Today, many artists, designers, or writers use everyday physical products to express and monetize their creativity: from clothing and accessories like backpacks, fabric bags, smartphone or laptop cases to home decor products.
Print-on-demand platforms such as Printful, which to date have completed over 10 million orders, allow users to easily create an online print-on-demand (POD) business and sell customized products from a single copy and minimal lead time.
In this way, the risk associated with traditional printing in large runs is reduced and the time and money needed to start the activity contributed to the rise of this market. Specifically, the custom t-shirt printing market is expected to reach a value of over $10 billion by 2025 worldwide.
However, while creating this type of business may seem easy, it takes effort and work. We list the 9 best tools to build a print-on-demand business and other vital aspects of this business you need to consider.
Best Tools To Build A Print On Demand Business
To start a print on demand business, there are various tools needed, and below, we will list 9 best tools to build a print on demand in their various categories:
Google trends are a research tool used by various businesses to know what’s happening in their country. Like social media trends, Google trends bring together the most general search trends or a specific topic. You can use this tool to search for ideas, needs, and trends on what designs to focus on.
- Search for a topic
- Get general trend data
- Get trend information by location
- See contents about the trend
Google Trends is free to use.
For Mockup Generators (Print on Demand Service)
Printful (which also has an exclusive app on Shopify) is one of the most popular print-on-demand services in e-commerce. With a wide selection of items and products, hassle-free generators and mockups, and a variety of sticker, packaging, and ticket options for the unboxing experience, it is without a doubt an excellent partner for any store.
- Access controls
- Activity dashboard
- Extensive customization
- Content management
Printful doesn’t charge monthly or setup fees; they only profit when customers make orders from your store.
Printify may seem like just another print-on-demand service for t-shirts and coats. Still, it actually has a unique feature: thanks to its international network of suppliers and partners, Printify has a genuinely unique catalog of products, with items ranging from clothing to jewelry, watches, shoes, and water bottles. The variety is such that the platform (and the app) now have more than 200 products available for printing.
- Custom order import
- Mockup generator
- E-commerce platforms integration
- Various Icons
It is important to note that, although free, Printify has a subscription plan with a monthly cost of $29. With it, you get 20% off all products printed that month.
Canva is a design tool used by many designers and non-designers. Canva can be used to create mockups or designs on the products you aim to sell.
- Blur your photos
- Add texts
- Create mockups
- Various icons are available
Canva has a free version and a PRO version. Canva Pro is priced at $119.99 annually and $12.99 monthly.
Buffer is an excellent tool designed for businesses to schedule their social media posts. This tool is vital because social media has a large audience, and images have more conversion rate than texts, so basically, your designs will get noticed.
- Schedule posts
- View, track and recycle posts
- Check and compare vital business metrics
Buffer has a free plan for a social channel. It also has 3 paid plans, and they are the Essentials priced $5/mo per social channel, the Team priced $10/mo per social channel, and the Agency priced $100/mo for 10 channels.
Mailchimp will be useful for your print-on-demand business in the email category section. You can use it to create engaging emails and grow your audience or customer base.
- Create emails
- Create ads
- Create landing pages
- Audience management
MailChimp has a free plan and 2 paid plans for e-commerce websites; the Core Plan starts at $10 per month, and the Plus Plan starts at $25 per month.
Merch is best for print on demand businesses that upload their prints on more than 1 print-on-demand platform. It is a research and publishing tool that helps businesses upload designs to 9 print-on-demand platforms.
- Product Search
- Favorite Products
- Trademark Alerts
- Brand Search
- Keyword Research
Merch Titans have 2 license pricing plans and they are the $9.99 Starter Researcher Plan and $29.99 Advanced Researcher Plan.
This tool is similar to Merch Titan, and it allows users to upload their designs to various print-on-demand platforms. A notable difference is that users can
- Kindle Direct Publishing
- Fully automatic trademark checks
- DeepL API Pro/DeepL API
- Unlimited Uploads
- Captcha Autosolver
- Updates Included
LazyMerch has a free plan and also 2 paid plans. The paid plans are priced at €14.99 and €24.99/ mo.
For Conversion Optimization
This tool is an artificial intelligence tool that can deliver your product or designs to your customers no matter what buying stage they are in. This tool helps optimize the customer journey and understand what they want at different stages.
- Enterprise Resource Planning.
- Multi-Channel eCommerce.
- Predictive Analytics.
- eCommerce integration.
The license pricing information of this tool is not made public by the software team.
