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Branded dropshipping
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Branded Dropshipping: a Guide for Ecommerce Businesses

By on April 28th, 2022 Reading Time: 14 minutes

Brands are important to people. They provide peace of mind and a sense of familiarity. As an ecommerce store owner, you need to leave a strong impression to create this feeling. In other words, customers want to be reassured that they’ll get the same positive experience each time they choose a particular brand over others. Knowing that a brand consistently delivers positive experiences forms an impression of their trustworthiness in the customer’s mind. This is especially important for dropshipping businesses who need to create a strong customer base.

Dropshipping is an attractive business model, and the data proves it. The global dropshipping market is predicted to reach $196.78 billion in 2022 and is expected to double in just four years. This is excellent news for anyone who wants to build an ecommerce business, but the market increase also means there will be fiercer competition from similar dropshipping businesses.

This is where branding comes into play as a strong advertising strategy.

Branded dropshipping will give your brand an identity and help your customers associate your products with reliability.

We’ll begin by refreshing the concept of branded dropshipping, and then get into the basics of ecommerce dropshipping and how you can start branding with Printful. By the end of the article you’ll learn:

  • Why branding is important for your business
  • What’s an effective branding strategy
  • How to showcase your brand identity
  • How to start branding with Printful

Let’s get started.

What’s branded dropshipping?

Dropshipping is a business model in which a third-party company fulfills orders for businesses.

When an ecommerce business makes a sale, the third-party company receives the order, customizes it, then packs and ships it out.

Print-on-demand third-party companies (like us) print products on-demand, so there’s no need for clients to invest in pre-orders to start selling. Dropshipping is a solution to handling logistics, stockpiling inventory, and other pain points that you might encounter when building a business from scratch. These days you don’t have to hire a team of marketers, seamstresses, and couriers, or even make your own products, to get a business rolling. If you want to, you can start an online store, join the Printful Academy, or take other courses to develop the right marketing skills and grow your company on your own.

For these reasons and more, the number of ecommerce entrepreneurs is skyrocketing, and their businesses are thriving.

Check out the Ultimate Guide to Dropshipping for more in-depth info, and Is Dropshipping Worth It? (spoiler: yes, it is) to learn more about its money-making potential.

Learn More: Beginner’s Guide to Dropshipping Sales Tax

So what is branded dropshipping? It means adding branding elements to your dropshipping business process. Branding can show up on your website, the products you sell, your packaging (inside and outside), and even in your brand’s content style.

Now then. . .

What’s an effective branding strategy?

According to the Oxford dictionary, “branding is giving a particular name and image to goods and services so that people will be attracted to them and want to buy them.” 

This sounds like the end goal of branding: a business will be successful if it can capture attention and convince people to buy from them again and again. 
But good branding for ecommerce brands is more complex than simply an internationally recognized logo. It’s supported and driven by values, a strong brand voice, and niche designs that run like a thread through everything from the brand’s website and online presence, to packaging and the packed-in freebie stickers. Good branding is like a captivating storybook that has its own message and symbolism carefully woven into every piece of the page.

To get there, the first step is to develop an effective branding strategy—a beautifully packaged promise of quality and trustworthiness. This helps form positive relationships with customers, which is crucial to making them return. If customers leave with neutral or sour opinions, it’s much harder to convince them to come back.

You can also think of branding like dating.

If marketing is getting someone to care enough to go out with you, branding is convincing the customer that they’ve found the one and it’s not worth it to keep looking. The brand needs to show up in its best outfit (beautiful design) and let its personality come through (enticing value proposition). An effective strategy will help the customer mentally check all the right boxes that will lead them to make a purchase. Most people won’t literally come up with a checklist, but they won’t have to think too hard if the strategy is working. It should look something like this:

I love the aesthetic

In the dropshipping ecommerce world, it’s easier to grow a brand when it has something to offer that similar stores don’t have.

