What is Print on Demand?

Print on demand (POD) has gained immense popularity in the last 5-10 years and increasingly so, e-commerce store owners see it as a profitable and low cost way to start their business. Below, we'll explore more in depth what print on demand consists of, how it works, and how you can start and grow your own POD business.

What is Print on Demand?

Print-on-demand (POD) is a business model where products, such as apparel, home decor or accessories are only produced and printed only once an order is placed. This means you don't need to invest in large quantities of stock upfront. Instead, you create designs, display them on various products, and only print and ship them when a customer makes a purchase. This model can be applied to a wide range of products, including t-shirts, mugs, phone cases, and posters.

How Does Print on Demand Work?

The print-on-demand process involves several steps including the following:

  1. You start by creating unique designs that can be printed on various products.

  2. Select a print-on-demand service like Printful, Gelato, or Printify that integrates with your online store.

  3. Upload your designs to the platform and choose the products you want to offer.

  4. Use an e-commerce platform like Shopify or Etsy to set up your online store and list your POD products.

  5. Promote your store through social media, email marketing, and other channels.

  6. When a customer places an order for a custom product (e.g., a t-shirt with a specific design), the order details, including the design and product specifications, are sent directly to a printing facility equipped with printers and production equipment.

  7. The product is then printed, assembled, and shipped directly to the customer.

Print-on-Demand Business Model

The POD business model is attractive because it eliminates the need for large upfront investments and reduces the risk associated with unsold inventory. Here’s why it works:

  • Low Start-up Costs and No Inventory Management: You only pay for products after a sale is made, which means you don't need to invest heavily in inventory.

  • Scalability: As your business grows, you can easily expand your product range and designs without significant additional costs.

  • Creativity Unleashed: POD allows boundless creativity because you can create products based on demand or test new designs easily.

  • Flexibility: You can quickly adapt to market trends and customer preferences by updating your product offerings.

  • Personalisation: Customers receive custom-made items tailored to their preferences.

  • Reduced Waste: Products are made only when ordered, reducing waste and environmental impact, though, arguably,

How to Start a Print-on-Demand Business

Starting a print-on-demand (POD) business is relatively straightforward compared to traditional retail models, making it an attractive option for many entrepreneurs. The first step is to identify a niche market that you are passionate about and that has a demand for custom products. This could be anything from personalised apparel and accessories to unique home decor items. Selecting a niche that excites you will not only make the process more enjoyable but also help you connect better with your target audience.

Once you have identified your niche, the next step is to develop unique and eye-catching designs that will appeal to your target audience. This might involve creating your own designs if you have the skills, or hiring a graphic designer to bring your ideas to life. High-quality, original designs are crucial for standing out in the competitive POD market and attracting customers.

After you have your designs ready, it's time to select a print on demand service that offers the products you want to sell and integrates seamlessly with your chosen e-commerce platform. Popular POD services include Printful, Printify, and Gelato, each offering different products and integration options. Make sure to choose a service that aligns with your business goals and provides the quality and variety of products you wish to offer.

Creating your online store is the next critical step. Use e-commerce platforms like Shopify, Etsy, or WooCommerce to set up your store. These platforms offer various tools and integrations that make it easy to manage your products, process orders, and track sales. Customise your store to reflect your brand’s identity, making it visually appealing and user-friendly to encourage customer engagement.

To drive traffic to your store, utilise a mix of marketing strategies, including social media, email marketing, search engine optimisation (SEO), and paid advertising. Social media platforms are excellent for building a community around your brand and showcasing your products. Email marketing can help you stay in touch with your customers and inform them about new releases or promotions. SEO will improve your store’s visibility on search engines, while paid advertising can target specific demographics to boost traffic and sales.

Finally, continuously test and optimise your store layout, product descriptions, and pricing to maximise sales. Regularly review your store’s performance metrics to identify areas for improvement. Test various designs to see what resonates best with your customers. Keep refining your approach based on feedback and data to ensure your store remains competitive and profitable.

Shopify Example: How to Sell Print on Demand?

Selling Print on Demand items online is super easy. Below we will detail a quick tutorial of how you can add a print-on-demand product to your store. This tutorial assumes you already have a Shopify store set up!

  • Firstly, research popular POD services such as Printful, Printify, and Teespring. Each has different product offerings, prices, and integration features. Sign up for the one that suits your requirements

  • Next, go to the Shopify App Store, search for your chosen POD service app, install and then connect your POD service account to your Shopify store by following the integration prompts

  • Then, create your design using graphic design software, if you haven't already created a design.

  • In your POD account, navigate to the product creation section and select the type of product you want to create, upload your design and adjust the placement on the product if necessary.

  • Next, choose any product variants and sizes, colours and styles you want to offer - make sure you set the pricing for each variant.

  • Once your product is ready, use the POD service interface to push the product to your Shopify store. The product will be automatically added to your Shopify store, including product images, descriptions, and pricing.

Print-on-Demand Business Ideas

When it comes to Print on Demand, the possibilities are endless! Here are a few ideas to help you get started:

  • Custom Apparel: T-shirts, hoodies, leggings, and hats with unique designs.

  • Home Decor: Wall art, pillows, blankets, and shower curtains featuring artistic prints.

  • Accessories: Tote bags, phone cases, laptop sleeves, and jewellery.

  • Stationery: Notebooks, planners, stickers, and greeting cards with personalised designs.

  • Pet Products: Pet beds, bandanas, bowls, and toys featuring fun and quirky prints.

Over time there will also be new trends that will be perfect for print on demand and that's why it's a good idea to regularly research the market as well as competitors to ensure you are providing the products that consumers want.

Print-on-Demand Considerations

Whilst Print on Demand has its benefits, there are also a few things to consider such as:

  • Lower margins: Your costs per item will naturally be higher compared to buying in bulk, which can result in lower profit margins.

  • Less control over shipping: Shipping costs can become complicated as they might vary for different print-on-demand products. Additionally, your options for creating a unique unboxing experience are limited.

  • Limited products: The ability to customise products depends on the vendor and the specific product. When choosing which print-on-demand companies to work with, you need to consider base costs, customisation options, and available sizes to determine the best vendor for your needs.

Print-on-demand is an excellent business model for entrepreneurs looking to start an online business with minimal risk and investment. Although profit margins may be slim to begin with, you can research and test to see what products work better for you and find the perfect items. By understanding how Print on Demand works and following the steps to set up and grow your business, you can create a successful and profitable venture. Whether you're a designer, artist, or someone with a creative idea, print on demand offers a flexible and scalable way to bring your products to market.