What is it?
Print on demand was originally a term most commonly adopted to self-publishing authors, who as the name suggests, would have their books published (printed) only until they receive an order, allowing for singular or small quantities. This meant the average cost was a lot lower because the set-up costs are much greater for offset printing.
Nowadays, print on demand (POD) refers to any sort of service that relies on order first, print second. The type of POD services that have grown exponentially in the last few years is POD dropshipping. If you’re thinking about starting your own clothing line, fashion brand or t-shirt business then print on demand is the quickest, easiest and most affordable way to do so.
Many POD services started out by just offering their service to print on t-shirts, hence names such as TeeSpring, before tapping into a wider market offering printing services for mugs, homeware, accessories and more.
How does it work?
This business model is essentially dropshipping. Dropshipping is simply having products shipped directly from supplier to customer. It cuts out the need to buy or hold stock yourself, and all you have to do is sell the customized product in your store.
- Your customer places an order through your store
- You forward the order to your POD service, either manually or through automatic integration
- They process the order and print your products
- They pack and ship the order straight to your customer in plain cover. They’ll include the branded packing slip, packaging, and everything
Product costs and profit margins?
All available products and prices can be found in the POD’s catalog. They will usually give you a “base” cost listed for each type of product e.g. The base cost of a Bella + Canvas 3001 Unisex T-shirt is $12.95. Then once you’ve added your designs, choose your colors and sizes you want to have the product in, it’ll give you your actual cost. You then add your shipping costs and you’ll have your total cost.
- Price of product + shipping costs = total cost
Then to make a profit on your product, you can choose your markup for the product.
- Total cost + % markup = profit
Some POD services offer useful calculators, making it easier to markup your products by a particular percentage e.g. 40%. You can choose whether to markup by a % or if you want to have a standard markup price on all your products e.g. $12.
Similarly, you can choose whether to charge your customers shipping, at the same prices your POD supplier charges, or whether you want to pay for shipping and have slightly lower profit margins. There are no rules or right ways to go about it, everything in the model from product to price is customizable and that’s what makes POD dropshipping so great.
Choosing a print on demand supplier?
There are plenty of POD companies out there and we’ve taken the time to trawl through them all so you don’t have to. We’ve looked at many different factors and have narrowed it down to 5 POD services that we recommend:
Essentially POD companies all do the same thing. However, factors that you have to take into consideration include:
- Price – The price of the product. Which services give higher profit margins?
- Quality – How good are the quality of their products?
- Shipping – What are the average shipping costs and times? Are they suitable for your company and/or country?
- Range & Customizability – Do they specialize in a certain type of product? How many types of products do they offer? How customizable are their products?
- Marketplace – Where can you sell your products? Do they require setting up your own storefront via another platform or can they be sold directly via the POD’s platform?
- Integration – Can they be integrated easily with other eCommerce solutions? e.g. Shopify or WooCommerce.
- Accessibility – How easy is it to design and create products? Does it require professional skills or can anyone use it? How user-friendly is the platform?
- Eligibility – Are there requirements to be able to use their services?
Getting traffic & sales
One of the benefits of Merch by Amazon is that Amazon.com already has a HUGE number of visitors looking for products so you don’t have to do any marketing yourself if you don’t want to.
But if you use Shopify or another e-commerce platform, and use Printful, CustomCat, Inkthreadable, Teespring or any other supplier, then you will need to do marketing to drive traffic and sales.
It’s as easy as that! But it’s about more than simply saving money on ordering bulk runs of your products. Leaving the logistics of getting your product to your customer in our hands gives you a lot more time to concentrate on developing your brand, such as:
- Creating a social presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
- Marketing your products to the customers you want to reach.
- Updating and optimizing your store, or even integrating it with our fulfillment services.
- Creating new products and designs to attract new customers, or upsell to existing ones.
- Looking for distributors and stockists to increase brand exposure.