Nowadays, virtually anyone can start their own eCommerce business without large financial investments. Most likely, you already have heard about the dropshipping. Probably you also come across the term Print on Demand (POD). So, what is exactly Print on Demand for Drop Shipping? how it works, and which are the Best Platforms to start In 2020? Let’s find out.
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Before we dive in into the print on demand details, let´s get clear about drop shipping.
Drop shipping is a very popular e-commerce business model in which products are sent to the buyer without the direct involvement of the seller.
Mostly, in such transactions, the owner of the goods remains unknown to the buyer. The buyer receives the goods with your return address on the shipment label. In most cases he considers that he has received the goods from you – the seller, directly.
This model allows the online store owner to skip the stage where he should buy the goods in bulk. As a result, the costs that entrepreneur would have paid for the delivery of purchased goods to his premises are reduced. As well as he does not have to invest money in the amount of goods and storage in the warehouse.
What Is Print On Demand (POD)
Print on demand is the trade of selling your own custom designs in different products.
You see, nowadays, clothing has no longer only a practical function – it can also convey a specific message. Thanks to the development of modern technologies, it is possible to print almost any text or image not only on the fabric, but also on mugs, pens, smartphone cases and household items.
In this business model the merchant prepares a print image. The rest is done by print on demand service partner. It will make the product and deliver it to the customer. Merchant doesn’t have to buy products in advance.
Instead he will buy the product from POD service partner only when an order from the customer has arrived in his store.
So, if you are venturesome enough, you can start your own print on demand drop shipping business with just a few simple steps. This is low investment business. You don’t need to keep the inventory, the supplier directly delivers product to the customer, placing the order is automated.
Print on demand is similar to dropshipping but at the same time there is one big core difference. You are creating something unique, so it means you are adding a value, not just re-selling some useless Chinese stuff.
Print on demand fulfilment services vs Print on demand marketplaces
Running print on demand business vary from one eCommerce platform to another. Basically, there are two main types of print on demand service providers. Before we go any further, it’s necessary to make the separation between POD fulfilment services and POD marketplaces.
The first is companies such as Printful or Printify. These companies offer to merchants sell custom clothing, accessories and home decor products without inventory or upfront costs on merchants own website or marketplaces such as Etsy, eBay or Amazon. This works as classic drop shipping.
Print on demand fulfillment services enable you to connect your eCommerce shop to their platform, and whenever someone buys from your shop, that order is sent to your service provider for printing and fulfillment. In this model, you as merchant have to take care about creating print designs and marketing of your eCommerce shop. Print on demand service providers take care of production and shipment.
On the other hand, print on demand marketplaces, such as Amazon, Teepublic or RedBubble, handle the entire order cycle of production, marketing, shipping, customer services, etc. In this model, you actually don’t have to have your own eCommerce shop. Rather than connecting your store to a POD marketplace, you simply upload your design to the POD platform. The POD company will market, produce, and sell those items for you.
To put it simple, you allow your designs to be placed on physical products rather than selling them yourself. You have no contact with the customers making this a source of 100% passive income.
Which business model to choose?
The best fit for you depends on your business model and preferences. A Print on Demand fulfillment service would be the ideal choice if you want to develop your your own brand and have more control over how your items are marketed.
On the other hand, if you prefer to let someone else do all the job – selling, marketing, and printing, then you’re better off with a Print on Demand marketplace.
How to start a business with print on demand fulfillment
There are two ways to go. Set up your own eCommerce shop or create listings on global marketplaces like Etsy, eBay or Amazon.
Print on demand with your own eCommerce shop
The advantages of this are that you can build your own customer base and email list for future marketing. The disadvantages are that you must sort out a way to drive customers to your eCommerce shop. Usually it is done via Social Media or Paid ads.
To make it simple, we can break the process of launching your own print on demand drop shipping store in four setps:
- Pick up a niche for your shop
- Choose eCommerce platform
- Search for POD fulfillment service provider
- Promote your shop and start selling
With this method you are directly in control of everything from how your site looks and what payment methods you accept to how you manage your customer base and which marketing steps you take. This option comes with potentially bigger profits but also with more work involved.
Pick up a niche for your shop
The niche is not so important if you choose the business model which involves Print on demand marketplaces or if you sell only on global marketplaces. However, if you choose to create your own eCommerce shop, probably the first thing you have to do is define your niche.
