Have you ever seriously considered starting a business online that would rival any on-ground store? Do you have a vision of working from home and raking in sales globally? Do you want to do all this without a huge capital investment? Then print on demand might be for you. Let’s explore how to start a successful print on demand business where your supply chain and fulfillment processes are automated, and all from the comfort of your home.
1. Have a game plan
First and foremost, establish your niche, who your primary customers are, and what will be your hero product. No great company was ever started without a plan. A niche is a unique specialization that defines your entire business. You can define your niche not just by what you sell but also by your messages and designs. A popular print on demand niche is t-shirts that echo current issues and popular trends, for example, political commentary or relatable material for new parents. And yes, it is possible to start an online t-shirt business without inventory. Your plan can be as simple as creating a straightforward design and putting it on t-shirts or be long and elaborate, requiring constant updates and tweaks. Once you have a clear game plan, you can move on to the next step.
2. Customize your products
Let’s say you have decided to start an online t-shirt business. The next step is to create designs and place them on your t-shirts. But first, you need to find the right t-shirt that will look good and meet your customers’ functional needs. Most print-on-demand products come with the manufacturing information and product images on them. A popular trick is to check the weight of the t-shirt, with a preference for medium to heavier fabrics. Once you have picked your hero t-shirt, you can then place your designs on them. We also strongly recommend having good-looking product mockups for your store because they are the only way for customers to preview your products. From experience, bad product shots can break a business. You can use web tools to help you with this, or order samples and take beautiful photographs yourself. While at it, do thorough SEO research to adjust keywords so people can see your products in the sea of other t-shirts.
3. Choose Your Selling Platform
Although you definitely can host your own website, there’s an easier way to sell merch online, and that’s through online eCommerce platforms. Over the last few decades, platforms such as Etsy, Shopify, Amazon, and eBay have created great eCommerce environments for thousands of online retailers to conduct business. They cater to all kinds of niches with different customer bases worldwide because, like any website, people can access online shops from anywhere on the global market. While choosing a marketplace platform for your store, the main thing to consider is if the online marketplace has the right software to sell your products and the marketing tools to boost its potential. Of course, selling online is made even more comfortable when you have a platform that can bridge your printing process with your store platform.
4. Get your brand out
No matter how great your products and designs are, nobody will buy them if nobody knows they exist. That’s why getting the word out about your brand is a crucial task. eCommerce platforms like Etsy make it easy for you to get started, but that’s not enough. And even though these marketplaces already have huge customer pools for you to fish from, marketing your brand and store will facilitate a wider reach for new customers. Search engine optimization, better known as SEO, is one of the best ways to have digital search engines pick up your products in searches. It involves understanding the right keywords to set your products apart, even in the most saturated online markets. If you’re not against spending to gain traction and sales, look into pay per click (PPC) advertising to get your shop out there. You’ll only pay when people click on your ads, plus your shop will appear in the top search results. While PPC ads can be a quick way to bring in customers, it can also get costly, especially if the clicks never convert into actual sales. That is why the next and last step is crucial.
5. Engage, get feedback, tweak.
As the saying goes, Idiocy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. This also applies to online businesses. Let’s say you’ve done all the above and still haven’t gotten the level of success you deserve. You may choose to bury your head in the sand and give up, keep doing what you’re doing and hope something sticks or go out there and find out what’s not working. Maybe you’ve had 10 sales out of the thousands you thought you’d get. Ask the ten what they liked about your designs or products and what they would change. Once you get this feedback, apply it. Maybe you have too many hero products in your store that leave potential customers feeling overwhelmed. Declutter your store, so it’s easier to navigate and quicker to decide. Maybe your first design simply isn’t selling. Find out what’s selling and how you can apply it to your products. Engage with your potential customers; this includes friends and family. Get feedback about your existing products and design. And lastly, make the necessary tweaks to hopefully land on a fool-proof product that sells like apple pies in thanksgiving. Then when that’s done, pick your next hero product, rinse and repeat. Voila, you have your own successful print on demand store.
Never heard of Print on Demand?
Print on demand, or simply POD, is a retail business model run entirely online via automated POD platforms. On a POD platform, you can find blank products to customize from a network of print providers that are willing to print, produce, and ship your products directly to your customers. Print on demand platforms also links you to their eCommerce network, where you can set up your online store and sell your merchandise.
With print on demand, you can customize products like t-shirts, pillowcases, mugs, water bottles, shoes, and many more. They will then be printed and fulfilled one by one, and only after actual sales to their end customer. Print on demand is the only business model that lets you customize and sell a single product without inventory or prior investment.