Print on demand is a process where you partner with a supplier to customize white-label products (like t-shirts or tote bags) with your own designs to sell them on a per-order basis under your own brand… Once you’ve set everything up, it takes only a few clicks to fulfill an order once you’ve made a sale.
Advantages of Print-on-Demand Over Conventional Ecommerce
Now that you know what Print-on-Demand is, let’s have a quick look at why this business model is better than conventional ecommerce business models.
- Demand business up and running. There are countless plugins, templates, themes and guides you can use to launch your online store.
- Low Startup Cost: With traditional businesses, you must have a good stock of cash to purchase inventory and get your store up and running. With the Print-on-Demand business model, even $100 is enough to get you going.
- No Inventory Management: Your supplier handles pretty much everything from order printing, packaging, and shipping which means you don’t need to handle any amount of inventory. Much of your remaining time can be used to focus on making more sales.
- Ability to Customize: One of the biggest advantages of Print-on-Demand is that it gives you a chance to create and sell unique designs.
- Scale & Test with No Risks: With Print-on-Demand, you aren’t directly involved in printing or production so there’s no major monetary investment from your side. Plus, you can easily scale, test, and modify your designs as and when you need to without any major financial risk.
Using a print-on-demand service might be easier than managing your own inventory, but there are some considerations unique to this approach that you should be aware of. Good thing is, for most of the challenges you’ll face, there are creative solutions.
1. Always order samples
Quality assurance is essential when you’re using print-on-demand services to sell online. It’s always possible that something gets lost in translation from the design you see on your screen to your printed product. But you can just reach out to your vendor’s customer support for advice on how to fix any issues.
You want to ensure your physical product looks and feels as you intended, and the best way to do that is to be your own first customer for every product so you can experience first-hand what it’s like to receive your products. Some services, like Printful, even offer a sample discount of up to 30% off or free shipping, so be sure to take advantage of that if it’s available.
Beyond ensuring product quality, samples are also good to have on hand for taking your own product photos for your website and social media profiles.
2. Be strategic about shipping
Even when you’re not shipping products yourself, shipping still offers some complexity in the form of shipping times and costs, and setting the right expectations with customers.
You’ll want to be sure that you’re accounting for printing times when it comes to shipping. Regardless the shipping times, be sure to add anywhere from 3 to 4 days for production, or more depending on the product.
Always be upfront about shipping times or you’ll wind up with a support inbox full of shipping questions. Outline what to expect on your FAQs page or consider creating a separate Shipping page to explain shipping to customers.
If you can, try to partially or fully absorb your shipping costs into your retail price. Year after year, studies show that surprise shipping costs added at checkout can discourage customers from buying. On top of that, free shipping Influences a number of your other marketing efforts:
- Free shipping is a great sales sweetener, even if you can only offer it for specific regions, and provides customers with one more incentive to buy.
- Conditional free shipping (e.g. “Get free shipping when you spend $50 or more”) encourages customers to add more to their cart to reach the threshold and usually helps you achieve a better total shipping rate by shipping everything together.
- You can use free shipping to justify longer wait times. Many consumers will wait a bit longer for an order if they know it will save them money on shipping.
3. Create mockups that show off your products
While models can help you snap compelling photos of your products, mock-ups are also an effective alternative and will be a prominent part of your product pages.
Many print-on-demand services can help you create your own mockups, showing your products on a person or as a flat lay. But there are other services and plenty of free mockup templates that can also bring your products to life.
These mockups are what will sell your products to customers, so it can literally pay to go the extra mile. PlaceIt is an easy-to-use mockup generator that lets you create photo and video mockups. Or, if you know the basics of Photoshop or other photo editing tools, you can browse Mockup World or Behance for templates.
4. Focus on a niche to make marketing easier
Before you do anything, you need to first pick a niche where you’re most likely to succeed. Yes… that is very important, you need to do your thorough marketing research then you can conclude on what the market wants before you launch. Do not fall for the sell what you love/like narrative. What you like might not be in demand.
One very important tool to use for your market research in Google trends. It shows you the rate at which people search for a product or service online.
Marketing is what ultimately determines the success of your business. But if you’re targeting everyone, you’re not really marketing to anyone. That’s why focus is so important, regardless of the tactics you employ.
Having a clearly defined audience (e.g. pet owners) can actually help you create products that are in demand, lower the costs to acquire customers, and maximize your potential profits because your targeting decisions will be that much more precise.
It is also very good, if you can build an audience of your own through marketing, you can create a permanent asset for your business even if your products change.
There are countless possibilities for marketing, but here are some ideas to get you started:
- Start an Instagram account and create/curate content for your target audience. Get followers and build relationships among your prospective customers.
- Get your products into the hands of influencers who can contribute some of their clouts and help you make sales.
- Run Facebook ads targeting the interests of your target customers. You can also use Facebook ads to test out your designs for as little as $10 to see which ones resonate with your audience.
- Collect emails from visitors so you can continue to market to them for free.
Growing an audience of your ideal customers is a must for building a long-term business, print-on-demand or otherwise.
5. Get Customer Service Right
This part is not often talked about, but you have to admit the fact that it plays an integral part in the growth of your P-O-D business. Without good customer service, your business will have a small chance of survival.
This is very important because, issues must arise, they might be delay in delivery, or payment issues or worst of all refund. You must be ready to attend to all these needs else, your customers will not return.
You have two options on how you can handle customer service
- Do it yourself: which can be stressful especially if you have other things to do.
- Hire: you can hire your friend sibling or anyone you trust to handle that part of your business. Another good option is to hire from fiverr or any other freelance website.
Print-on-demand services offer an accessible source of inventory for new entrepreneurs or for anyone who just wants to test an idea before they invest in it.
If one of your online business ideas pans out and you start to generate a meaningful number of sales, you can always graduate from using a print on demand site to holding your own inventory or continue to use these services while finding new ways to grow your audience. The choice is yours.
Conventional eCommerce business models generally require the large monetary investment and a whole lot of time to get up and running. You also often have to deal with inventory handling, product packaging, shipping, and many more complicated tasks. For less responsibility and lower risk, Print-on-Demand is an ideal option that still has the potential for success.