Most times when we talk about starting an online business most times people only think of selling digital products online. The idea of selling physical products never cross their minds.
But that shouldn't be so.
In fact, with the improvement and growth in ecommerce, you can build an online shop and sell physical products on your online store without carrying any form of inventory!
In this post I want to share with you a video guide on starting an online business selling t-shirts.
It will interest you to know that the demand for t-shirts online has grown greatly in the last few years. One of the pioneers in this industry, Teespring, now ship about 17 million t-shirts yearly. Besides, the online t-shirt industry is quoted as being around $3.7 million per year.
This is indeed good indicators for anyone who wants to start an online business. And with the many popular print-on-demand companies that you can turn to to get started, this is one online business you'd want to look into.
That's why I have decided to share this video with you. Hope you get some ideas from it.
Before then, do you know you can get a fully Automated DropShipping Store with Automated product sourcing, Automated product content, Automated price updating & more?
All you simply need do is add in some photos, create your product categories, and then enter in your suppliers details and you're business!
Alright, here's the video guide:
How to Start an Online T-Shirt Business (Video Transcript)
Not only are they a classic piece of casual wear, but t-shirts are a blank canvas for artists and entrepreneurs alike. Because of this, selling t-shirts online has become a very popular business choice. The good news is that online t-shirt stores are relatively inexpensive and quick and easy to set up. The bad news is competition will be stiff and the margins can be small so in order to be successful with your new t-shirt brand, you have to make the right decisions from the get go.
In this video, we’ll go through the entire process of starting an online t-shirt business. We’ll go over strategy, t-shirt and print quality, as well as creating and mocking up your designs. And then we’re going to show you step by step the easiest – most cost effective way to get your online t-shirt store up and running – without having to deal with any upfront inventory costs, minimum orders, or even shipping and fulfillment.
Now, I’ll be starting a store from scratch so I can show you just how easy it is to get up and running – here’s a quick peek at what the final product will look like. So follow along and by the end of this video, you too will have created a beautiful online t-shirt store – even if you have no design or coding experience.
Okay, There’s a lot to cover in this video, so if you’ve already thought about your strategy, tshirt quality and design – you may want to skip ahead to one of the following sections: And for those of you just starting out, let’s get started with some strategy and the key areas you’ll want to focus on to ensure you build a solid brand that stands out from the competition.
Great, let’s get started.
Niche – You hear the term get tossed around a lot, but nowhere is it more important to choose a niche than in the graphic t-shirt industry. In general, broad categories like t-shirts with funny slogans are going to be challenging to gain traction for right away because there’s so much competition online. You’re going to want to tighten it up a little more.
An example of a more specific niche would be t-shirts with funny slogans that relate specifically to fitness.
Design – The majority of people that are purchasing graphic tees are looking for designs, graphics and slogans that connect with them and reflect their opinions and personality. Your designs don’t necessarily need to be complex, in fact many of the best selling graphic tees are very simple, however, they do need to connect with your audience and stand out.
Quality – Another extremely important factor in the success and sustainability of an online t-shirt business is quality. You can fool someone once, but you can’t fool them twice. The quality of the shirts you use and the prints needs to be good quality. A pattern that fades and cracks or a t-shirt that shrinks and rips won’t create raving fans that come back and repurchase.
Let’s dig a little deeper into t-shirt and print quality. So, T-Shirt Quality. Not all t-shirts are the same and not all print jobs are the same, so it’s important to educate yourself and choose your blank shirts wisely. It will always be tempting to sacrifice on quality for higher profit margins but you need to consider how the quality will affect customer’s decisions to share your brand and repurchase in the long run.
Now, quality t-shirts encompass several factors, including fit, sizing, material, softness, and weight. A great starting point for determining which blank t-shirt to use is to check out T-Shirt Magazine Online’s review of some of the most popular blank t-shirts for printing.
We’ve linked to this in the description of this video. Once you narrow down your choices, we suggest you order each of the t-shirts yourself to make an informed final decision.
T-Shirt Printing Quality – In this day and age, there are three popular methods for printing designs onto t-shirts. Each method has its pros and cons, and will partially depend on how much time you want to invest into the product creation, as well as the printing partner you choose.
