Wondering whether or not to start a business via print on demand? Maybe you’d like to start a Shopify store and connect it to Printful, or maybe you’re about to get started on a POD marketplace like Redbubble?
Whatever the case may be, it will do you good to learn about the pros and cons of print on demand. In this article, I will cover exactly that.
What Is Print On Demand and How Does It Work?
Print on demand is an inventory-free business model similar to dropshipping, with a slight twist.
With print on demand, you can upload any design you want on any product and your print partner will ship it directly to your customer.
Here’s a simplified view of the selling process:
- A customer purchases from your store
- Your print partner will inform you they have received the order and will start production right away, as they have your credit card on file, you don’t have to do anything
- Once the product is printed, your partner will ship out the product and notify you
- The customer receives tracking information from your store
- The customer receives the ordered product
As you can see, print on demand is a very simple and hands-off business model. You don’t have to keep inventory, you don’t have to fulfill orders and you never have to pay upfront. That’s why it’s becoming so popular in the world of eCommerce.
But all this doesn’t come without a few disadvantages.
What Are The Pros And Cons of Print On Demand?
Many learn about print on demand and instantly think it will be easy to pull off.
It’s important that you realize this is not the case. Dropshipping, print on demand, running an online business, none of it is easy.
While print on demand is easy to set up, you still have to find customers and know how to market your product and brand.
You’ll have to deal with problems such as fulfillment issues and delays, small profit margins and angry customers.
That being said, print on demand can also create amazing opportunities to get a relatively risk-free start in eCommerce.
In this article, I’ll cover the pros and cons of print on demand so you can decide whether you’ll take the bad with the good.
The Pros Of Print On Demand
- No inventory is needed with POD. This means you don’t have to invest thousands in bulk orders or printing equipment. On top of that, you also don’t have to worry about packaging and shipping the products or managing the inventory. If you’ve ever shipped out products yourself, you’ll know this can be time-intensive. All this time is saved with print on demand and can be re-invested into marketing your store.
- Zero risk is involved with a print on demand brand. As your products are printed on demand, you only ever pay for them once someone orders from your store first.
- With print on demand, you can easily test different designs, products, and audiences.
- A POD store is very easy to set up and manage. Anyone can start a print on demand store using Shopify and an integrated POD app such as Printful or Printify. None of this requires any technical skills. Everything past the checkout process is completely automated. All you have to do is provide customer service.
- Access to a wide variety of products. Knowing POD companies such as Gooten let you print on dog bowls and yoga mats, it’s safe to say there is a POD product for every niche and audience. If you can’t find the product you want on your current provider, you’ll likely find it on another.
- You can easily establish your own brand. The aspect that is probably most appealing about print on demand is that you can establish your own brand, all the while remaining inventory-free. This is the dream of every drop shipper.
The Cons Of Print On Demand
- Small profit margins. As on demand production costs are pricey, you won’t see big profits on print on demand products. Especially when selling t-shirts, this makes it harder to make money with print on demand + paid advertising.
- Long production and delivery times. With a print on demand business, you won’t be able to provide quick delivery methods as every product is printed on demand and this takes time. Most print partners take anywhere between 2 to 7 working days to ship out an order.
- You have little control over the fulfillment process. As you are using a print partner, you have very little control over when your product is printed and shipped out. During busy seasons, there is very little you can do besides hope for the best.
- Support can be a mess. I’ll be honest, print on demand support isn’t great. You can’t just pick up the phone and call them up. You have to use live chat (only Printful has it) or email. Many POD partners take more than 24 hours to get back to you and even then, you might get a very generic reply that doesn’t help you much. Bad support is an issue that every print on demand store owner is dealing with.
- Returns are a hassle. Customers want a solid return policy (if you sell within Europe, you have to give a 14-day return policy) but you can’t just return a print on demand product to your supplier product on the basis that they “didn’t like it”. Most print on demand companies only allow returns on orders that are faulty due to a shipping or production mistake. Everything other than that isn’t covered. Be sure to check out your suppliers’ return policy before drafting your own.
Print on demand isn’t perfect. No online business is. POD is a great risk-free way to easily start your own online brand but that does come with quite a few drawbacks. As with any business, you have to be ready to take a hit.
You will have run into angry customers and you will run into support and fulfillment-issues. Every print on demand brand does. But for those that want to bite through that, print on demand can be truly wonderful.
Hopefully this list of print on demand pros and cons has helped you in making your decision. If you wish to go through with print on demand, I recommend you check out our complete print on demand guide.