I don´t want to go into details about niche markets here. I am pretty sure this is not the first time you’ve heard about the importance of figuring out how to choose a niche. It is widely discussed before me and it applies for any business.
Primarily, there are two main niches to choose from – the product niche or subject niche.
Product niche decides what type of product you want to add to your store. So, you are selling only t-shirts for example.
The second type of niche is a subject niche. Having a subject niche means you can draw a clear picture of your market.
For instance, you might choose as a subject – sport, pets, politics, anime, or anything else. Create a range of products carrying designs that reflect this subject niche, so you can display the same design in all the products in your shop.
Print on demand products are what people call “impulse buys,” so the best way to sell them is to tap into people’s emotions. Subject niche marketing is all about providing an audience with a sense of identity and belonging.
Choose eCommerce platform
As of today, Shopify and WooCommerce are the most popular e-commerce platforms available for anyone who would want to quickly set up an affordable online Print on Demand shop. Both platforms have easy integration plugins with all major print on demand fulfillment service providers.
Predominantly, WooCommerce is the cheaper, more flexible and SEO friendly, but requires some basic tech knowledge while Shopify is an easy-to-use all-in-one platform for the non-technical individuals.
If all you want is to launch an eCommerce store and start selling your products straight away and you’ve no time to set up or handle any technical tasks, choose Shopify.
Shopify is an all-in-one eCommerce platform that makes it easy for you to create an online store without ever worrying about the technical aspects of managing a website such as web hosting, security, caching, etc.
However, it is SAAS (Software As A Service) based proprietary platform. That means limited control of what is happening behind the scenes.
On the flip side, if you want to be involved in every aspect of your store or if you have minimal budget to start with, and you want to do everything yourself at your own pace and comfort, the WooCommerce is the best option. Here is easy step-by step guide How to set up a WooCommerce store fast.
WooCommerce is WordPress plugin but WordPress has a huge community online. It is one of the most popular web app today.
Best Print on Demand fulfillment service providers
Print on demand fulfilment services are ideal for those entrepreneurs who have some marketing skills but don’t have enough money or simply don´t want to invest in full scale printing factory.
The concept is simple – entrepreneurs create their eCommerce shop that is linked to a print on demand fulfillment service. When a customer places an order, the order is sent to the POD fulfillment partner who will print the apparel, label with the entrepreneurs’ brand name, and ship it directly to the customers.
As I mention before, some of the POD fulfillment service providers allows also sell the products directly on global marketplaces. In this case entrepreneurs even do not need their own eCommerce store.
Probably the most famous and most reputable Print on Demand fulfillment service provider is company named Printful.
With their own production and fulfilment centers in Los Angeles, CA; Charlotte, NC; Riga, Latvia; Tijuana, Mexico and Barcelona, Spain Printful is biggest player in the POD game.
Printful is also the only print on demand fulfillment service company with plugins not only for all major ecommerce platforms, but also for all global marketplaces. Amazon, Etsy, eBay, Amazon, Gumroad and Storenvy – you name it, they have it.
Printify is another big name in the industry. Unlike Printful, Printify doesn’t have their own production. Instead, their platform connects merchants with top printing companies in the U.S., UK, Canada, Germany, Latvia, Czech Republic, Australia, and China.
Besides easy integration with all major eCommerce platforms, Printify also provides integration with Etsy and eBay.
Shirtee.Cloud is an online platform for print-on-demand & fulfillment and warehousing service from Germany with fulfillment centers in several locations in Europe and North America. Although this platform is not so well known as its competitors mentioned previously, it still can spark your interest because of large amount of easy integrations with different eCommerce platforms and integration with global marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, Etsy and Rakuten.
This is New York based Print on Demand fulfillment company.
They have integration plugins not only for WooCommerce and Shopify but also for my personal favorite OpenCart. By the way, if you want to know more about this eCommerec platform, read my article How To Set Up OpenCart Store Fast.
Besides that, PrintAura also has integration options with global marketplaces such as Etsy and Storenvy.
Although company is smaller than some of its competitors, it still offers many products at lower price range.
Gooten is another print on demand fulfillment service company that provides high-quality products and prints all over the World at quite reasonable prices. Similar to Printify, Gooten outsources most of its productions.
