dropshipping Store

The first step is to create your WordPress website and install WooCommerce. Choose a reliable hosting provider; great performance, security, and customer support. Install WordPress and install WooCommerce. The setup wizard will guide you through the basic configuration; currency, payment options and all of the other basic settings.

Step 2 : Choose Your Supplier

Research and evaluate potential suppliers carefully. Look for suppliers with a good reputation, positive reviews, and a track record of professional fulfilment. We use Printful, but there are others, some of which may be more suited to your location, or the type of products you want to sell.

Order samples and check out product quality, packaging, and shipping time firsthand. Your suppliers must meet your quality standards and deliver products on time, consistently. Get to know your supplier, communicate with them, join Facebook groups and forums. Building a strong relationship will help you along the road.

Once you’ve selected your products, add them to your WooCommerce store. Each provider has a different product entry process. With Printful, you do everything on their platform and the products are submitted via API, more on this below.

Step 3 : Calculate the Costs & Logistics

Costs and logistics are boring, but you have to take this seriously, because it’s probably the most important part of the process. Start by identifying all the costs from door-to-door. This includes the cost of the products, shipping fees, payment processing fees, and any subscription fees for tools and services you use. Then, fixed costs; website hosting, marketing, advertising costs, even electricity and your phone bill might be included here. Next shipping; decide on shipping methods and calculate the shipping costs for each product. Look into multiple shipping options and also free shipping, maybe over a certain order value.

Step 6: Set Your Pricing Options

With all of the above in place you can work out the price for each product. Start by calculating your break-even price, what do you need to charge to cover all costs associated with selling a product. Once you know this, decide on a profit margin and add that. Also look at value, demand, and your competitor’s pricing. Leave room for promotions and discounts, you’ll need this to attract customers and drive sales.

Printful - Print on Demand

Printful is one of the most popular dropshipping providers. They specialise in print-on-demand products, meaning that you design them and then each time an order is made the product is printed and shipped . Printful integrates easily with WooCommerce, and this has always been the number one factor in our decision to choose them.

The Printful product catalogue is huge; t-shirts, hoodies, posters, mugs, and more. The printing and embroidery is really high-end, so your designs always look professional, and exactly what you ordered

Printful handle every aspect of the fulfilment process; printing, packaging and shipping direct to your customers. You focus on growing your business and they do everything else. Transparent pricing, with no upfront fees or minimum order requirements, make them the cost-effective option, especially for small businesses and start-ups.

Printful Integration for WooCommerce

Step 1: Upgrade your WooCommerce to the latest version.

Step 2: Make sure that permalink settings are not set to Plain

1 – Settings → Permalinks” 2 – Under “Common Settings” choose any other link structure other than “Plain” in order for the WooCommerce API to work.

WordPress Permalink Settings

Step 3: Install the Printful plugin

1 – Head to your WooCommerce site and open up the “Plugins” tab. 2 – Add new plugin. 3 – Search, Install and Activate the Printful plugin.

Install Printful Plugin

Step 4: Connect your WooCommerce to Printful

Connect Printful to WooCommerce

Other Dropshipping Options

Printful is an excellent choice for print-on-demand products, but there are many other dropshipping providers that cater to different types of products and business models. What if you want to use Amazon for dropshipping? Let’s explore some of the top alternatives.

1. WooCommerce Dropshipping

WooCommerce Dropshipping allows you to manage, automate and streamline order processing and supplier communication. You can easily import products from various suppliers, manage inventory, and process orders with just a few clicks. This plugin also supports email notifications with customers and suppliers, saving time and reducing the risk of error.

2. Dropshipping for AliExpress & WooCommerce

DFAW is a powerful plugin that allows you to import products from AliExpress directly into your WooCommerce store. AliExpress has a huge selection of products and suppliers, making it a popular choice for dropshipping. You can automate product imports, order fulfilment, inventory management, set pricing rules, track shipments and manage orders.

3. TheShark Dropshipping

TheShark is a versatile dropshipping solution that integrates with multiple marketplaces; AliExpress, eBay, Amazon, and Etsy, alongside a WooCommerce integration. One of the standout features is its ability to synchronise inventory and pricing in real-time, maximising profit margins.

4. AliDropship

AliDropship works exclusively with AliExpress. It also provides marketing tools; abandoned cart recovery and email marketing integration. The plugin is available in two versions: a standalone plugin for WordPress and a WooCommerce-specific version, both offering extensive customization options.

5. Dropship.me

Dropship.me is a curated service that provides access to a handpicked selection of products from AliExpress. They offer over 50,000 products that have been selected based on their popularity, ratings, and sales performance. Dropship.me integrates easily with WooCommerce, allowing you to import products with just a few clicks, and also provides pre-written product descriptions, saving you time.