Before you showcase your brand identity, define your product niche. Your niche will play a role in portraying your brand, from the use of text fonts and colors to the language style and unboxing experience.

If you have a theme for your product designs that a specific group of people want, you’ll attract a higher level of loyalty. Buyers of niche brands seek a distinctive look that they resonate with and can’t find in larger markets. Find and define your niche, and you’ll find your target audience. Or, you can approach this the other way around: define your target audience, and get a better understanding of which niche you should focus on. By defining your brand identity, you can lay the groundwork for how you’ll approach your designs, such as product packaging, which seriously enhances your customer experience. It’s the little things that go a long way. 

The brand’s purpose is clear to me

A brand’s purpose is an aspirational reason for its existence that’s grounded in humanity and inspires a call to action. The brand’s purpose is the big “why” your business exists. You might know it, but does your target audience? Defining an intention is especially valuable for brands committed to a specific cause or particular values. By addressing the purpose in the form of a brand story, you’ll build trust, increase customer loyalty, and inspire engagement. You will also get a clearer idea of the fundamental base of what operating strategies will guide your business to succeed. A brand’s motivation defines what distinguishes its products from competitors, which helps a lot in marketing efforts.
The aim here is to inform the audience about which direction the business is taking and what’s the long-term dream. This can be shared on a business’ website and weaved into other elements like content copywriting, packaging, and designs in the form of a vision and story.

The brand values match my values

Defined values reflect the brand’s essence and can be easily shared in all marketing efforts. Strong values play a big part in effective branding strategy as they can charm the audience that resonates with them, creating a returning customer base. 
Statistically speaking, most US consumers prefer shopping with companies aligned with their values. Loyal customers are also more likely to recommend your business to others, which means you get effective marketers that don’t even work for you.

Forbes contributor Kimberly Whitler claims that word-of-mouth marketing could be the most valuable form of marketing as consumers trust it above all other marketing forms.

Check out this list of 200 brand values for inspiration. 

The brand speaks to me in a familiar way

Develop your brand voice. Think about your core message to your target audience and what language style will best accommodate that.

The best plan of attack to get someone’s trust is to learn who they are and what they want. Identify your target audience profile and research their values and preferences. You can start with a narrow niche and with time expand to a larger pool of potential customers. 

Try to sound friendly and familiar, like there’s someone behind the brand that your audience can connect with. Most of us can’t help but like things that are familiar to us.

In summary, a branded dropshipping business can:

  • Attract a specific target audience
  • Boost loyalty and trust
  • Inspire engagement
  • Increase brand awareness and create a sense of familiarity
  • Improve customer experience (e.g., a pleasant unboxing experience)

Effective branding can also lift your perceived product value because people are not getting just a t-shirt; they’re also supporting the message behind it.

There needs to be sparks and emotions when your customer meets your brand. We connect to things that get us, and brands can synthesize this feeling of connection by becoming the physical expression of their customers’ personalities.

Although you have to invest time and resources to create a strong brand story, you don’t want to just be another generic brand. Create a blueprint and stick to it once it’s been established. The message doesn’t change.

How to showcase your brand identity

Now that you know some of the basics of effective branding, let’s look at ways to apply your brand strategy.

Website

Your brand identity can manifest as a brand story. The website is your product catalog as well as your storybook where you can set the stage and exercise your brand voice. 

An ecommerce website design can for sure be sleek with a trendy web user interface, but for some niches, it just makes sense to think outside the box.
Dogecore perfectly mirrors its niche with its old-school website design and fun content.

Dogecore ecommerce store's front page
Source: Dogecore

In the section Words you’ll find a description of the brand’s creator, John Dogecore, who single-handedly destroyed the last vampire colony in Ireland back in 1994. And in the FAQ the About Us section says, “two monkeys with internet access, just vibing.” This type of website and use of a distinct writer’s voice no doubt captivates their Gen Z target audience who appreciates the humor and the very specific early-aughts aesthetic that’s back in fashion. Because the website’s storytelling even reaches into the product descriptions, one downside is that it’s probably difficult to do keyword research for product listings. This means that for a website like this you’d have to use other tools, like social media, to bring in the web traffic.

