What to do when the domain name you really want is already taken? Improvise. Later, if you can afford it, you pay for it.
Just as Facebook was once “The Facebook,” Printful Inc., a drop-ship printer of T-shirts, pillows, mugs and other customizable products that handles fulfillment and shipping for thousands of online stores, had been using ThePrintful.com as its primary URL. And like Facebook before it, the retailer eventually spent six figures to drop “The” from its name.
As of Jan. 26, the company began using Printful.com after spending $100,000 to acquire the URL from its former owner, an entrepreneur in Spain. That amount was half what Facebook paid in 2005 to acquire Facebook.com.
Printful CEO Davis Siksnans says the retailer made the change because Google Analytics showed that people were struggling to find the company online. People were searching for Printful.com before they owned that domain and finding nothing, or were searching “the Printful” (two words). For a small company that sells to small business owners, that kind of confusion was a problem.
“We want to make it easier for word-of-mouth marketing to spread,” Siksnans says. That was not going to be effective if well-meaning referrals led potential customers to a dead URL.
After unsuccessfully trying to negotiate directly with the domain owner, Siksnans says, Printful used the GoDaddy Domain Buy Service as an intermediary.
It’s a too early to measure the impact of the change, Siksnans says. But the move fits with the retailer’s long-term plans, including a possible initial public offering in 2020. He declines to provide numbers but says Printful’s revenue has roughly doubled every year since it July 2013 launch.
The retailer has 250 employees in the United States and another 50 in Latvia where Printful’s programming, development, marketing and customer service teams are located. That’s up from 100 U.S. employees and 20 in Latvia at the beginning of 2016. Siksnans says there are about 12,000 active Printful users and roughly 200,000 registered users. The website says Printful has invested $2.2 million in printing equipment and technology.
The idea for Printful came from the need to solve a problem, Siksnans says. A new business he was working on, Startup Vitamins, wanted a good, fast-moving drop-ship printer to create the motivational signs, mugs and other products it was selling. What the vitamin company encountered was mostly problematic.
Siksnans says quality problems, a cumbersome ordering process and slow fulfillment plagued the operation, Siksnans says. Based on that experience, Startup Vitamins’ parent company, Draugiem Group, got into the drop-ship printing and fulfillment business, launching Printful.
Printful (based on “printing” and “fulfillment”) works with e-retailers to produce and ship products such as T-shirts, mugs and posters, which are then shipped directly to consumers using each clients’ branding. In most cases, Siksnans says, Printful’s involvement is invisible to the consumer.
Siksnans says Printful differentiates itself from other drop-shipping services in that it provides an application program interface (API) that eliminates manual input and allows orders on a client’s website to automatically transfer to Printful. Printful’s platform also integrates with several popular e-commerce platforms: Shopify, WooCommerce, Storenvy, BigCommerce, Gumroad, Tictail, Big Cartel, and Ecwid. Printful does not require a minimum purchase, but does offer volume discounts, starting at 5% for average monthly sales of $5,000. The discounts go as high as 12% for customers that sell $100,000 per month.
Looking forward, Siksnans says, the company is working to create direct integration with Amazon.com Inc.’s online marketplace to make it easier for customers to sell there.
“If you want to use Printful and Amazon right now you have to build integration yourself using Printful and Amazon API,” Siksnans says. “That’s a lot of development work. By integrating directly with Amazon your Amazon.com Seller Accounts orders will automatically import from Amazon to Printful and you will be able to publish new Amazon product listings for print products directly from Printful’s dashboard.”
Amazon is the No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide.
Printful also wants to add a European fulfillment center, Siksnans says.