One of your options is screen printing, which is an old technique that has stood the test of time. As one of the most popular methods for printing onto t-shirts, screen printing can produce durable and long lasting results. However, a labor intensive initial setup means screen printing is most cost effective when printing in bulk.
Screen printing also poses issues when it comes to complex designs or designs with more than four to five colors as each color increases costs and production time.
Another printing method is Heat transfers and heat transfers have also been around for a long time and exist in several forms. You may have even seen basic heat transfer paper at your local office supply store. Although these make it easy to print your designs from your home computer and transfer them with an iron, these won’t cut it when it comes to running a business.
The more advanced form of heat transfers are called plastisol transfers and are printed by professional printers on special, high quality heat transfer paper. The advantage of this is being able to order a stack of prints from your local printer and transfer them to your t-shirts as you receive orders with a commercial heat press machine.
Heat transfers can produce full-colour images onto t-shirts relatively easily and quickly.
The final technique for printing is the direct-to-garment printing process, which operates much like a ink-jet printer you would have at home. The printer prints ink directly onto the t-shirt and can produce full color images with accuracy.
Direct-to-garment printing produces quality printing on par with screen printing and better than heat transfers. Because it operates just like an ink-jet printer, there are no setup costs. This means that it's easy and cost effective to print small orders.
The major disadvantage however is the lack of volume discount for large orders, as it takes the same amount of time to print each shirt.
So which option is best for your business?
Well, like we said, it all depends on your unique situation. However, for a lot of new online t-shirt businesses, it will be tough to sell a large volume of shirts immediately, which makes screen printing too pricey and although heat transfers allow you to print on demand – it is time consuming and generally of lower quality.
So Direct to Garment may be your best bet. Alright, let’s talk about T-shirt design.
Now, if you already have a design, feel free to skip ahead.
Creating your designs – Once you have some ideas for t-shirts you’ll have to actually design them. Now, if you have Photoshop or similar programs you can try producing some simple designs yourself – however if you’re like most people, you will likely need to enlist some help. A great place where you can find a design community with loads of unique talent is on dribble. Search for the style you’re looking for and message the designers you like to see if they’re available for freelance projects.
Additionally, if you can’t find a designer, there are also options to purchase pre-made designs. We suggest taking a look at the t-shirt marketplaces Designious and T-Shirt Factory, which we’ve linked to below this video. Although you’ll want to keep in mind that if you choose to go this route, there’s a high likelihood that other people are already selling the design, making it harder for you and your brand to stand out.
You may also want to check out general graphic design marketplaces like Creative Market and Graphic River but keep in mind if you plan to sell your t-shirts, you’ll need to purchase a commercial license.
Mocking up your designs – Once you have some final designs, your next step will be to get some mockup images of them on actual t-shirts. Your customers are going to want to actually see what the final design will look like printed on a shirt. The easiest way to do this is to use a free web-based T-shirt mockup tool. These tools allow you to quickly preview how your designs will look printed on a t-shirt.
Head over to “ShirtMockUp.com” or “Theprintful.com/generator” to give it a try. And for those of you who are comfortable using Adobe Photoshop, you can also make use of the abundance of photoshop-t-shirt templates you can find online. Most Photoshop templates come with multiple layers that allow you to change the colour of the shirt and apply your own design that will blend with the creases and folds of the shirt. I’ve linked to a few of these in the description of this video.
Validating your designs – Before you spend a lot of money on your new business idea, you should first verify that there is a market for your designs. There are a number of ways you can do this. The first thing you can do is post some of your designs to facebook, twitter, and other social networks your friends and potential customers are a part of to see if there might be some interest.
Be careful asking friends however, their opinions will usually be biased because they want to support you.. Now, a great place to go to get some unbiased feedback for your designs is reddit. The unique thing about reddit is that there are thousands of category specific subreddits, so it’s easy to find a highly targeted niche of potential customers.
To find relevant subreddits, simply use reddit’s search feature and type in your keywords of choice. From there you can ask them first hand their thoughts on your designs before launching.
Kickstarter and other crowd-funding websites have also made it much easier to test, validate, and collect money upfront for your new business idea. Launching a crowdfunding campaign can be time consuming and requires a good deal of preparation, however, the benefits can be huge, which include fully funding your project before you have spent a dime.