Birthnerds ecommerce store's front page
Source: Birthnerds

Birthnerds is another great example of an ecommerce store targeting a narrow niche audience. They’re addressing birthing professionals of color, intending to help promote healthy conversations around birth and lactation.

The website’s simple design with an empowering black and yellow color duo accentuates the brand’s purpose and adds a touch of seriousness. Anyone entering the website is greeted with the store’s mission straight away, which is the cornerstone of its business.

Colors

Think about how you want the customer to feel when they take in your brand and try to enhance these emotions with colors. Choosing the right color schemes is an important step to add a solid vibe to the brand’s overall look. 

You don’t necessarily have to pick colors that align with your brand’s message and niche, but it helps to create a more solid brand image in your customer’s minds.

An example of a product and color palette with autumn colors
Source: Fabmood

You can generate your own color palette or search among popular ones in Color Hunt. This tool can also come in handy for your product photography or mockup designs.

Labels

You could call product labels the basics of branding for an online clothing store.

Professional brands pay attention to details, and custom labels help get the message across that a business is serious about its image.

Labels also differentiate your garments from other similar branded dropshipping businesses and refresh your customers’ memory about where the product has come from.

Packaging

Showcasing how your brand stands out through branded packaging is a highly effective way to set your brand apart from competitors. Packaging helps to communicate the branding, product messaging, and level of quality. For the receiver, the package is the first physical contact they have with your brand, and first impressions matter.

You might’ve heard that humans are visual creatures. Most of us process information based on what we see. All visuals, like size, shape, color palette, and any other imagery, all convey meaning and create a map of associations within us. So make the most of your branding efforts in your packages, and just like with your color palette, use packaging types that match your brand.

Various fashion brand logos
Source: Weheartit

Typographic (text-based) logos can express the character of your brand through typography, form, and color, which can create associations such as timelessness, playfulness, exclusivity, or any other characteristic you can name. These logotypes work for brand recognition and are effective for new businesses. Typographic logos can also be tricky though. They can communicate trust or convey confusion, make you look professional or amateurish, and come across as either the mark of an expensive brand or not so much. 

In contrast, icon or symbol logos can elevate the perceived quality of your products and grow your brand reputation. This creates an impression of good craftsmanship, quality, and other luxury details. For niche-specific businesses, a logo can also create a skillfully-made feel to the products, and this will make a more significant impact the bigger your business grows.

Place your logo on packaging and packing slips, so it’s the first thing that greets the package holder.

Bonus logo branding option: when working with Printful, you can share a tracking code that your customers can track on myorders.co. Because it’s a custom tracking page, you can add your logo and details on it too.

Packaging inserts

Your packaging already acts as an incredibly effective marketing tool for your brand, but if you want to add a cherry on top, packaging inserts are it. Packaging inserts or pack-ins, as we call them at Printful, can build a personal connection with your customers. Pack-ins can also be used as cues for cross-selling, encouraging feedback, word-of-mouth marketing, social media engagement, and future sales depending on what you want to offer. Here are some neat pack-in ideas:

  • A greeting or a thank you note
  • Personal note
  • Coupon code for the next purchase
  • Information about your brand’s purpose or goals
  • Sustainability effort info card
  • Small gifts like sticker freebies
  • A share on social request

You could even prepare handwritten notes (they can also be printed) that would add a sweet and personal touch to show how much you care about your customers.

Find out more on how you can start branding your business with Printful.

An illustration of Printful branding options
Source: Printful

How to practice branded dropshipping with Printful

Printful is an on-demand printing and fulfillment company. Whenever someone makes a purchase, we’ll automatically receive the order, fulfill it, and ship it out.

Here are some of the things we offer:

And various branding options.