Gooten offers plugins for WooCommerce and Shopify and also integration with Etsy global marketplace.
This probably is the smallest print on demand fulfillment service company from this list. Teescape is known for its specialization in T-shirts and sweatshirts. Their prices are lower than most competitors and they provide easy integration with Shopify and WooCommerce.
Best Print on demand marketplaces
Business strategy to make money on Print on Demand providers marketplaces is probably the easiest and quickest to implement. Unfortunately, this also means, it is very saturated and competitive.
For this strategy you don’t need your own eCommerce store, neither knowledge on marketing. As explained before, you just create a design and upload it to one of the many print-on-demand platforms. If it sells they pay you a royalty and take care of the rest.
Merch by Amazon
Merch by Amazon (MBA) is probably the largest platform to earn money through Print on Demand, and it is a brilliant way to make money online.
It is Amazon’s Print-on-Demand service. If you want to make money with Merch by Amazon, you need to submit your design and set a price for the product you want to sell (T-Shirts, Hoodies, Sweatshirts, etc.). When a customer buys a product with your design, you will earn a Royalty fee.
Unfortunately you can not upload your designs straight away because MBA is an invitation-only-platform. But you yourself can request an invitation from them. In general, it’s not too difficult to get approved if you have a great idea and reasonable designs.
Keep in mind that because they get so many requests, it can take up to six months, to get inited. So, if you’re planning to sell via Merch by Amazon, you should request an invitation right now.
Considered as a print on demand marketplace, Zazzle helps designers and entrepreneurs put their creativity out there. The company allows you to design something (pretty much anything) and have it printed on over thousands of different products. It’s a unique business in which they handle all of the inventory of the products.
The platform is composed of 600,000 designers, over 550 brands, over 150 makers, and millions of customers.
Also this is print on demand marketplace with good reputation and strong international presence.
Spreadshirt offers to its merchants slash designers two different business models. First is Spreadshirt marketplace. This works similar to Zazzle.
Second option is merchants own shop on Spreadshirt platform or SpreadShop. This works basically pretty much the same like business with Print on Demand fulfillment service providers. The difference is, that your shop is hosted on Spreadshirt platform, so you don’t need to worry about hosting, but you still have to take care about marketing.
RedBubble is a global online marketplace for print-on-demand products based on user-submitted artwork. Founded back in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia. Today, with offices in San Francisco and Berlin, RedBubble is one of the main players in the print on demand game.
According to Amazon AWS, the company hosts more than 5 million pieces of art and receives almost 2 million unique visitors each month.
TeePublic is a print-on-demand platform that lets merchants or designers upload their artwork and sell it to the world as apparel or many other products available. It is a great service from both a merchant / artis and a consumer standpoint.
You can also become an affiliate seller. This means you don’t have to come up with your own designs to make a profit. Teepublic Partner Program allows to curate content from the entire TeePublic design catalog and build your own branded storefront.
The company’s headquarters are located in the United States, but they have fulfillment centers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Netherlands.
In October 2018 TeePublic was purchased by their closest competitor Redbubble, but as of today, the two businesses seem to be run fairly independently of each other.
SunFrog is another print on demand platform that allows to its users upload their own designs and sell them for a great profit on SunFrog marketplace. The company was founded in 2013 in Gaylord, Michigan and with more than 4 million items available in SunFrog’s marketplace, it’s definitely worth checking out.
Once you upload a design, SunFrog allows you to create promo images for free so that you can better promote your designs online. To its merchants SunFrog offers great marketing tools to track performance. And last but not least, The Sunfrog Academy helps new sellers learn about Facebook Marketing, Google Analytics, Email Marketing, Pinterest Marketing and SunFrog platform to increase sales and revenue.
Whether you’re just looking for how to make money from home or you’re an entrepreneur looking to add customization to your offerings, print on demand drop shipping could be a viable option for you. Surely you now have a better understanding of how this business works.
Just remember that the success of your Print on demand drop shipping business relay heavily on your print on demand partner whether it is fulfillment or marketplace. That’s why it’s essential to do your research and figure out the best solution for your business.
The best advice is to JUST START and learn as you go along.
Literally head over to Printful now and sign up for free. Use their mock-up generator to create your first simple design, get it listed on Etsy and make your first sale!