Shopify’s eCommerce platform has become one of the leading companies in the B2C eCommerce space. That isn’t surprising, as the company keeps growing its revenue year after year, reaching over three billion USD in 2021.
That kind of growth shows that sellers use the platform heavily to explore different business opportunities. One of the popular approaches that many opt for is creating a print-on-demand store. Taking such steps provides business owners with a lot more flexibility.
There’s no need to make substantial initial investments, yet it’s still possible to create a business that can scale over time. This guide will take a close look at what print-on-demand is, its benefits, and the basics to get started.
Without further ado, let’s briefly explain what print-on-demand is.
What is print-on-demand?
Print-on-demand is a service that multiple companies offer for online sellers. It’s practical because you, as the store owner, don’t have to invest in products initially. The printing service provider automatically creates one for you when someone purchases on your website.
Furthermore, that company will also ship the product to your customer’s address in the packaging of your choice.
The best part is that the whole process is easy to set up. All you have to do is reach out to the supplier. Use their software to place the design on the product and make the order. You can immediately see how the design would look and whether it’s a good business idea.
How is it different from dropshipping?
At first glance, this looks a lot like dropshipping. While there are a couple of similarities, in terms of relying on a third-party supplier, it’s a lot different.
Dropshipping is a process through which you sell already existing products in the market. That means that anyone can reach out to the supplier and sell that same product as you. Therefore, the moment your business takes off, you can expect a vast number of competitors to join the race.
The current forecast shows that the dropshipping space will grow over 400%. That’s an indication of a massive surge in competition in the coming years. Even though it’s a good business idea, working with a POD service provider is more sustainable.
Well, you get to build your brand from the start. Remember, the supplier is only performing a service for you. All of the products they print are yours. You can register your trademark from the start and prevent anyone from selling the same products and designs.
Unlike dropshipping, you have complete control of your products. The competitors will have to create other unique designs and push them to the market. All that makes POD more sustainable in the long run.
Which products can you sell?
Different suppliers offer printing services for various products. If you want to offer a broad selection of products, you might want to team up with several of them. You can use the variety of possibilities to your advantage and build a big store with something to offer for everyone.
Some of the products to consider include:
- Hats and caps
- Male and female clothing (Shirts, T-shirts)
- Phone cases
- Tote bags
The list goes on, as every print-on-demand supplier offers specific products. The long list of products means that you have many options for your design ideas. Even if you’re not looking to start selling multiple products, it’s good to know that you can branch out over time.
What are the pros and cons of print on demand?
Like with any business idea, there are two sides to the story. Print-on-demand has its pros and cons. Overall, there are more benefits to using suppliers, especially as you develop your eCommerce business.
The biggest advantage that you can count on is speed and quantity. Once you have a design ready, you can immediately sell a product. You don’t have to worry about your inventory or maintaining open purchase orders with other vendors. Everything’s in the supplier’s hands. As your store keeps growing, you can quickly meet the increasing demand for products.
Another important advantage to consider is that you don’t need to waste time shipping. All that is handled by the supplier. They will send the product to the shipping address from the order. The only obligation on your side is customer support.
From the business perspective, the biggest advantage is not investing a lot of money. You need to purchase a test product, subscribe to a Shopify plan, and get a domain. The investment comes down to somewhere between $50 to $100, which is a low cost of starting a business.
There are a few cons to this business model. However, it’s important to state that these can be eliminated in the long run, as your eCommerce shop keeps growing. Still, when you start your Shopify store with POD, you can expect lower margins.
Therefore, your profit margins won’t be as high as if you were manufacturing your products independently. That is logical given you don’t make bulk orders, but one by one as your customers buy from you.
The supplier limits the range of products you can sell. Therefore, there’s a chance you’ll have to work with multiple suppliers to cover a broader range of products.
You have no control over the shipping procedure. Some suppliers are better than others. Make sure to consider shipping when exploring who you’ll work with. Opt for suppliers who have an excellent track record of shipping out products quickly.
The best printing companies to consider
Sellers can opt for numerous suppliers out there. More choice means more opportunities for finding the supplier that works best for your business. Before you make a choice, consider the following things.
- Features — What sets this supplier apart from the others? Maybe they have a unique feature that works perfectly for your merchandise.
- Printing options — Explore different printing techniques. You want the best printing quality in the business, so your products become synonymous with words like durability, quality and reliability.
- Available products — Each supplier has a selection of available products. Check whether they have items you plan to sell.
- Shipping availability — Shipping support is extremely important for the logistics of your business. Different suppliers have printing operations in different areas. If your target audience is in the US, you want a supplier who can quickly ship there. On the other hand, if it’s in Europe, you need one to deliver your products there quickly.
Keeping these things in mind will help you find the best third-party supplier for your eCommerce shop. Here are a couple of companies to consider.
Printful is the giant in the POD industry. The platform practically has everything a seller might want in their eCommerce store. It’s not just the massive range of products that counts over 200 different categories, but the shipping and printing options available.
Its mockup generator is a convenient tool that lets you quickly see how your design would look on a piece of clothing. Explore its services if you want a secure partner with years of experience under their belt. Also, they offer quick deliveries to the US, Europe, and Mexico.
Are you customers in the US, UK, and Canada? Teelaunch has got you covered. You can use the platform to print your designs with high-quality printing options. There’s a product personalization feature available, where your customer can pick how they want to apply your design to the products.
What’s more, the platform also provides you with free advertising materials you can use in your campaigns. You won’t have to create promotional images with models, the platform does that automatically for you.
