What is Print on Demand? The Ultimate Guide (2023)

Today, I’ll answer the question: What is Print On Demand?

Print on demand has been taking the e-commerce industry by storm recently and is quickly becoming one of the most lucrative online businesses.

POD services have allowed many entrepreneurs to sell custom products on their online stores without holding inventory.

But… how does print on demand work?

What are the best print on demand sites and companies?

Should you start a print on demand business in 2023?

Let’s find out in this ultimate guide on print on demand!

What is Print on Demand: The Basics

print on demand explanation

So…. what is print on demand?

Print on demand is an eCommerce business model where you work with a print provider to create and sell customized clothing and other products.

Small businesses and individual artists can manage their products and art using print on demand sites without worrying about storage or the supply chain from the supplier to their customers.

Print on demand is similar to dropshipping in that you don’t need to hold inventory since the items are produced only when a consumer places an order. However, I’ll discuss what sets them apart as I move forward.

Additionally, collaborating with a print on demand service, they take care of the printing, counting, packing, shipping costs, delivering the products, and everything else that comes after the sale.

These print on demand companies can help your online store test new product lines or company concepts without taking on the risks associated with inventory purchases.

Print on Demand vs. Dropshipping

dropshipping vs. print demand

One of the primary distinctions between these two eCommerce businesses is that a dropshipping supplier does NOT customize the products for each order.

Dropshipping products are generic items that have already been mass-produced. This enables your supplier to dispatch an order as soon as it is placed.

The print on demand business model gives you more control over the product’s look. However, both business models get products from suppliers who package and deliver them to your customer.

Shirts, canvases, tote bags, mugs, phone cases, and other items you may print on make up the majority of merchandise.

Although you have greater control over customization options with print on demand, dropshipping allows you to sell any item you can find in fulfillment centers.

Depending on which print on demand company you use, you may be able to apply design work to more than just the front of an item of clothing.

How Does Print on Demand Work?

how does print on demand work

The print on demand business model is pretty simple. Your online store accepts orders for specific products in this fulfillment service.

Once a buyer has placed an order for custom products with your company, the order is sent to a third-party print provider that prints and packages each item according to the specifications before mailing it to the customer.

In other words, your online store handles the initial part of the transaction, while the print on demand company handles the remaining aspects.

Always consider the product cost, shipping costs, inventory requirements, target market, and profit margins while starting any online store.

In addition, while deciding which business plan would be ideal for your shop, you should weigh the pros and cons of each eCommerce business.

Print on Demand Pros

print on demand pros

Quick Start Up

Most print on demand businesses are easy to start. Registering, setting up a profile, and submitting your designs or product line is typically straightforward. The process often takes a few minutes.

Some print on demand sites allow free membership, while others charge registration fees. If you want to sell products on websites like Merch by Amazon, you must be approved into their print on demand program.

No Inventory

One of the many benefits of print on demand business is that it eliminates inventory-based issues such as stock charges, fees, etc. It also eliminates the possibility of being left with surplus products that you cannot sell or stock-outs since the merchandise only enters production after an order is made.

Focus 100% on Selling

Since the print-on-demand service handles most of your technical, logistic, and production aspects, you can concentrate on your strengths and create your designs and products.

Build a Brand

With print-on-demand services, you can customize white-label products by adding your logo to packaging so that there is no indication of the third-party service when your customers make their purchases.

No Equipment Necessary

The fact that a third-party company produces your designs means you are not required to possess the equipment necessary to print your stock. Your print provider directly manages the technical aspect of the printing process.

Experiment With Designs

With print on demand, you can always add new designs to your shop and see whether or not your customers like them. This enables you to take more chances with the designs you provide. You don’t have to spend money to start selling products that may not move since items are produced on-demand. You can remove a design from your shop if it isn’t as well-liked.

Experiment With Products

Along with your designs, you can also experiment with other customized products besides clothing. Print on demand services are becoming more diverse and beyond basic t-shirt printing. Printing on demand allows you to create many customized items and accessories.

Print on Demand Cons

print on demand cons

Less Control

With a print on demand business, you can’t physically view each product, so you must trust that the print on demand company will do a good job. This is why you should test the print quality of your products before you start selling.

It’s possible that you or your customer could get a faulty product, or it could get damaged by the manufacturer during shipping or fulfillment.

There is no argument that these occurrences are common in product manufacturing. While many print on demand companies have quality control which processed products pass through, mistakes may allow defective items to get shipping.

You should ensure the print-on-demand company you choose places a premium on quality when you produce your products, designs, or artwork. Some print-on-demand sites prioritize their bottom line at the expense of quality, which might harm your company’s reputation and sales.