Those are just a few methods you can try to validate your t-shirt ideas, however with ecommerce platforms like Shopify, it’s never been easier to set up a fully functional online store in a matter of minutes to validate your business idea. Additionally, we think the easiest and most practical way to get your online t-shirt business started is by integrating your store with an online, on-demand, printing and fulfillment service.
These services are incredibly convenient and allow you to set up your online t-shirt store without any risk. They offer a wide variety of t-shirts you can print on, there are no set up costs, no minimum orders, and you don’t need to hold inventory. You simply upload your T-shirt artwork, and the type of shirt you want them to print on and when you receive an order, they print your shirt, and send it directly to your customer.
The great thing is, the customer has no idea you’ve used this type of service, because you're able to customize the return address and include your branding in the packaging.
Also, if you’re using Shopify – there are several of these services in our app store, that connect directly to your ecommerce store. This means that once a shirt is ordered from your online store – it will be automatically created, and shipped to your customer. I’ve linked to a few of these providers in the description of this video but for now let’s head over to Shopify.com and sign up for a free trial so we can show you just how easy it is to get your t-shirt business up and running with one of these services.
So, for those of you who don’t know, Shopify is a fully hosted, turnkey, ecommerce solution that allows you to easily setup and run your own beautiful store on your own domain. I’m going to quickly start a new store from scratch, so I can walk you through the set up process.
Btw, if you don't have a Shopify account you can get a 14-day FREE trial account by clicking here. This will give you the opportunity to follow along with this training and of course have try this out right away!
The first thing I will cover is how to sync your store with an on demand printing and fulfillment service, and then I’m going to show you how to add products, and customize the look and feel of your store.
To start, we’ll type our email into the box there and hit get started. Then we’ll create our password and the name of our store. If you’re following along and haven’t decided on a name for your store yet, don't worry you can easily change your store name later. Okay, so it just takes a few moments to create your store. Great, so Shopify wants to know where we would like to sell, let’s focus on an online store for now.
Let’s quickly add our address to set up our shop’s currency. Okay, so Shopify wants to know a little bit more about our plans. “Are you already selling?”. And we haven’t started selling products yet so I’ll tick that off. and how much revenue does your business currently make in a year. We’re starting from scratch so I click $0.
Okay so now that we’ve created our online store, we’ll find ourselves within the shopify admin dashboard and it’s best to think of the dashboard as the control center for all the operations we’ll perform on our shopify store.
Now, I want to get right into showing you how to integrate with a on-demand, printing and fulfillment service so let’s jump right into it – but if you’re looking to go into more detail with starting your shopify store, we have another great tutorial video that shows you how to get up and running in more detail. I’ve linked that video in the description of this video.
Okay, let’s get started.
So the first thing we’re going to do is head to the shopify app store. To do this, we’ll click on the “apps” tab on the left panel and then we’ll select “visit the app store”.
So the Shopify App store has 100s of apps that can extend the functionality of your shopify store in categories ranging from marketing, shipping, sales and customer service.
Now, we’re looking for a pretty specific type of app, so let’s narrow our results by searching for the word “t-shirt”. As you can see there are currently 6 available apps that appear in the search results for “T-shirt”, you can take a look at each of them and read what they have to offer as well as look at customer reviews.
For this tutorial, we’re going to take a look at printful. Okay so like we said – No upfront costs, they offer personal branding – so it looks like you sent it and no manual orders – everything is automatically sent to printful. If we scroll down we can see, they offer a variety of t-shirts, American Apparel, Gildan and Anvil. They also offer Sweatshirts, posters, mugs and a whole bunch of other products if you’d like to branch out. They also offer 20% off and free shipping if you’d like to order samples of your t-shirts and the conveniently provide you with mock up images that you can use in your shopify store.
They even have some pre-written product descriptions you can use – although we suggest creating your own. Alright, let’s go ahead and add the app and it will bring us to the signup page, where we’ll want to create an account.
I’ve already created an account so I’ll be brought directly to my Shopify page where, I’ll want to install printful. Once you’ve created account as well, you will be redirected here. Okay so our store is now synced with printful, and we haven’t added any products to our store so we won’t see anything here quite yet.
In the blue box, we can see that printful wants to make sure we follow their print guidelines. Let’s click on that link. Here we can see more information on the t-shirts and pricing they offer. If we scroll down we can see the variety of shirts and sweaters they offer and if we click on the image, we can see all the colours that are offered, as well as a description and sizing information.