Custom labels

Custom labels are an investment with a potential to create a big impact as a promotional medium. As we’ve discussed, a memorable label helps your customer to differentiate your product from other brands, and ensures that they don’t forget who made the item.
You can find your product branding options by heading to Printful’s product catalog and using the search bar tool on the left-hand side.

We offer the following label types for branding:

Inside labels

Inside labels are available for apparel with tear-away labels, and all-over print tops. 

These are printed on the inside of the garment under the collar. They also serve a legal function by showing the info the apparel piece needs to have by law: country of origin, size, fabric, and care instructions. For all-over print tops this information is printed on the label that’s located on the side of the shirt.

You can upload your logo in any color in an area with a maximum size of 3″ × 3″ (7.62 cm × 7.62 cm).

Printful outside label product examples
Source: Printful

Outside labels

Outside labels are available for all t-shirts we offer (except racerbacks) that don’t have a removable tear-away label. As you’ve already figured, outside labels are printed on the outside of the garment underneath the collar. You can display your logo or add any other small design without additional product information.

Upload your logo in any color with a maximum size of 3″ × 3″ (7.62 cm × 7.62 cm). 

Find label templates by first selecting your product then looking in the product file guidelines.

Printful product examples with long and short sleeve branding
Source: Printful

Sleeve Print

If you want your logo to really stand out, try the Sleeve Print branding option for t-shirts and long sleeve tops. Sleeve Print branding is hard to miss, and it’s a constant advertisement for both the wearer and any observers.

The size requirements for short sleeve shirts are 4″ × 3.5″ (10.15 cm × 8.89 cm).

The size requirements for long sleeve shirts are 3″ × 12″ (7.62 cm × 30.48 cm).

Note that if you’re not sure how your product will turn out, you can always order a product sample with a 20% discount, and make design adjustments as needed.
Check out our blog post on Printful inside and outside labels to get all the information you need about adding labels to your apparel.

An illustration of Printful packaging inserts
Source: Printful

Pack-ins

Package inserts are a versatile gesture for building a relationship with your customers. Beautifully arranged pack-in combos like stickers + discount promos provide a strong incentive for your customers to think of you the next time they’re online shopping.

The two products we suggest using as pack-ins are the multi-functional postcard, and stickers. In order for us to be able to add them to your packages, you must design, and order these products in bulk and send them to us for storage. Then, each time a customer buys from your Printful integrated store, we’ll add the pack-ins to your product packages.

Postcards

You can turn Standard Postcards into:

  • Thank you cards
  • Business cards 
  • Promo postcards
  • Flyers and coupons

Heartfelt thank you cards can serve as keepsakes, and they’re excellent for showing your appreciation for the support. 

For marketing, the possibilities are seemingly endless with postcards. You can promote your store by sharing discount codes or special deals on the cards and include your website link or Instagram handle; you can also share fun info about your business or what your purpose is.

Branded stickers

Design Kiss Cut Stickers as fun freebies or seasonal surprises. Stickers also have a practical purpose which makes them more interesting than business cards, your customers might use them on their personal belongings.

And they’re great at generating user content, as stickers are fun to share on social media platforms like Instagram or in Youtube vlogs. This type of content builds trust better than content that’s created by the brand itself.

If you wish to create your own packaging inserts, for example, by writing your own thank you notes by hand, you absolutely can. To do this, prepare your packaging inserts in bulk and mail them to one or several different Printful fulfillment centers in North America and/or Europe. We’ll store the packaging inserts in our warehouse and insert them into your orders.

Custom packaging

As a fully white-label company, we pack and ship out products in plain white poly mailers or cardboard boxes, depending on the product type. 

If you want to have custom packaging for your products, order them from a supplier and send them to our fulfillment centers. 

For now, you have two packaging options that you can send to us: custom poly mailers and bubble mailers. In the future, we’ll accept more packaging options.