Are you on the lookout for a supplier that ships internationally? CustomCat is the right partner for you. Alongside international shipping, you can expect high-quality printing options. If you decide to subscribe to the supplier’s services, you get a discount on some of the products available.
The biggest selling point of this supplier is the unique selection of products they have. If you want to run a unique store with specific products, you’ll find the selection of this supplier interesting.
Printify is a network of multiple printing partners around the world. It is very handy if you’re planning to sell internationally, as different partners have a presence in different countries. However, you’ll have to do thorough research, as not all of them offer the same quality of products.
The last thing you want is for your customers to receive sub-par quality products. It’ll immediately result in negative reviews on your shop. Therefore, order test products to double-check how good every printing partner is.
Once those sales start ramping up, you can use the premium plan to get a 20% discount on your orders. That will help you get a higher profit margin through more sales.
5. JetPrint: Print On Demand
This is a niche print-on-demand supplier. Its target audience is people interested in creating a custom watch brand. If you want to sell unique watches to your customers, JetPrint is your best bet.
The supplier takes three to five days to produce a watch and ships globally within two to three weeks. You can speed up the process to five to nine business days by paying the express shipping fee.
You’ll find the platform’s mockup tool very handy, allowing you to perform deep customization of watches.
Can you run a store from anywhere?
One of the biggest advantages of running a Shopify POD store is the ability to do it from anywhere. Anyone who wants to try selling their designs can do so, no matter where they’re located.
As you might assume, the only thing that matters is partnering up with suppliers who can deliver products to your customers quickly. Therefore, if you’re planning to sell your merchandise to customers in the US, you want a supplier who can quickly deliver items in that market.
Even though you can run a business anywhere in the world, don’t forget to check both local laws and the laws where you’re selling the goods. Check where you need to pay tax and what are the processes.
Which designs to use?
If you don’t have any designs of your own, that doesn’t mean that you can’t run an eCommerce store. You can always outsource that part of the job to others. For example, you can use platforms such as Upwork, 99designs, or Fiverr.
These platforms are perfect places for finding top talent to create mesmerizing designs. Whenever you find an artist, include an agreement they have to sign that states that the designs belong to you. That way, you’ll be safe from any legal issues in the future.
Helpful POD tips to follow
Before you begin your adventure, here are a couple of helpful tips that’ll keep you on the right path.
Put shipping first
The most important supplier’s feature is its shipping policy. Thoroughly examine it and pay attention to order preparation time, shipping time, and costs. Explore which geographical areas the partnerships to. That way, you’ll know whether your customer in the area can receive their orders quickly. If not, explore what the other suppliers have to offer.
Only work with those who can meet your shipping demands. The success of your Shopify store largely depends on the quality of service. Shipping is an important aspect to consider.
Try before you subscribe
Opt for a supplier only after you’ve tried the quality of their service. Once you create your mockup, place an order. You’ll then see how quickly they’ll deliver your test product and what’s the quality of the print. If you don’t have a strict budget, order multiple prints to check their qualities.
This is a must-take step for all suppliers, especially if you’re planning to use Printify. It’s the only way to ensure a consistent quality of your products in all regions.
Grow your audience
Setting up your store is just the first step in setting up your online business. It’s also important to deploy various marketing tactics and slowly start growing your brand. That means taking the following steps:
- Creating a Content strategy — Consider what would customers be interested in your product search online. Create a content strategy that will attract an audience to your eCommerce store organically.
- Building an email list — Growing your email list is one of the best ways to build a community around your brand. Use it to promote sales, introduce new products and offer personalized discounts for your subscribers.
- Establishing social media presence — Use social media platforms to drive sales of your products. Popular options to consider are Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and TikTok.
- Investing in PPC — Relying on organic traffic is always great, but don’t forget that you can invest in PPC campaigns. Run Google, Facebook and Instagram ads to get your products in front of different audiences.
Measure your marketing results and see which products are popular. That way, you can better strategize your marketing efforts to get better results.
Bring your products to life
One of the best ways to get more sales is to create breathtaking product images. It’s another process you could outsource to ensure that your products come to life. Use the images across all your promotional channels to get higher conversion rates.
Collaborate with models and hire a professional photographer to showcase your work. The same goes for your product photography. Better images of your products will help the customer know precisely what they’re getting.
When working with print-on-demand suppliers, you’re not limited to a single eCommerce platform. You can establish multiple online stores to promote your products. Aside from running a Shopify store, you can also opt for marketplaces such as Etsy and Amazon.
It’s something to consider if you want to establish multiple stores. You can use each one to promote different products. Check which platforms integrate with your supplier. That way, you can create a diversification strategy and see which platform will bring you the most sales.
As you can see, running a Shopify POD store is a great way to start your brand. All you need is a little bit of creativity, a couple of designs, and a small investment. It’s a great business model that offers a lot of flexibility and the potential to create a global brand.
The most part is picking the right suppliers with outstanding shipping methods, so your customers don’t wait too long for the products. Once everything is set up, you can focus on marketing and get outstanding results with your online store.
Last but not least, monitor metrics and take smart steps to grow your store. Given you’re selling to the whole world, consider partnering up with influencers popular in different countries to promote your products. See what works best and repeat the process.
Dmitriy Maschenko is the head of a division and a Board member at PSD2HTML, a company that offers top-notch web and mobile development services to all kinds of clients, from S&M businesses to agencies and governmental bodies. Dmitriy went all the way from a developer trainee position up to where he is now. With 12+ years of experience in the IT industry under his belt, Dmitriy has a wealth of knowledge to share with his readers. He writes on topics related to business management, website & app development, and everything in between.