Print-on-Demand vs Dropshipping – POD Weekly #50

POD Weekly #50

Print-on-Demand vs Dropshipping


The first bulk shipment my apparel business ever received came in on a full container. It was extremely exciting – until we realized exactly how much space 100,000 pieces of apparel requires. It was a ongoing headache for years – and one of the reasons I was initially drawn to print-on-demand

Once upon a time, if you wanted to become a merchant and run your own shop, it meant purchasing in bulk, paying upfront for inventory, and then dealing with all of the headaches of inventory. Two popular models have emerged to solve this issue for ecommerce businesses: print-on-demand and dropshipping. Both models eliminate the need to purchase inventory up front – and outsource the handling of physical inventory, but they aren’t necessarily equal. 

With dropshipping, merchants work with third parties to source inventory. Products are then listed for sale, which could be on a merchants’ site or a marketplace. Once a product is purchased by the customer at retail, the order is sent to the dropship partner for fulfillment. The dropshipper charges the merchant for the cost of the product and fulfills the order by shipping to the end customer.

Similar to how a square is a rectangle, but not vice versa, print-on-demand should be considered a specific type of dropshipping. It fits all of the above criteria of dropshipping, and goes even further.

With traditional dropshipping, merchants are limited to selling a specific set of premade, predesigned products from other manufacturers. The lack of uniqueness makes it easy for other merchants to sell the exact same products and leaves many sellers competing on price.

On the other hand, print-on-demand dropshipping allows sellers to create unique designs to print on any number of designs. While the base product catalog can be accessed by any merchant, the designs allow the products to be customized.

Businesses have had success with both methods; Wayfair is nearly entirely dropship-based and we’ve covered a number of successful print-on-demand stores recently. There’s no single right-answer when evaluating print-on-demand vs dropshipping, and a combination may be the best way to go about it. Still, in my opinion there’s no better way to sell custom branded products than print-on-demand.


SUMMARY: Traditionally, running a store meant upfront purchases & inventory headaches. Dropshipping and print-on-demand have changed that. Which method is the right method for your ecommerce business? 




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Print-on-demand merchandise is fast – and low risk. But that doesn’t mean success will come easy or fast.

What are the real success factors to selling custom merchandise?
Jonno KITE

“A lot of people get into the business of selling custom merchandise. They do so with high hopes, great ideas and the best intentions. But a warped sense of what success looks like can hold them back from the hard work, hustle, creativity and perseverance required to actually achieve that success.
In this article, we’re going to look at the real success factors when it comes to selling custom merchandise. Of course, success is never a given – and where would the fun be if it was? – but these are the things that we see, time and again, contributing to custom merch success stories.”1


Learn how to use Google Shopping with print-on-demand products to drive more ecommerce sales.

Getting Started with Google Shopping
Giedrė Kronberga Blog – Printful

“Once you dive into the world of Google Shopping, the main thing to keep in mind is that it’s not a “set it and forget it” type of deal. Not only is it important to reassess your bids every now and then, but it’s also crucial to reevaluate the quality of your Shopping Ad.
As with all things ecommerce and marketing, you want to treat your venture into Google Shopping as an experiment, tweaking variables one by one until everything clicks – and business starts to boom.”2


Unsure which fabrics to use for your print-on-demand merchandise brand? Get a quick rundown here.

Guide to Cotton, Polyester, and Blended Fabrics
Giedrė Kronberga Blog – Printful

“If you’re just starting off, you might be tempted to use the cheapest canvas for your designs, but don’t rush with that decision. Think about your audience and how you’re presenting your brand. And don’t forget that the fabric of your garments has to go well not only with your chosen niche, but with your designs too.
Every apparel retailer should be familiar with three primary fabric types: cotton, polyester, and blended fabrics. In this blog post, we’ll be taking a closer look at each of them to help you decide which fabrics are the best for your store.”3


 Voodoo Manufacturing is bring fast 3d printing capabalities to shopify merchants. Is this the future of on demand ecommerce?

‘Building the digital factory’: 3D printing comes to Shopify – Digiday
Michael Bodley Digiday

“It used to take almost a month for the owner of It’s The Island Life, a small, Texas-based direct-to-consumer business selling on Shopify, to receive its 3D-printed cookie cutters. Now, it’ll take less than a week.
It’s The Island Life is one of a few brands piloting a new 3D printing program with Voodoo Manufacturing, a Brooklyn-based company that aims to lend its 3D printing production services to small businesses. Today, the company is launching a design app for 3D printing on Shopify, the $17 billion e-commerce platform that has become the go-to e-commerce platform for DTC startups.”4


An inside look at Printful, one of the largest print-on-demand services, and their rise from a small design biz to a 500+ person startup

Behind The Scenes: What It’s Really Like To Work For Latvia’s Fastest-Growing Startup
October 12, 2018 ArcticStartup

“Printful started out as a small business designing and printing inspiring quotes. Since the company’s launch in 2012, Printful has transformed into a global drop-shipping and print-on-demand service with a 500+ person team across the USA and Europe.
Printful has also created the appearance of an enticing and contemporary work environment, but you know what they say – don’t judge a book by its cover. So I decided that in order to understand what it’s really like to work at Printful, I would spend one day in their office in Riga.”5


Time/Money Magazine featured a handful of MerchByAmazon sellers, including MerchMinds host Glen Zubia!

Merch Minds Podcast – Episode 105: Hustler Hacks Interviewed by Time/Money Magazine
Merch Minds Podcast with Glen and Yong

“Glen Zubia was featured in an article by Time magazine. Since Glen found early success on Merch by Amazon, he was contacted by Time magazine for an interview. Glen tells the backstory on how he was contacted and interviewed by Time.”6


Order custom t-shirt designs with free revisions to take advantage of these opportunities. 

October – December  Holiday Shopping
Thu, November 22    Thanksgiving Day
Fri, November 23    Black Friday
Sat, November 24    Small Business Saturday
Mon, November 26    Cyber Monday
Tue, November 27    Giving Tuesday
Mon, December 3    First Day of Hanukkah
Mon, December 10    Last day of Hanukkah
Tue, December 25    Christmas
Mon, December 31    New Year’s Eve

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  7. Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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