How To Choose The Right Print on Demand Supplier: Key Considerations
You’re an artist, designer or business owner that wants to get your designs and own brand out there so you can turn followers into raving fans.
You have a message you want to share with the world and want a new income stream, and you know that getting physical products in the hands of your fans is required and printing products is the best way to do it.
But who has time to waste on things like printing and shipping? Not you, that’s for sure.
That’s where print on demand suppliers comes in. You create the designs, make the sales and the print on demand supplier will take care of the printing and fulfilment. You can stay focussed on what you’re good at, running your business and making designs that people love.
What is print on demand?
The printing process and business model known as printing on-demand (POD) involves the creation of apparel, books, accessories, and other items only when a consumer makes a purchase. This eliminates the need for huge stockpiles of inventory and finished goods.
What is a print on demand supplier?
A print on demand supplier provides an online platform that can integrate with your eCommerce platform or an online marketplace like Etsy. You add upload your designs to the print on demand supplier’s platform, add it to the products you want to sell then push the products to your online store.
When you receive an order the print on demand company’s software receives the order, prints the item and ships it directly to your customer.
You still retain the ownership of the customer and the relationship with them but you don’t have to physically print or ship the items.
In this article, I will take you through the key considerations when choosing a print on demand supplier for use in your business.
How to Choose the Right Print on Demand Supplier? Key Considerations
When print on demand (POD) first became popular, there were only a handful of suppliers to choose from. Now, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of print on demand suppliers all over the world and all vying for your business.
With so many options available, you can end up going down rabbit holes and wasting precious time trying to figure out which supplier is right for you.
Having spent years trying out different print on demand companies I share the key points to consider that will ensure you get the right POD supplier for your online store:
Location Location Location
Print on demand companies broadly fall into three categories
- Those that have fulfilment centres in more than one country
- Those that have print partners in other countries
- Those that print in one country but ship globally.
It is extremely important to consider where your target market is and whether the print on demand supplier ships to it or is based there.
If your target market is the UK then it’s best to choose a UK print on demand supplier or at a minimum a European supplier so that shipping is faster and cheaper and you don’t have to worry about import charges and customs. For example, there would be no advantage to using a US supplier if you mainly sell to the UK.
Some geographies are better served than others though, for example the US has far more POD print providers than the UK does so your options may be limited.
Some print-on-demand firms have similar product catalogs, but others specialize in certain areas. For example, Subliminator specializes in all-over printing and is well renowned for their quality products. However they would be a poor option if you want to sell canvases because they do not provide them.
If you are looking to sell clothing, make sure your chosen suppliers sell the sizes and colours that you need. Some suppliers only go up to a 2XL whereas others go to 5XL. I sell in some niches that require tshirt and sweatshirts of certain colours and when checking this, I found that some of the really big print on demand companies did not offer the variants I needed.
Whilst you may not find one supplier that sells everything you want to offer, you should aim to keep the number of suppliers that you use to a minimum otherwise it can get complex to manage.
Some products out there can be sold for far higher margins than others e.g. all over print boots can be sold with a $40+ margin where as t-shirts can usually only get a quarter of that if you are lucky. So, when looking at the products on offer, consider the profit margins you are likely to be able to charge for them.
Products can be one consideration that encourages you to ignore the location of the POD supplier. For example, many POD suppliers in China offer products you can’t get elsewhere or prices that just can’t be beaten.
For ease of use and to automate the process as much as possible you need to know which platforms you are going to be selling on and to ensure that the print on demand company that you want to use integrates with it. For example, not all print on demand companies integrate with Etsy so if you plan to sell there and don’t want to have to raise manual orders, make sure you check that your preferred supplier integrates with the sales platform (Shopify, WooCommerce, Etsy etc) you plan to or are using.
Over the last few years, the ad spend required to make a sale has increased significantly with some reporting that it takes $10+ Facebook ad spend to make a sale of POD items.
To ensure you can make a profit make sure you look at both the price of the products and shipping rates of the products you want to sell. It is as critical as ever and can be make or break for your business.
Look closely at what the print on demand supplier will charge you to print and fulfil the order and pay attention to the shipping costs to the countries where your customers are. High shipping costs will require you to sell your products at higher prices, potentially higher than your competitors do.
Some print on demand suppliers have charges that arent obvious at first. For example, digitising a design so that it can be used for embroidery can be $6+ per design. If embroidery is important for you this is worth checking.
An increasing number of print on demand suppliers have premium and enterprise plans that require a subscription and once signed up to reduce the product costs by a certain percentage. Other POD companies have volume-based discounts that reduce the price of products to you if you achieve certain monthly sales thresholds.
Make sure you’ve looked at these subscription plans and volume discounts in detail to see if they are of benefit to your business. As a new seller, you may not be selling enough to hit the thresholds or pay back the monthly subscription fee.
One of the most important factors to consider is the ease of use of the supplier’s software platform. If you’re not a graphic designer or don’t have much experience with design software, you’ll want to choose a print on demand supplier that offers an easy-to-use platform where exact file sizes may not be required.
The last thing you want is to spend hours trying to figure out how to create your product designs in the right size and format.
On the other hand, if you’re experienced with graphics software and are confident in your ability to create high-quality designs, you may be able to get by with a more complicated platform.
At a minimum, the platform needs to be easy enough to use so that it doesnt hinder your productivity or cause issues with your products.
When looking for a print on demand supplier, it is important to consider a range of factors in order to make sure you are set up for success.
By keeping the considerations we have outlined here in mind, you can be sure that you’re making the best decision possible for your business. Things to take into account include product margins, pricing, shipping costs, ease of use and design, as well as whether the supplier integrates with your chosen selling platform.
By taking all of these things into consideration, you can be sure that you are choosing the best possible print on demand supplier and the right one for your business.