Print on Demand: Guide for Online Businesses

Print-on-demand, aka POD, is a business method where instead of stockpiling a large number of custom products, such as apparel, accessories, or decor, you work with a company to have them printed as orders come in. With this method, you can easily handle one-off needs and avoid keeping a large inventory on-hand. Also, with the right business partner, you won’t have to worry about the custom printing of your products; or even the packing and shipping steps. POD shifts the manual work of running an eCommerce business off of you and on to a company. Such as a company that specializes in third-party logistics (3PL) services. 

In this article, we’ll talk more about; what POD means, how it works, some of the main pros and cons, and more. 

Understanding Print on Demand (POD)

When you started your business, you likely weren’t daydreaming about all the shipping and inventory management you’d have to do. Instead, you probably focused more on the meat of your business; like the products you sell, the services you provide, and the benefits you deliver to your customers.

That’s where print on demand can help. What is print-on-demand? Print on demand is a service that enables you to pass on repetitive work. That work can include; managing inventory, packaging products, and shipping them to customers. On-demand shipping, as it’s also referred to, can also save you money as well. This is because as you won’t have to pay for a product until a customer places an order. 

POD Fulfillment Services vs. POD Marketplaces

As part of understanding POD, you also need to understand what POD fulfillment services are and what POD marketplaces are. We’ll walk through the similarities and differences next. 

  • POD fulfillment services are companies that handle the behind-the-scenes processes of on-demand printing and fulfillment. Their services can integrate with your website so that customer orders are automatically transferred to them to handle. 
  • POD marketplaces handle even more of the business processes by providing the background support and the storefront to promote and sell your products. 

If you’re not deterred by the prospect of additional work to create your own online store, POD fulfillment services can be the right choice for you. For entrepreneurs who also want to grow their own brand, this can be a better option. However, if you’d rather focus on your products and leave the rest to another company, POD marketplaces might be more your style. 

How Does Print on Demand Work?

Using the print-on-demand business model means you get to be more hands-off with the fulfillment process. However, it’s still worthwhile to learn how the process works! Understanding the process helps you become a more informed business owner.

Here’s a roadmap of what the basic POD process entails. 

1. Create a digital storefront

You can’t sell products without a presence on the internet. To provide a place for potential customers to browse and shop your wares, you need to choose between a few available options. First, you could pick a platform. This could be a platform like Etsy; it helps creators and entrepreneurs sell their creations and connect that platform to a POD business. Alternately, you can work with an on-demand printing and fulfillment company that offers its own selling platform. Lastly, you could also integrate a POD platform with a separate eCommerce website. 

2. Assemble your product offerings

Got your online store? Now it’s time to fill it with digital inventory listings. The items you provide can vary greatly depending on what your business is. 

3. Start bringing in business

“If you build it, they will come” isn’t necessarily accurate when it comes to selling products online. Usually, proactive marketing efforts are required to bring the right customers to your online store and encourage them to buy. If you own your online store, marketing is something you’ll have control over. Otherwise, if you’re selling your products on a POD marketplace, the platform may handle more of that for you. 

4. Sit back while your on-demand printing partner handles the order

Put down the packing tape—if you’re working with a POD company. At this stage, print on demand companies will take over the creation of your products and any custom printing. Then they’ll prepare the product for order and make sure it gets to your customer, meaning you get paid for your hard work. 

Pros and Cons of Print on Demand

To get the complete picture of what POD can do for your business, understanding both the pros and the cons of this method is crucial. We’ll walk through some of the key points to remember here. 

Pros

We’ve already reviewed some of the pros of on-demand printing—less manual work, money saved—but we’ll go through others in-depth next. 

  • Test-drive new product variations risk-free — Have a new idea for a product or design variation? With POD, it’s easier to pilot a unique idea without investing significant time or money in it. 
  • Make customization easier — With POD, you can provide your customers with the personalization they expect at scale. 
  • Get started in a flash — Rather than having to wait to have each physical item in-hand before you can sell it, the best print-on-demand services allow you to go live with an item as soon as you can complete the design. 

Cons

Nothing, especially in business, is without potential risks and downsides. You’ll be a smarter, savvier business owner if you understand the possible cons involved with on-demand printing. 

  • You’ll need to cede control — If you’re used to having a hand in every step of your business, POD may be an adjustment. Working with a POD platform can mean loosening your control on shipping and packaging. If you want to customize products, you may be limited based on the capabilities of your provider. 
  • Orders may take longer to fill — Since every item is being made-to-order, your timeframe to get products to customers may lengthen. It’s like the difference between a fast-food meal that’s ready to grab and go or a professional cuisine entre.
  • Money savings, but also higher costs — Yes, it’s possible you’ll save money with POD since you don’t have to buy in bulk and have a lot of unused inventory lying around. However, because you’re not buying in bulk, your per-item spend may be higher. It’s a trade-off you’ll have to consider when looking at POD and whether it’s right for your business. 

Types of Print on Demand Products

Think beyond just tote bags. Print on demand products can run the gamut from classic to uncommon. We’ve gathered a few ideas to kickstart your creativity and show you the many possibilities available with POD. 

Apparel

Custom apparel is always a hot item, but print on demand offers more than just t-shirts and sweatshirts. While these are both sought-after, popular items, you can also branch out into other custom clothing, such as custom leggings, white label shorts, and more. 

Accessories

The accessory category offers tons of options for creative, custom products. There are many lovable standbys like baseball caps and sunglasses and also more unique emerging ideas, such as temporary tattoos. Trending at the moment, temporary tattoos are a great way to provide your customers with a creative accessory they’ll be able to use again and again. 

Wall Art

Look at any Instagram home decor account and you’ll see wall art making a big statement. From canvases to framed prints to posters, wall art offers people a way to add character to their homes with minimal effort. If you’re an artist, this is a great product option for you to flex your creativity. 

Homeware

In addition to wall art, other homeware products are also in high demand. In an effort to create serene spaces that look great in person and on social media, lots of people may be interested in buying your custom pillows, towels, dishware, and more. 

Tech Accessories

Phones are something we’re rarely, if ever, without. That’s why phone and tech accessories such as chargers, selfie sticks, and cases are such a popular option for on-demand printing services. 

Services for Print on Demand Products and Selling

When you know you want to pursue POD for your business, there’s also the step of picking exactly what services you need; as well as what company you’ll partner with to get them. Ideally, you’ll work with a company that can handle not just printing and designing but also fulfillment. The ideal print-on-demand companies can also assist with packaging design for the best possible customer experience, storefront integration for a hassle-free process, and global shipping so you’re not limiting yourself when it comes to fulfillment. 

How Can a 3PL Fulfillment Partner Help?

Ready to explore how print on demand services could propel your business forward? Start looking for the right 3PL (third-party logistics) fulfillment partner. A 3PL partner like Print Bind Ship can handle all the work of printing, packaging, and shipping your products to any locations worldwide. 

Choosing Print Bind Ship for Print on Demand

Print Bind Ship is your ideal partner in running an eCommerce business and taking advantage of the print on demand model. We can help you handle printing, warehousing, shipping, distribution, and more. We can even assist with your marketing efforts and help with other fulfillment solutions you may need, such as subscription box fulfillment, next-day air services, kitting services, and more. 

If you’ve decided it’s time to kick your business up a notch and partner with a reliable 3PL logistics company, call Print Bind Ship for a free consultation.