6. Spreadr

Spreadr is a dropshipping plugin that focuses on importing products from Amazon. This plugin allows you to quickly add Amazon products to your store, earn affiliate commissions, or fulfil orders directly through Amazon. Spreadr offers automated product updates, customizable pricing rules, and simple WooCommerce integration.

Designing Products with Printful

Designing your own products with Printful is fun. The interface is really user-friendly and the comprehensive design tools make it easy to first create, and then visualise your products before adding them to your WooCommerce store. 

The Printful catalogue has you covered, with a wide range of products, including all types of clothing, accessories, home decor, and more. It’s mostly custom t-shirts that we’ve worked on over the years, but phone cases, coffee mugs or beach towels or, Printful has everything you need.

Once you have your designs ready, the Printful mock-up generator brings your ideas to life. This tool puts your designs on actual products, and that’s what your customers will see on your website, because remember, this is print-on-demand, your products don’t actually exist until you sell them.

Printful Product Design

Use Photoshop or Canva First

Let’s go back a step. Before heading to Printful to generate your products for sale, you need to design what will be on them. There are design tools within Printful but if you really want something unique, design them yourself using the print files provided for each product. If you have a great idea, but you don’t have the software skills, consider employing a professional designer.

Photoshop Online 04.06.2024

Product Mock-up Examples

Scroll through the gallery below for some Printful mock-up examples…

How To Promote Your Online Store

Trust me, you’ll get zero sales if you launch your store, sit back and do nothing. Your website needs promotion and marketing, to attract customers and drive sales. With the right strategy, you can sell dropshipping products (if you have good products of course) and build a loyal customer base.

1. Get Active on Social Media

We all know that social media is a powerful tool, especially for promoting an online store and engaging with an audience. Facebook and Instagram, even Pinterest, and more recently TikTok, offer opportunities to show off your products, build a community and connect with potential customers.

Launch business profiles on the social media platforms where your target audience hangs out; do some research, TikTok has a younger audience for example. Share images of your products, along with links to your store. Use Instagram Stories, and other content types; keep your content fresh.

Distressed Retro T-shirt

Consistency is key. One post per week is better than ten one day and nothing for a month. Interact with your followers, respond to comments and messages. Research high performing hashtags and use them to increase visibility and reach a new audience. Influencers can help amplify your reach and credibility.

2. Build an Email List

Email is everything in E-Commerce. Selling to an existing customer is way cheaper than getting a new one, and they give you their email address when they buy something, so you need to make the most of it. Keep your customers informed about new products, promotions, and updates. Maintain direct communication with your audience and nurture customer relationships.

After a while you can get more advanced; segment your email list based on customer behaviour, product preferences, and demographics to send targeted and relevant offers to them. Email marketing tools like Mailchimp or Constant Contact can automate and track your campaign performance.

Dropshipping T shirt Design

3. Optimise Your Store for Search

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) isn’t optional, it’s a must; for driving organic (in other words, free) traffic to your store. Start with keyword research, identifying relevant words and phrases that your target audience might use in search. Use these keywords in your product titles, descriptions, meta tags, and URLs. 

Content can also help, providing value to your audience, their needs and interests; blog posts, product guides, or tutorials for example. Internal and external links are also important, enhancing your credibility and relevance. 

4. Consider Paid Ads

Paid advertising is a powerful tool, but you need to be careful. Make sure you know what you’re doing first, or call in a professional. Google Ads or Facebook and Instagram Ads offer sophisticated targeting options to reach your customers, but you can lose money fast too.

Set your advertising goals, choose the platforms that align with your target audience and most importantly, set a realistic budget. Run ads that capture attention and encourage action. Use high-quality images or videos, clear messaging, and strong calls-to-action (CTAs). Test different ads to determine what lands best with your audience. Monitor and analyse your ad performance regularly and adjust your targeting, budget, and content based on the data.

Get Selling : Low Cost, Low-Risk

There it is; dropshipping, WordPress, WooCommerce, Printful and everything else in between. Dropshipping, a business model in which you sell products without holding stock, low startup costs, flexibility, and a huge selection of products.

WooCommerce, adding products and suppliers, calculating costs and logistics, setting prices. Choosing the right dropshipping platform; Printful is an excellent choice for print-on-demand, offering extensive customization and integration with WordPress and WooCommerce.

This business isn’t for everyone, and there are drawbacks, which we’ve looked at, but it can work extremely well in the right circumstances. We can help. If you’re launching a business like this we can take care of all the tech; WordPress, WooCommerce and even the Printful setup. If you want to have a chat about it, hit the contact button at the top of the page, we’ll book a call.


About Adam Bermingham
This blog is dedicated to helping you stay ahead of the curve, with insights into the latest trends, tools, and best practices. Whether you’re a business owner, marketer, or web designer, we have something for everyone. We bring you expert advice, tutorials, and case studies to help you optimise your online presence.

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