If we click on the retail prices tab we can see how much each shirt will cost. And these prices are what you pay for the shirt and the print. The American Apparel 2001 T-shirt costs you $16 and if you sell your t-shirt at $26 you will profit $10. Of course, you decide how you want to price your t-shirt so you determine your own profit margins.
If we click on the shipping tab we can see the rates for the USA, Canada and the rest of the world. Just like pricing, it’s up to you to you to decide if you want to offer free shipping on your products or if you want to adjust your shipping rates according to the printful rates. We’ll dig into this in more detail shortly.
If we click on the mockups tab, we can download some apparel mock ups and they also point you in the direction of some other mock up tools that we mentioned earlier like shirtmockup.com. And if we click on the guidelines tab – we can get some instruction on the details of the print file we need to include. We can very easily download these files and work along with them, but if we want to get started quickly, we can click on the mockup generator from the top menu.
So this feature allows you to generate a t-shirt mockup and print file very easily. The first thing we can do is pick our t-shirt brand. We’re going to print on American Apparel Tees, so I’ll select that.
The next thing we’ll do is pick our t-shirt colour. And then we can upload our artwork. Once it’s uploaded we can adjust, where we want it to appear on our T-shirt. center the file by clicking the center button, or adjust the size of our graphic by using the slider bar. When we’re ready we can click to proceed to the file generator and click to generate the mockup and printfile. And it will just take a few moments. And We can now download these files.
Great, now let’s quickly set up our billing information so we can get all synced up with Shopfiy. There are few options and we’re going to go with the default payment method. Now, if your printful account is connected with your Shopify store, all you have to do is add a credit card and any new shopify orders will automatically be added to printful and your credit card will be automatically charged for them.
No manual order submission required. Okay, let’s head over to our Shopify store – and we’re going to add our first t-shirt to our store. To do this we’ll click the products tab and select add product.
Let’s name our Shirt Just below that we can add our product description. You’ll want to take some time to craft a proper product description but we can always change this later.
And let’s make sure we add this to the frontpage collection, which means the product will be featured on our home page. And Images. This where we can upload our T-shirt mock ups, or if we have any shots of our products on models or anything like that. For now, let’s just add the mockup file that printful created for us. Okay price. I’ll just go with $30 for now.
Since we plan to print on demand, we don’t need to track inventory. And this product has multiple options. So we’ll need to add the weight of our product for when we set up our shipping rates. We’ll get into this in more detail but for now, I’m going to say that our t-shirt weighs kilograms. Variants, this is where we can add our different shirt sizes. And we’ll just type in the sizes we offer and separate them with a comma.
Okay, let’s hit save product. And our product has been successfully created. So now, we’ll want to sync our t-shirt with printful. Let’s hit this handy button on our top bar and select “edit on printful”. And as we can see our Shirt has been synced and it is showing the sizes we added. What we can do now is add our printfile, and let printful know what type of shirt and size we would like them to print on.
Product Type, T-Shirt. Brand: We’re going to go with American Apparel and the model, we’ll go with the very popular 2001, fine jersey sleeve men’s t-shirt.
The size for this one will be small, and the colour black. We can now add our printfile by selecting “front print” and clicking upload file – and then we’ll locate the printfile we generated and downloaded and click the image to confirm. We also have the option to add a back print or outside label at an additional cost. We can also add the mockup we created. Let’s go ahead and do that. It will just take a few seconds to upload – and again we’ll click the image to confirm. Then we will hit done – and repeat the process for the additional sizes. As you can see all the info is conveniently filled out and we simply have to change the size of the shirt.
I’ll just adjust our large shirt as well. Great, so our t-shirt is all synced up with printful and ready to go. Now let’s take a look at adding our branding to the packages printful ships out to our customers. So, printful is completely white label, which means you will not see their name or branding anywhere and they make it very easy to add our branding to their packages. To do this we’ll head to “settings” from the top tab, select stores from the left tab and then click edit. So here we have the option to add our branding sticker.
Follow printful’s size and quality guidelines, and at no extra cost you can easily add your logo to all your packages. Additionally you can add some custom text to your packing slips by filling out the custom packing slip message right here and you also have the option to change your return address, although printful recommends that you keep their address as the return address.
