Scaling Up Your Print-On-Demand (POD) Dropshipping Business
Amid the spike in popularity of print-on-demand (POD) dropshipping in recent years, differentiating your business and carving out your own niche has never been more important. The global web-to-print (W2P) market is forecasted to grow by 8% between 2019-2023 and POD t-shirt sales are expected to reach $10 billion by 2025, meaning you need to stay up to date with the latest market trends if you want to scale up your business and stay ahead of the competition.
A critical way to get ahead is by knowing your customers and tailoring your website and inventory based on their needs. In practice, this means focusing on three segments of your business:
- Printing best practices – Printing methods and technology are always changing, making it imperative to consistently stay on top of the latest developments.
- Dropshipping methods – Strategically locating your business while constantly reevaluating your dropshipping methods help ensure you’re able to serve as many customers as possible.
- Print-on-demand fashion and accessories trends – Offering the most up-to-date and in-fashion products gives your customers the ability to broaden their product lines beyond t-shirts.
In addition to the above, you need a reliable way to get paid by customers placing orders through your website. Payoneer’s Global Payment Service gives you the ability to seamlessly process cross-border payments in a variety of currencies, allowing you to service customers throughout the world from a single platform.
Here, we’ll be taking a deep dive into how you can upgrade your store in the ever-shifting POD landscape. In the process, we’ll be looking at several successful print-on-demand businesses, analyzing how they’ve been able to stay ahead of the pack and continuously produce winning products.
POD Printing Best Practices
Whether your print-on-demand business produces t-shirts, pillowcases, backpacks or travel mugs, it’s important to stay on top of the latest printing methods and other best practices. Let’s start by going over the two most popular printing methods: direct-to-garment and screen printing.
Direct-to-Garment vs. Screen Printing
There are two common methods for printing clothes, apparel and accessories — direct-to-garment (DTG), which uses inkjet technology to apply a design to a garment, and screen-printing, which pushes ink on to a garment through a woven mesh stencil. For POD dropshippers, DTG printing is typically viewed as the way to go, as it provides:
- Cost-effectiveness – DTG allows you to quickly print small batches of a product, perfect for customers selling their products on an ad hoc basis.
- On-the-fly customization – As opposed to screen printing, which requires a pre-made stencil, DTG gives you the ability to change designs as needed.
That said, screen printing has several advantages over DTG, including the ability to use a more vibrant color palate and quick production time after a stencil is created.
To help ensure that your print-on-demand business stands out, it’s best to invest in as many different printing methods as possible, in addition to DTG and screen printing. CustomCat is an example of a company that excels when it comes to its choice of printing options, which include embroidery, dye sublimation, poster solvent printing, canvas solvent printing, cut and sew sublimation and dye diffusion.
Print-On-Demand Image Optimization
Regardless of the printing method you use, there are several best practices to ensure that your images are both optimized and will stand the test of time. These include:
- High-quality designs – Using a high-quality design for printing helps ensure that your finished products look sharp. This can be problematic when using images designed by customers instead of existing templates.
A good method to avoid any post-production problems is to specify image resolution for outside produced designs. For example, Teelaunch requires all images to be at least 2400px to ensure a minimum standard of quality.
- High-quality materials – In addition to graphics optimization, you also need to make sure that the material you’re printing on can stand the test of time. This is especially true with clothing and apparel, where the use of certain materials (e.g., synthetic fabrics) aren’t as receptive to image adhesion and may start fading after several washes.
Additional considerations include pretreating clothes to increase durability, as well as the differences between printing on light vs. dark colors. For a good example of a POD company using quality materials, check out Gearment, where all garments are 100% combed ringspun cotton – the go-to material for making quality prints.
Amid the rapid increase in the number of print-on-demand dropshippers in recent years, maintaining a competitive edge is getting harder and harder. In addition to producing a high-quality product, you also need to make sure it’s shipped and delivered as quickly as possible. This often means doing as much as possible in-house, instead of relying on outside dropshipping companies.
In the words of Alex Phillips, Director of Operations at CustomCat: “What sets CustomCat apart is the fact that we handle the front-end integration (production, cart integration and order submission), as well as the production, printing and shipping. Being in control of both front end and back end production enables us to cut out the middleman and offer the most competitive product and shipping costs in the industry to our sellers.”
For CustomCat, that meant strategically locating their production facility and operations in the United States, while offering multi-channel integration options, allowing sellers to reach the maximum number of customers worldwide.
To help ensure that you’re dropshipping is optimized, it’s important to focus on two key parameters:
- Production location – Situating your production facilities as close to your sellers’ customers reduces shipping times. While shifting production or opening up new locations isn’t always possible, or affordable, it’s important to consistently monitor where your main customer base is located to find creative ways to support them.
- Shipping methods – In the event that your production facilities aren’t situated close to your final delivery destinations and you’re not able to handle deliveries on your own, using premium shipping can help increase user satisfaction. Additionally, don’t be afraid to charge for rushed shipping – many customers are willing to pay a little extra if you can guarantee that their product will be shipped quickly.
Looking for some additional tips to improve your shipping? Learn how to reduce your shipping lead time.
Print-On-Demand Fashion and Accessories Trends
Staying up to date with the latest fashion and design trends is a requirement for scaling up your business. While I’m sure that some of your customers come with very specific requests, the majority don’t know what they want at first, meaning it’s up to you to give them ideas.
When deciding on new product lines to feature on your site beyond t-shirts and other common POD products, it pays to research:
- Industry trends – This might seem self-evident but researching in-demand product lines is essential for scaling up your business. Whether this means stocking cases that fit the newest iPhone, using BPA-free plastics in your products or finding out which backpack style is most fashionable, constantly looking at industry trends is essential for growing your business.
- Competitor product lines – Don’t be afraid of looking at your competitors’ websites for ideas. They’ll often feature products that you can put your own spin on. Both Teelaunch and CustomCat have extensive product lines, including dog bowls, wireless phone chargers, beer steins and headphones. Taking a unique approach to branding these products can give you an edge when expanding your business.
The Payments Landscape
The explosive growth in the POD dropshipping industry means that you need to work harder than ever to establish and grow your business. While the points outlined here are intentionally broad, they do provide a blueprint for some of the things you should be paying attention to as you scale up. Just remember that there is no one size fits all solution for business expansion.
In addition to investing in your printing capabilities, shipping and market research, you also need an effective payments platform. Payoneer’s Make a Payment service allows you to easily pay your service providers, suppliers, vendors and contractors, regardless if they have a Payoneer account.
Looking for some inspiration before you start your business expansion? Learn how one dropshipper used Payoneer to help grow his business.