You should also check which print on demand companies provide the best print quality. I’ll go over some of the best print on demand companies later on…

Third-Party Reliance

POD service providers buy products or product components from various vendors. This supply chain indicates several moving parts which may sometimes run out of stock. It can also be much more work to solve problems and issues when they inevitably arise.

Longer Delivery Times

It takes longer to fill orders than it would if you already have available stock since every product is produced on demand. It is best to manage your customer’s expectations as a print on demand business owner by informing them that each item is created on demand and that this process takes a little longer than sending them an already manufactured item.

More Complicated Returns Process

When a customers want to return a product, it may be more challenging since you work with a third-party provider. Therefore, it’s essential to establish a return policy consistent with the print on demand companies you’re using.

Best Print on Demand Products

One of the best ways to increase your chances of success with a print on demand business is by selling the right products. I’ve curated a list of the top 10 trending POD products to think about selling in 2023 using data from Google Trends and years of experience with eCommerce businesses.

Here are some of my favorites:

POD Phone Cases

print on demand phone cases

As everyone already knows, the smartphone market is massive. And due to the high cost of phones, most people know it’s wise to invest in additional smartphone safety.

You can create exceedingly marketable print on demand products by combining them with the most recent trends in personalized phone covers. Most print on demand companies have phone cases as one of their most popular products.

POD Face Masks

print on demand face masks

Face masks have emerged as the “new normal” globally after the COVID-19 epidemic began in 2020, becoming the item no one anticipated. Despite different recommendations for face coverings worldwide, many people use face covering in specific settings, even when it’s not required.

Most people wearing protective masks choose a washable face mask, making reusable face coverings a standard option. Personalized face masks are now a new form of self-expression, replacing the surgical, one-time-use face masks we all used to wear.

Like phone cases, most print on demand companies have many different face masks in their product catalog.

POD Mugs

 print on demand mugs

Like smartphones, most people drink coffee, tea, or warm drinks. Yes, the mug’s look matters less than what’s inside, but some people love to have a customized mug.

After all, if we’re going to be drinking that much tea and coffee every day, we might as well use a personalized mug that has particular significance to us.

POD Wall Art

print on demand wall art

In the past, purchasing wall art required visiting your neighborhood gallery, but this is no longer the case.

The internet has made it super easy to purchase art prints, especially with the best print on demand sites for artists.

Print on demand services highlight original artwork that reflects our distinct interests. It is also a veritable treasure for less well-known artists and figures wishing to sell photos showcasing their designs and quotes.

POD Stickers

print on demand stickers

Stickers are among the most successful print on demand products. From kids and students to artists and professors, people who want them are diverse.

You may also use them as a promotional tool to support other organizations or festivals.

POD Tote Bags

print on demand tote bags

One of the easiest print on demand products to offer is tote bags. Totes have recently gained appeal as a chic substitute for disposable bags, making them a go-to item for many people.

Totes are effortless to create and can be used all year. This enables you to produce and experiment with some great designs.

POD T-Shirts

print on demand tshirts

Because they are so widely used, t-shirts are undoubtedly one of the best custom products to sell.

People wear t-shirts all year long, making this market very well-liked. You must make sure your designs stand out as a result.

You may either select an all-over print design or one that’s a bit more subdued.

POD Pet Products

print on demand pet products

Dropshipping pet supplies are already very lucrative, but it gets even better when you can offer customized products… Some great customized pet products include ID tags, harnesses, and bandanas.

POD Hats

print on demand hats

Baseball caps, bucket hats, beanies— you have many customization options for your headgear. You can draw in numerous shoppers if you offer multiple versions of your designs on your eCommerce website.

POD Jewelry

print on demand jewelry

Print on demand jewelry is quickly becoming another popular product, especially on social media like TikTok and Instagram. Many successful stores offer customized jewelry with pictures of their significant other or pet.

Best Print on Demand Companies

Another significant component of this online business is the company you decide to work with. What are the best print-on-demand companies to use in 2023? Here are our top picks for print-on-demand sites.

Printful

best print on demand companies printful

Printful provides various printing methods, including direct-to-garment, cut-and-sew, sublimation, and embroidery.

This print on demand service offers more than 400 distinct items. Along with stickers and inserts in the product packaging, you can also add personalized tags to your products.

Customization is simple using Printful’s mockup generator. Additionally, the service interfaces with all major marketplaces and e-commerce platforms, such as Etsy and Shopify.

Products are typically available for shipping in 2-5 business days because of their warehouses worldwide. That’s why Printful is one of the best dropshipping suppliers in Canada and the best dropshipping suppliers in the UK.

Printify

best print on demand companies printify

Printify gives you access to a global network of print on demand services. You may choose the top printing services for quick and affordable delivery.