What Is Print On Demand?
Print-on-demand is a modality that allows the publication of materials with a smaller print run and cost. This methodology also allows products to be customized more quickly than other more traditional editions.
It is essential to understand the characteristics of an on-demand publication and how the technology works in practice. Next, we will explain this concept and discuss the main advantages of this type of business.
How Print On Demand Works
In a print-on-demand service, you hire the services of a supplier to customize unbranded products (such as hats, t-shirts, or cloth bags) to your store’s creations. Once finalized, these products are sold under your brand’s seal according to the “on-demand” model.
Within this model, the shopkeeper only pays for the product after selling it to the customer, which means there is no need to buy large quantities of a single item and pray that everything sells out and doesn’t take up the store’s inventory.
Print-on-demand services have another significant benefit: the post-sale stages of the customer’s shopping experience, such as printing and shipping the product, are up to the supplier. After receiving the purchase confirmation from the customer, therefore, you need to click here and there and redirect the order to your trusted supplier.
You can also use print-on-demand to:
- Test a new business model or even a new product line without worrying about managing physical inventory.
- Monetize your target audience. Print-on-demand is an excellent choice for influencers, YouTubers, cartoonists, and other professionals who want to focus their efforts on creating unique content rather than shipping products.
- Create original products for a niche customer. An example: creating a clothing line based on a hugely popular new video game.
- Make exclusive items for a promotion or giveaway: t-shirts, books, shoes, bags, cell phone cases, watches, mugs.
The list of possibilities is immense!.
Understand What Dropshipping Is
Now that you understand what print-on-demand is and how it works, it is also essential to differentiate it from the sales modality known as dropshipping.
In dropshipping, the customer buys from a store, which forwards the order to the trusted supplier on behalf of that customer, so the supplier is the one who will ship the order to the end customer.
The basic difference between print-on-demand and dropshipping is that there is no stock in print-on-demand, whereas in dropshipping, there is a supplier who already has a stock of the product, ready to be shipped as soon as the request is made.
Therefore, print-on-demand is generally used for custom prints or short runs. It is possible to quickly scale the sale in dropshipping since the supplier has the stock, not needing to produce to deliver to the end customer.
Advantages Of Print-On-Demand
The Print on Demand (PoD) modality offers several benefits, which allow companies in the graphic sector to innovate their service portfolio.
- The advantages mainly concern publication costs. This is because those who purchase the service do not have to face the risk of high investment and, even so, can carry out a graphic project with the certainty that the items produced have already been ordered for sale.
- It is also possible to use different designs for the same product and test to see which one will be best received by buyers depending on the number of orders.
- This possibility of customization also allows products to be more personalized than in the offset modality. For example, it is possible to engrave the customers’ names on the prints, which gives more originality to your material and can significantly please the buyer.
- Easier to create new products: once the product design is completed, you create a mockup to illustrate the product on a page and sell.
- Goodbye shipping worries: Once the customer makes the purchase and you pass the order details to the supplier, the rest of the purchasing process is in their hands. Your only concern will be to provide good customer service.
- The lower the investment, the lower the risk: freed from the need for physical inventory, you gain more freedom to sell new products, remove items that are not selling, test new ideas, or even change a sales strategy.
How To Create Custom Print-On-Demand Products
At first glance, it can be tricky to differentiate one print-on-demand service from another; however, it is essential to analyze the features offered by each of them according to the products you want to create, the countries and regions to which those products will be shipped, the prices that will be advertised and other factors relevant to your store.
For example, there is no point in choosing a printing service that offers a lower-than-average price if the shortest available shipping time is 21 days.
Like other features present in your store, partnering with a print-on-demand service is something that needs to be looked at carefully and carefully. To help you navigate the process more confidently, we’ve compiled a shortlist of some of the top-rated services on the market. It’s worth remembering that they all have Shopify integration.
The sites listed below are not the only ones offering this type of service. Suppose you want to check out other options, head over to the Shopify App Store.
How To Create Designs For Products (Even If You’re Not A Designer)
We don’t need to stress the importance of good design in products made by print-on-demand services. However, you don’t need to be a professional designer to create captivating images. It is enough to know some of the most fundamental design concepts to seek out the best designers and professionals in the field.
Therefore, the first concept we need to discuss is preparing the file for printing. The designer needs to know that the project in question will be printed to handle and adjust the file so that it has 300 pixels per inch (DPI or PPI), has a transparent background, and has other specific characteristics.