Okay great, so now that we’re all synced up with printful, let’s head back to our shopify admin dashboard and quickly set up our payments and shipping rates.
To set up payments, we’ll head to settings and then select payments. Okay, so for our users in the UK, US and Canada, our Shopify stores have automatically been set up with Shopify payments, which allows us to start accepting payments from all major credit cards instantly. All we have to do is click to “complete shopify payments account setup and fill out the relevant information. And for our users outside of the UK, US, and Canada, don’t worry – Shopify has integrated with over 70 different payment partners so there are plenty of hassle free options available.
Additionally, as soon as we open our Shopify store, we will be set up with a Paypal Express Checkout account with the email we used to sign up for our Shopify Store. As soon as we receive our first order through PayPal Express Checkout, Paypal will send us an email that contains the link and instructions to complete our Paypal account set-up and claim our funds. Alright, let’s setup our shipping rates and to do this we’ll select the shipping tab on our left panel.
Okay, so like we said before it’s entirely up to you how you want to set up your shipping rates. You may decide you want to offer free shipping to your customers, or even build the shipping prices into the cost of your shirt. We have some great resources that can help you get a shipping strategy in place that I will link to in the description of this video. But for now, we’ll show you an easy, and safe way to set up your shipping rates, so that they match the rates that printful will charge you.
Let’s pull up Printful’s shipping rates for reference. So you can see they have different rates for the USA, Canada and Worldwide shipping. We’ll set up our Canadian rates first, because that is where we are located. So our first t-shirt will cost $and each additional shirt will cost $1.00. So we’ve already been set up with some standard shipping rates – but these won’t do us much good since we want to match printful’s rates.
So let’s get rid of the heavy goods shipping. And let’s open up the standard shipping and customize it. Let’s set up a shipping rate for if our customer orders 1 t-shirt. So, the first thing we’ll want to do is change our criteria to “based on weight”.
Now, if you remember we put the weight of our t-shirt at 0.5kg. so we’ll put our range 0.0kg – kg. And we’ll set the shipping price to $as per Printful’s rates. Now we can hit save and our shipping rates for orders of a single t-shirt have been set. So next we’ll want to set up a rate for customer’s who order 2 t-shirts.
We’ll click “add shipping rate” – I’ll add the same title “Standard Shipping”. Okay so we know we’ve weighted 1 t-shirt at 0.5kg, so 2 t-shirts will weigh 1kg. Therefore we’ll want to change the weight range of this rate to 0.6kg, so that it weighs more than 1 shirt – to 1 kg. And we know printful charges 1 extra dollar for each additional t-shirt to Canada so we’ll change our rate to $9 instead of 8. We can keep filling these rates out in a similar fashion – you may also decide to give your customers who are ordering a bunch of shirts a deal on shipping. You can achieve this by changing the weight range for example to 1.1-20kg with a shipping rate of $10. Meaning if they order, 3 shirts or more they are offered the same rate of $10.
To set up rates for the USA we can click “add country”, and select the united states. We’ll then follow the same method we used to set up our Canadian rates. To set up international rates – click add country, select “rest of the world” and again follow the same process to set up your rates.
Okay, so we’ve taken care of the logistics. Our store is integrated with printful – our products are synced and we’ve provided print files. We’ve set up our billing information on printful and set up our shopify store to accept payments. Our shipping rates are set – but you’re probably wondering – what does my store actually look like? Well, that’s really up to you. Let’s head back to our admin and click on themes tab to get started customizing the look and feel of our store.
So, the theme of a Shopfiy store controls all aspects of the store’s appearance and layout. Now, Shopify actually automatically sets us up with an introductory theme called launchpad, which is a great starter theme – but let’s quickly head over to theme store and explore some options.
So there are lots of themes to choose from and we encourage you take some time looking through them and seeing which one would work well with your t-shirt business. For now, let’s narrow our results a little bit by selecting a free theme, that is in clothing and fashion.
So our results have narrowed significantly, and I’m personally drawn to the “new standard” theme so I’ll click on it. Here we can learn more about the theme, view a demo, see what styles it comes in and read some reviews. If we’re satisfied with what we see we can click “Get Theme” and publish it as our stores theme. And it will take a few moments to publish it. Now, we can view what our store is looking like by clicking this view on your website button or at any time by using the handy icon in the bottom left corner.
