Yes–print-on-demand is still profitable, and continues to grow year-over-year.
A more nuanced answer to that question is: print-on-demand can still be very profitable, provided you have a winning strategy and understand the business. The truth is, print-on-demand is becoming more competitive every day. More players are entering the space, and the ones that have been around for a while are getting more established.
In our guide on how to start a print-on-demand business, you can get details about the basics. In this article, we’ll walk you through the exact factors that–if you get them right–will lead to long-term profits in the POD industry.
‘Print-on-demand’ means that you work with a supplier to customize products and sell them on a per-order basis. You don’t have to buy any products in advance or hold any inventory, which makes this a popular model for e-commerce businesses.
Plus, once you’ve made a sale, your supplier will handle everything from printing to order fulfillment and shipping. There are some downsides, like higher costs per item and less control over shipping, but the convenience and flexibility of print-on-demand make it a popular choice for many people.
As explained, a print-on-demand business can be a cost-effective and low-risk way to start selling online–but success is far from guaranteed. To be profitable, you need to be doing at least a few things better than your competitors.
The primary added value you provide in the POD model is the designs that are printed on products. Suppliers, to a large extent, take care of most of the back-office processes, so it’s only up to you to create designs that sell.
Creating great designs that people want to buy is one part luck and nine parts preparation. The way to think about POD designs is that you’re trying to create something specific and different enough to strike a chord with your niche but familiar enough that it has broad appeal.
Another crucial factor in your POD store’s profitability is how well you can promote it. The three main avenues you have at your disposal are: search ads, social media ads, and influencer marketing. There are many more specialized channels, but they’re beyond the scope of this guide.
Social media ads are great because of their excellent targeting options that let you reach exactly the type of person you’re selling to, but it’s not enough to simply create an ad and hope for the best. You need to have a strategy behind your campaign, starting with defining your target audience as specifically as possible. Once you know who you’re marketing to, craft ad copy that speaks directly to those customers and highlights your designs and products well. Finally, make sure your visuals are high-quality and relevant to what you’re selling.
Search ads typically don’t convert as well as social ads, but they are an excellent way to raise awareness about your store. Do some research on the keywords that would be most relevant to what you’re selling and who your target audience is. Target those keywords to get in front of the customers that most matter to you.
Compelling ad copy plays a relatively less important role here than in social media ads, but it’s still a very high priority. Of course, you must get at least a general understanding of how to monitor ad performance and tweak them for better results.
Lastly, influencer marketing is ideal for getting your products exposed to extremely receptive audiences. The reach of influencers is comparatively smaller than that of search or social ads, but conversion rates will be much higher.
To get started, research influencers with followers who would respond well to your products and designs. Then, create a campaign that provides value to the influencer and speaks to their audience, and reach out to those influencers. The pitch doesn’t need to be complicated, and influencers will likely be open to a mutually beneficial arrangement.
How you structure your business will ultimately play a huge role in profitability. You have two basic roads to choose from: setting up your own store or selling on a marketplace.
Setting yourself up in a marketplace is a quick way to get started and validate your design ideas. Redbubble and Etsy are very popular platforms you can tap into with massive reach, and setting up a print-on-demand Etsy store is fast and easy.
The downside is that these platforms will take a cut of your sales, and that will have an impact on profitability. Plus, you’ll have very little opportunity to differentiate from competitors if you’re trying to get by in a hyper-saturated market, such as Amazon print-on-demand.
On the other hand, setting up your own store is a little more expensive and time-consuming. Still, you’ll have a lot more freedom to start building your brand, and your profit margins will be higher.
So, for newcomers, it may be a good idea to start on an established marketplace and grow into an e-commerce store. If you already have some e-commerce experience, you’ll probably want to either jump right into a new store or expand your current store’s catalog with print-on-demand.
There are a few important things to keep in mind when it comes to marketing your POD store. Firstly, you need to think about what makes your designs and products different and appealing enough that people will want to buy them. Secondly, you need to have a well-thought-out marketing strategy that includes search and social ads complemented by influencer marketing. Finally, consider whether you want to start quickly and cheaply on a marketplace and sacrifice some profits, or invest a little more up-front for better long-term profitability.