Note: Print file specifications may vary depending on the printer and/or printing technique being used. If you have any questions about the designer’s process or prefer to guarantee the quality of the final product, please send your specifications and printing guidelines with your order.
Designs should be sized to match the printable area of the product or even larger than that space – after all, it’s easier to shrink an image that is too large and maintain the final quality than enlarge an image that is too small. If you don’t have access to Photoshop, you can use free tools like Pixlr.
Where To Find Ideas For New Product Designs and Designers To Work With
At best, you have design experience, or you already know a trusted designer. At worst, you don’t have the slightest talent for drawing, and you don’t even know where to start looking for a designer. And it is for the latter case that there is process outsourcing.
You can find talented designers on sites like 99Designs and Behance. If you prefer to ensure a positive and satisfying result, you can also send clear and objective instructions along with your project request. We have compiled some tips that can be very useful in this process:
- Share relevant insights about your target audience: Talk to the designer about your target audience and the design’s message. It is also essential to show the brand’s visual identity, website, and other relevant information.
- Explain what you are looking for: Share your ideas and opinions on the designer’s first drafts and be present throughout the creation process.
- Share some concrete examples: Show the designer reference materials or other images of designs you would like to recreate to illustrate the design and aid the process.
The hardest part of creating a new design is not finding a qualified professional but defining the design you want.
Of course, product design will depend on your niche and especially your target audience, but you can visit the sites below if you are looking for new ideas:
- Facebook Pages.
- Other platforms used by your target audience.
The ideal is to look for content, messages, styles, and popular ideas among the store’s customers and the target audience that is not yet loyal. Remember to research carefully and make sure your designs aren’t misappropriating or infringing on other artists’ creative rights.
Social media are also great channels to test your design ideas. If you are thinking of turning the internet into a kind of testing laboratory, here are some tips:
- Post the content you want to test on your profile or Facebook groups.
- Use Instagram’s interactive stickers to request feedback.
- If you use Reddit, you can share a general idea of the design and ask for opinions from other users.
What You Need To Know Before Adopting The Print-On-Demand Model
As much as the print-on-demand model presents a much simpler management process than physical inventories, it also has some particularities that need to be studied very carefully. The good part is that it is possible to solve all challenges with a bit of creativity.
1. Order Samples Of The Final Product
Quality control is essential for retailers who want to use a print-on-demand service. As the product goes through several stages (and by the hands of several different professionals) throughout the manufacturing process, you must have the product as it will reach your customers. If you receive a product of inferior quality or with any other problem, don’t hesitate to get in touch with your supplier’s service channel so that together we can remedy the situation.
Quality control works as a guarantee that your product will reach customers the way you planned it in your head. Some printing services, like Printful, offer up to a 20% discount on product samples or even free shipping; Evaluate what works best for you and order samples as soon as possible.
Finally, it’s worth noting that samples can also serve another purpose, illustrating your site’s product photography.
2. Special Attention To Delivery Times
It’s true that with the print-on-demand model, the process of shipping and delivering products is up to your supplier. However, it is still up to you, the merchant, to determine shipping times shipping rates and, of course, inform customers about all this.
Therefore, the first thing to do is to increase the delivery time of the store so that it also takes into account the time of printing and finishing the product, which can take between two and four days. If your product has a lot of details or some design quirks, it’s best to calculate five days or more.
Delivery times and shipping costs are decisive for making the purchase. That’s why you must share all the relevant information on the store’s website; otherwise, you’ll end up with an inbox flooded with requests and questions about the topic. A good place to detail this information is the store’s FAQ page, but if you prefer, create a dedicated page to discuss the shipping process.
One of the biggest challenges in e-commerce is cart abandonment, a practice that is often a direct reflection of high shipping costs. If it’s feasible for the store’s finances, you can try to absorb part of the shipping cost into the product’s selling price: in this way, the product may even be a little more expensive, but the delivery time will be much more attractive.
Free shipping, one of the best options on the market, can also be an excellent marketing strategy:
- Although only available to certain regions or cities, free shipping works as an incentive to purchase.
- The conditional free shipping (present in promotions such as “Free shipping on purchases over $50) is a great incentive for customers to buy more items.
- Free shipping also serves as a justification for longer delivery times. Many customers are willing to wait an extra week to save on the purchase price.
3. Create Mockups To Display The Product On The Store Website
As concrete product templates can generate photos and other visually relevant content, they are not always viable retailers’ alternatives. Luckily, product mockups are emerging as a convenient option.
