Print-on-demand is a great way to reach customers with customized products. But what exactly is print-on-demand and how does it work? What follows is a deep dive into print-on-demand: what it is, its pros and cons, and some tips you can use to get started.
What is print-on-demand?
Print-on-demand involves working with a supplier to edit and customize white-label products with designs you’ve made yourself. You then sell these items on a per-order basis under your own personal brand.
It essentially means you don’t pay for the manufacture of the product until after you’ve sold it. This negates the need for buying in bulk or holding any inventory.
Print-on-demand services take care of everything post-sale, from the printing to the manufacture to the shipping. This means once you have everything set up, it will take just a few clicks to fulfill an order once you’ve sold an item.
Print-on-demand services are typically used to:
- Trial a new product line or business idea for an existing company without having to buy inventory.
- Leverage an audience you’ve built to make money. Print-on-demand is an excellent option for social media influencers who want to focus on creating content rather than order fulfillment.
- Developing original products for a customer niche.
- Print once-off items such as event merchandise.
- Sell artwork online by fixing it to different products to then sell through your own company website.
Print-on-demand pros and cons
Print-on-demand services may be used to build a brand based on a dropshipping model – that is, the product and shipping are handled by a third party. Print-on-demand is one of the most accessible ways to start an online store or source products, but you ought to understand the pros and cons before you dive in.
Pros of print-on-demand
- The ability to create products quickly. Once you’ve designed a product you can create it and have it up for sale within moments.
- No need to worry about shipping. Shipping and fulfillment are in the hands of your supplier. This leaves you only responsible for customer service.
- Lower investment means lower risk. As you’re not physically buying or storing inventory it’s far simpler to remove or add products, test run ideas, or alter your approach.
Cons of print-on-demand
- Smaller margins. When you buy in bulk, your cost-per-item goes down so when using print-on-demand your margins will be naturally smaller. On-demand items also tend to yield smaller profits.
- No control over shipping. Shipping can get convoluted as it often differs between products. Your options are often limited when it comes to developing an outstanding unboxing experience.
- Less customization. Customizing your products will depend heavily on the product itself and the vendor. You’ll have to evaluate customization options, base costs, available sizes, and printing techniques when deciding on your catalog.
Design for non-designers
The design of your products plays a crucial role in the success of your print-on-demand store. That said, you don’t have to be a professional designer to develop original designs. There are a number of ways you can produce or commission your own designers, so long as you adhere to a few key concepts.
Firstly, you must properly prepare your print file. When commissioning a designer, you have to be specific that your file is meant for printing. This will communicate to them that the file should have a transparent background, be 300 DPI, and other foibles of print vs web design.
File print specifications will likely change depending on the product, printing technique, and printer used. If in doubt, send your commissioned designer the specs for the product you’re intending to make – this will ensure they understand the full context of the work.
The file you upload should be big enough for the full printed area of the product. It can be larger if necessary but resizing a smaller image to be larger will degrade the image quality and result in an inferior product.
Going the print-on-demand route is often easier than organizing your own inventory, but there are some things you have to consider that are unique to this approach. These include:
Ordering your own samples
Ensuring the quality of your products is essential when using print-on-demand platforms. There’s always a small chance that something goes wrong during the printing process and it’s essential you catch these issues yourself before they make it to a customer.
You’ll want to make sure your physical product feels and looks as intended. The only way to do that is to order a sample so you can get an idea of what it’s like to order from your store first-hand. Some print-on-demand suppliers offer sample discounts so make sure to use that if it’s available to you.
Samples are also great to have on hand for taking bespoke product photos for your store and social media profiles.
Being strategic about shipping
Customers will not know that your product isn’t being shipped by you so you have to still ensure you’re able to meet their expectations. This includes things like shipping times and costs.
You need to make sure you’re accounting for printing time when you quote shipping times. Whatever the product shipping time is, add an extra 2-4 days for production. You should also always be upfront about your shipping times lest you end up with an inbox full of queries.
If possible, try to absorb your shipping cost into your product pricing. “Free” shipping is a great marketing tool and it saves you losing customers at checkout after they see the shipping cost.
Focus on a niche
Marketing will determine your business’ success. If you’re marketing to everyone, you’re not really targeting anyone. This is why it’s essential that you find your niche and focus on it.
Ensuring you have a clear, defined audience can help you design products that will sell. It’ll also help you acquire customers and maximize your profits.
Start your print-on-demand shop today
Print-on-demand is a great way to sell bespoke products to a loyal audience. Whether you’re trialing out a new business or monetizing an existing audience, print-on-demand is a great strategy for you to employ.
Now you know a little more about dropshipping and print-on-demand.