Naturally, delivery timeframes and product quality may vary depending on your chosen provider.

POD businesses can use embroidery, sublimation, and direct-to-garment printing to personalize more than 750+ goods via this print on demand company.

Printify provides Premium and Enterprise plans with considerable savings for companies with significant turnover. Printify is also one of the best dropshipping suppliers in Europe.

If interested, you can read my complete comparison of Printify vs. Printful.

Spring

best print on demand companies spring

Spring (formerly Teespring) is one of the best print on demand sites for content creators. You can build a custom store for free in just a few minutes using their platform.

Once you’ve built your store and added products, you can connect your social media accounts and start promoting to your audience.

Spring handles everything after the sale, including production, shipping, and customer support.

Gelato

best print on demand companies gelato

Do you aspire to launch a clothing brand or dropshipping brand someday? That day may be nearer than you think, mainly because of print-on-demand businesses like Gelato.

Gelato has hundreds of products that 33 fulfillment centers around the globe produce.

It’s easily one of the best dropshipping clothing suppliers, making it a great option for eCommerce business owners who want to start a fashion line. For more info, you can read my full Gelato review.

Best Ecommerce Platforms for a POD Store

You want to choose an e-commerce platform that facilitates a seamless customer experience and generates the best outcomes for your store. Here are some of the top options:

Shopify

shopify print on demand

Everything you need to launch your e-commerce store is available on Shopify.

Shopify’s platform will make online selling as simple as possible, especially if you create a one-product Shopify store.

You can easily connect your Shopify store to the majority of print on demand services. Additionally, Shopify provides an app that makes things even more straightforward.

Sellfy

sellfy print on demand

Sellfy is an e-commerce platform built specifically for print on demand. You can think of it as a combination of Shopify and Printful. They are also one of the best print on demand companies in Canada, the best print on demand Australia companies, and one of the best print on demand UK companies.

It only takes 10 minutes to set up a store and sell merch with Sellfy. They have many product customization options, making it easy to embed your Buy buttons on social media sites like YouTube and Facebook.

Wix eCommerce

wix print on demand

Wix is another top-notch e-commerce platform that helps you connect with a print-on-demand provider of your choice. You can easily create an online store using this cloud-based platform.

You can link Wix with various print-on-demand businesses, so they can quickly transfer your product orders to your POD supplier. Your customers may place orders, and your POD supplier can begin producing and shipping the items to your clients.

Print on Demand Business: Best Practices

If you’re wondering how to start a print on demand business, you can do a few things to maximize your chances of success. Here are some best practices for anyone who wants to launch their print on demand business:

Find a Profitable Niche

Choosing the product category you want to concentrate on before launching your e-commerce site is best. There are several niches to consider, ranging from apparel and accessories to technology.

It’s essential to find out which POD niche has the most selling potential. Search engines and social media platforms are excellent resources for achieving this.

Optimize Your Online Store

It’s essential to make your eCommerce site seamless and user-friendly to increase sales and convert new visitors into returning customers.

Choose the Best Custom Products

Once you’ve built your new eCommerce store, you should look for a few custom products to sell before you begin expanding your options. You may then expand as you earn more money and gain experience. Focusing on your best sellers is also essential, as that is where you will make the most of your money.

Effectively Market Your POD Products

Your objective is to be seen, bring traffic to your website, offer consumers a reason to purchase from you and turn visitors into paying customers. Here are some strategies for marketing your company:

  • Social Media Advertising: You can quickly locate and interact with your clearly defined audience by having a consistent online presence. Remember to produce fresh material regularly, interact with people, and provide encouraging comments on other accounts.
  • Influencer Marketing: You can immediately win over your audience’s trust by using Instagram shoutouts to promote your items.
  • Content Marketing: This marketing channel allows you to become an authority in your field and gain trust by regularly publishing relevant material (blogs, articles, product reviews).
  • Print on Demand Marketplaces: Instead of dealing with advertising, you can list your designs on marketplaces like TeePublic or Redbubble and get instant access to millions of users.

Conclusion: Should You Start a POD Business?

pod business conclusion

After being in the e-commerce trenches for 5+ years, it’s clear that a print on demand business can be highly lucrative if done correctly.

It’s quickly becoming a preferred eCommerce business model for entrepreneurs, artists, and content creators worldwide because of its numerous benefits.

Companies like Printful are making it easier and easier to run your store and expand the number of products you can personalize and sell.

However, like all online businesses, there are drawbacks like relying on a third party’s product selection and having faith that they’ll deliver high-quality goods.

As long as you use reliable print on demand companies, you can build a profitable print-on-demand business.

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