So our website is pretty blank – we’ve only added one product. But we can easily customize our theme and start filling it out by adding our logo to the top – adding a nice slider image and filling out our About us section. First things first, I’m going to quickly go back to our products page and add 3 more t-shirts just so we can better visualize our store. I’d encourage everyone to do the same. If you’re following along, make sure to add your new products to the “front page” collection so they will appear on your home page.
I’d also like to mention that if you're adding shirts that you plan to sell, remember to sync them with printful, by using the same process we used with our first t-shirt. Okay great, so we now have 4 products to fill out our store and help visualize it.
Let’s head back to our themes and click customize theme. And there are our 4 products displayed on our front page. Let’s start by adding our logo – to do this we’ll click the “header tab”. If we read the description it let’s us know that our logo dimensions can be a maximum of 844 pixels wide and 200 pixels high. I’ve already got a logo prepared so I’ll click choose file – locate my image, and click open.
Great, let’s save those changes. Next up, let’s add a slider image, by clicking the back arrow and going down to the homepage tab. We can see that our image should be 844 pixels by 490 pixels. Let’s click the replace button under “slide 1” and select our banner image. Cool – so that’s added. I also have another one I will add so it can scroll through two different photos. Same idea, I’ll click replace under Slide 2 and locate my photo. Awesome, you can also very easily add captions – or you may even decide you want to turn off the slider.
Take some to explore the storefront editor, it’s extremely intuitive so you can easily customize the look of your store. If we look at the footer section, for example we can easily link our social icons, which are located at the bottom of our page to our appropriate channels, simply by changing the URL. If we don’t use a particular social channel, we can easily remove the icon by deleting the URL entirely. And as you can see our Google + icon is no longer there And if we’re interested we can add our contact information into the boxes below. Okay let’s save changes. Alright, so our T-shirt store is starting to fill out nicely and another thing we may want to edit is our “about us” section and our blog. To start, we’ll head back to our admin dashboard and click pages.
From within the pages we can very easily customize our about us page and we can change the text on our frontpage by selecting the “frontpage” section. And just like everything else, adding blog posts is extremely easy. Click on the blog posts tab from the panel and there is one set up for you that is ready to edit. And to add additional blog posts, simply hit the “add a blog post” button from the right hand corner. Okay and the last thing we recommend you do is register a custom web address by clicking settings and then domains. All new stores start with a with a (dot)myshopify(dot)com address as a way to log in and store our content safely, however it will look much more professional if you get your own custom .com address for example. You can do this very easily by selecting the “buy a domain” button and the domains will even be offered to you at a discounted price – or – if you already have domain, you can easily add it to your store by selecting to add an existing domain.
And there you go, just like that you’re all set up with your custom branded, online t-shirt store. And if you’ve followed along, your t-shirts are all synced up with printful – so when someone purchases a t-shirt – an order is automatically sent to printful, printed on your t-shirt of choice and sent directly to your customer. And since you don’t have to worry about upfront inventory costs, or printing and shipping you’ll have plenty of time to focus on other aspects of growing and running your online t-shirt business. I’d also like to mention that your store is currently private, and password protected – but when you’re ready to launch you can easily remove your password by heading to settings, then scrolling down to the “storefront password” section to remove your password and make your store live to the public. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below – and if you found this video helpful, please let us know by clicking the like button.
Thanks for watching.
- FREE 14-Day Shopify Account: http://www.webincomejournal.com/shopify
- Oberlo drop shipping app: https://www.shopify.com/oberlo
- Picking the Perfect Blank T-Shirt – T-shirt Magazine Online: http://www.t-shirtmagazineonline.com/picking-the-perfect-tshirt-blank/
- Design Community – Dribbble: https://dribbble.com/
- T-Shirt Marketplace – Designious: http://www.designious.com/
- T-Shirt Marketplace – T-Shirt Factory: http://www.tshirt-factory.com/
- Graphic Design Marketplace – Creative Market: https://creativemarket.com/
- Graphic Design Marketplace – Graphic River: http://graphicriver.net/
- T-Shirt Mockup Generator – ShirtMockUp.com: http://shirtmockup.com/
- T-Shirt Mockup Generator – The Printful Mockup Generator: https://www.theprintful.com/generator
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