Print on demand (POD) is a fascinating business concept that has become very popular among entrepreneurs, marketers, and designers, and people who are interested in starting a business. One of the key features of print on demand is that it’s extremely easy to start. There is zero production cost, zero inventory cost and it’s easier to test new product ideas.
Even though there are so many well-established platforms that offer the POD service to online merchants, still many more companies are emerging in the market to offer this service. This says a lot about how the industry is still growing and expanding globally.
Many people have heard the term “Print-on-demand” but they do not know how it works or where to even begin. This article will be exclusively focused on those people who want to understand how the business works. I will breakdown the entire process into several steps to make it easier.
1. Niche Selection
Generally, when you work in print on demand, you have to work with particular niches. It can be single or multiple niches depending on your business model. The concept of POD is based on the demands and the interest of the customers. One of the most common mistakes many new and small store owners make is that they try to be best at everything.
Realistically speaking, it’s extremely difficult to be good at everything even for a large company and business owners. That’s exactly why you have to work with a particular niche or couple of niches. For example, let’s assume you know a lot about nursing and the medical sector somehow. You can use this knowledge as an opportunity to sell t-shirts based on nursing.
Your target market will also be those related to nursing and medicine. The important thing about selecting a niche is how much you are familiar with the niche. The more you know about it, the better your chance of success is. At the end of the day, it’s all about how much your target market can relate to your product.
This is the first step and also the most important one because based on the niche you select; the rest of your work will take place. By selecting your niche, you are also determining who your target customers are. It is also wise to research the competition of the niche before you select it. For a newcomer, it will be difficult to sustain in the market if the competition is too high. That’s why it’s important to select a moderate level competition that you know of as well.
2. Setting up the Store
At step two, you already know who your target customers are and what niche you will work with. Your audience is set. Now you have to open your store so that your customers may purchase from it. So where do we open our online store? We open our store in platforms or websites that offer print-on-demand service.
Now, this is an important step because after you are done with designs and promotions, the rest of the work will be handled by the company. They are your e-commerce merchants. The company will handle everything after a sale has been made. They will handle the production, the packaging, the shipment, and as well as the after-sales service.
Since there are so many things at stake, you must find a reliable and quality company that properly fulfills the customer orders. Now there are many popular companies like Redbubble, Printful, Printify, GearLaunch, etc. These along with other top tier companies offer the best possible service and also ensure security.
Therefore, no matter what happens, your customers will receive their product. The hard part is selecting a platform to work with. The easier part is setting up the store. Now there isn’t much to do. You will have to fill-up the necessary personal and business information.
Afterward, you will be given a place in their platform where you can launch your store successfully. Most POD platforms allow store customization. Therefore, you can decorate the store in whatever theme that goes with your niche and business model.
3. Generating Design Ideas
The real technical work begins at this step. Here, you will create the designs that will be put on the products that are up for sale. Now, if you are already a skilled designer, you will hold a huge advantage over your competitors. Generally, you will have to create your own design from scratch or modify/upgrade existing designs to avoid copyright infringement.
Your customers will never expect a copy of a design in your store. The genuine idea that comes from the mind holds the strongest value in your business. In terms of designs, complex designs don’t necessarily ensure higher sales. Many factors are present when a sale is made. Customers generally look for designs that they can relate to or something they love.
For example, if you design something from the video game, customers who love those games will either buy it for themselves or as a gift to another. If we look at the top-selling designs of all time, we can see that those designs were impactful in the lives of the customers during that time. Trendy designs always catch the attention of the customers.
Therefore, make sure that you always catch their trend before they come into the market. Seasonal trends don’t usually last long and they give a short boost in the sales and many of your competitors will do the same. So, catch the wind before it passes away! Simplistic and elegant designs are always placed top in the product idea design category.
4. Choosing the Product Type
In print on demand, it’s not just about t-shirts or mugs. The product category is massive starting from the usual t-shirts to even unusual products like clock or jewelry. In fact, customized jewelry is one of the top-selling product categories in print on demand. Many platforms offer product categories up to 300+!
That way you can adjust your designs for various types of products. The product categories include clothing/apparel, accessories, stationery items, engraved jewelry, art and paintings, and so on. Everything that can be printed on is part of the print of demand. So, don’t just limit your designs to t-shirts and mugs.
Expand your skills and incorporate designs in hundreds of product categories available. Most owners start with the common ones and then slowly move on to other product categories. Some even start with the uncommon ones as their key selling point. It mostly depends on what kinds of products you want to see your designs on and of course your business model.
However, not every design you can make will fit multiple products. For example, a designer has designed something and it only is suitable for t-shirts. So, if the designer wants to print the same design on other products like mugs or clocks, it’s highly unlikely to work.
5. Promoting the Products
No matter how good your designs are or how well decorated your store is, it will remain unknown to the customers if they do not know it exists. Thus, comes promotion and marketing. Promotion is the second pillar of print on demand. The first one is designing. The way to become a successful print on demand seller is to become good at both designing and marketing.
The marketing skill is essential to let your customers know about your brand and the products it has. Among countless competitions, the trick here is to stay ahead of your competitors by making your brand visible to your customers. There are many ways to promote products. There are paid advertisements as well as free ones.
Search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), social media marketing (SMM), website advertisement, etc. are core methods to promote the store and the products in it. These methods include both free and paid traffic. If you are new to the business, you will most likely rely on free traffic because, in the beginning, the profit margin is generally low.
Once the store starts to get enough visitors and customers, the store owner generally shifts to paid traffic as well as keeping free traffic. Social media like Instagram and Facebook are great places to drive traffic from. These are great places to interact with the customers with their customer reviews, user feedback, likes, comments, etc. These are important promotional factors.
6. The Final Step: Purchase
This is the final step that all the previous steps have worked for. Here the customer finally purchases the products. The revenue and profit are generated here. The customer will purchase the product and it will be produced, packaged, and shipped by the company where your store is within. The goal here is to maximize the profit generated for every sale.
The profit margin will depend on how many products you can sell. An important point to note here is that the second sale of the same customer is more important than the first one. A customer will only come back if he/she is satisfied with the first purchase.
Therefore, the store owners and the company make sure that the customers receive the best quality service. The print on demand process doesn’t end here. There is also the after-sales service which tends to any issues the customer faces regarding their product. It is also equally important as selling the product.
From generating an idea to selling the same idea in the form of design, print on demand is a sophisticated process to bring out the creativity in a person. Print on demand has made countless entrepreneurs more competent and experienced in the business world. In order to dive into the world of POD, the individuals first need to understand the print on demand process from top to bottom, which this article covers.