Many print-on-demand services already have their resources for creating product mockups. You can create both images of the item in question and images of people using or wearing the product. You can also look for other websites that offer free mockups if you prefer.
Don’t forget that the mockup will show customers what your product is (and what it looks like). Therefore, it can be advantageous for the store to pay for a more professional and high-quality mockup template. PlaceIt, for example, is a mockup generator with a straightforward interface and charges $8 for each image created. You can turn to Behance or Mockup World if you know Photoshop basics.
4. Focus On A Niche And Simplify Your Targeting Strategy
It doesn’t matter how innovative or fun your product is; if you don’t have a good marketing strategy, it just won’t get off the ground! The problem is that it’s no use creating a generic advertising campaign and advertising it to the four winds. If you don’t segment your audience into customer groups, you won’t make any sales.
A well-defined target audience can help the store create new products according to demand, reduce the costs involved in attracting and retaining customers and even maximize the store’s profits since the marketing campaigns will be highly accurate and therefore successful.
And if you manage to build a loyal audience and keep them interested in your store through marketing campaigns, you will have a precious asset for the store.
When we talk about marketing, we talk about countless possibilities, channels, and strategies. The ideas below, therefore, serve only as a starting point:
- Create a store profile on Instagram and share exclusive content with your target audience. Cultivate new followers and use platform space to connect with customers;
- Create Facebook ads that target your store’s target audience. If you prefer, use the platform to test your new designs and projects;
- Build an email list so you can advertise for free and cultivate a vital communication channel;
- Build partnerships with influencers who can promote your product and increase sales.
- Remember: customers are an essential part of your store, whatever business model you choose, the size of your store, and even the products you are selling. That’s why you must build a good relationship with them.
Top Mistakes For Print-On-Demand Businesses and How To Fix Them
Expect Immediate Success
When they start their projects, many entrepreneurs think that thanks to all the digital tools available today, the process will be simple, and success will occur quickly and without much effort.
However, the reality is that only 1 in 10 entrepreneurs succeed as it takes a lot of work and dedication to run a profitable on-demand print shop. And in the case of a project that complements another full-time job, you need to dedicate all of your free time to starting and growing your print-on-demand business.
Sell Generic Designs
Given the fierce competition in the print-on-demand industry, customers have many options to find the products they want. Therefore, to ensure success and differentiate yourself from the competition, you must find a specific niche and strengthen it. Tools like Google Trends are ideal for spotting new design trends.
Trying To Compete With Amazon Prime Delivery Times
Product shipments in this industry are literally printed on-demand, so it takes a little longer to ship than pre-made ones at stores like Amazon. For example, in the United States, most customers receive products within a week or two of ordering. Therefore, it is important not to promise customers impossible delivery times and instead focus on communicating your brand values by creating unique designs that they are willing to wait for.
Do Everything Autonomously
Starting a print-on-demand business requires mastering different skills. It is expected that not everyone involved excels in all facets and has weaknesses. In that case, the smart thing is to partner with someone who can fill that gap and complement the work in the best possible way.
Establish Unclear Policies
Typically, customers tend to be impatient: they want to know what they will get before they buy it, how long it takes to get it, and what will happen if they are unsatisfied with their purchase. In this sense, it is vital to spend time describing each step of the purchase process on the website so that customers have all the information available in one place, as this helps to generate more trust in the store.
Having Many Product Lines
Generally, many entrepreneurs tend to believe that the more options they offer in their online store, the more sales they will have and, therefore, the more benefits there will be for the store. Ideally, have enough references for customers to choose from, but not too many, as this can be counterproductive for the company.
Invest In Ads Before The Store Is Ready
Advertising is a great way to publicize a company and position itself in the minds of consumers. To invest in advertisements or advertising, you must have defined all policies and a referral catalog to satisfy more demand. Otherwise, it would be counterproductive for e-commerce.
Don’t Collect Customer Reviews
Customer reviews help new consumers to learn about products and build trust in the brand. It is very positive for customers who have already purchased from the store to comment on their experience with the product. If it is positive, it will help motivate new consumers to make a future purchase. Only a comments section should be enabled on the web so that potential customers can contribute their opinions about the product.
Print-on-demand is an alternative to printing companies that seek to invest and make books, magazines, and other materials available without necessarily having a high cost, as in a large print. This type of printing is done according to the number of orders, which prevents copies from being in stock if the output is low.
We have mentioned the best tools to build a print-on-demand business and some tips on approaching this business. We hope our tips help you in a big way and would love to get testimonies.