You can ship all Printful products in these except for the ones that need extra protection, such as structured hats, jewelry and keychains, stationery and stickers, wall art, and drinkware.
To find out more about Printful custom packaging, have a look at our packaging article.

There’s a choice of hundreds of custom packaging suppliers. We highly recommend choosing from these three:

Sticker Mule

Sticker Mule products
Source: Sticker Mule via Unsplash

Disclaimer: Printful might earn a commission from signups or purchases completed via the link below. Read more.
In addition to stickers, custom labels, and other fun trinkets, Sticker Mule sells customizable poly and bubble mailers. This is one of the more affordable options for mailers since you can get bulk order discounts and the shipping is free of cost.

Arka

Arka fully customizable packaging
Source: Arka

Besides custom stickers, custom tape, and customizable tissue paper, Arka offers high-quality poly mailers that can be fully customized from both sides. All of their packaging is made in the US, but you have to pay for shipping, so the overall unit price will be higher than for companies that offer free shipping.

PackHelp

PackHelp biodegradable packaging image
Source: PackHelp

If you’re mostly selling in EU countries then PackHelp might be the best choice for you, as we have our UK, Latvia, and Spain fulfillment facilities here, and they’re based in the EU too.  Besides the classic poly mailer, PackHelp also offers mailers made from natural and fully biodegradable materials, which is another great branding element for your business if you’re striving to be sustainable. Note that the minimum order count starts at 100 mailers.

Here at Printful we’re also looking for ways to become more sustainable. In 2022, we’re switching from 30% PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic material packaging to 90%–100% PCR plastic packaging for apparel products in the US fulfillment centers (which are still completely white label). Our European locations are already using eco-friendly packaging with 70–100% PCR plastic content.

More and more consumers worldwide want eco-friendly packaging because it’s better for the environment. Find out more about Printful’s eco-friendly packaging journey and how you can contribute to sustainability with print-on-demand in our blog posts.

Printful packaging and labeling

Submit your packaging for approval in the Warehouse section of your Dashboard, and after that, mail your packages to us. Note that there are storage fees for all products sent to be stored in our warehouses. As soon as your products are approved, you’ll be able to pick which custom packaging goes with which orders. 

  1. Sign in to your Printful account and open the Dashboard Settings
  2. In the Settings view, scroll down to the Stores section and click Branding. 
  3. Choose your store and upload the brand logo.

Right under the logo, you’ll find the Custom packing slip message box where you can either write a personalized message (remember the pack-ins message ideas?) or a sustainability message to inform the target audience about your store’s environmental efforts.


Storage fees are calculated based on the dimensions of a single item in its storing condition. You’ll need to find out your packaging measurements and fill in the correct dimensions. We’ll use these dimensions to calculate your storage fee.

The order packing label  is white-label so that you can add your branding elements:

  • Show off your logo
  • Add links to your store
  • Invite customers to check out your social media
  • Provide your contact info

With Printful, you can track all customer orders, which helps a lot when you’re providing customer service about a package delivery. 

If you don’t want to provide your address in the case of a product return, by default, all products will go back to the fulfillment center where each was made. 
And that’s all you need to know to start branded dropshipping. Are you ready?

Let the world know your brand name

Branding a business can sound hard, but with a dropshipping provider like Printful, it’s much easier than having to figure it all out by yourself. Just keep in mind your goals and values. It’s tricky to build a brand if it’s not something meaningful. Just like Rome wasn’t built in a day, a brand with depth won’t happen overnight. So take your time, start small. Refine your logo and invest in custom labels, or design those lovely mailers and focus on testing them out in a specific shipping region. Trust that it will be worth it.

Branded dropshipping FAQs

Is branded dropshipping profitable?

Yes, dropshipping has been flourishing for years, and the compound annual growth rate is estimated to be 32% from 2021 to 2026. Read our article “Is Dropshipping Worth It in 2022” to learn more.

Is branded dropshipping better than non-branded dropshipping?

To put it simply, branded dropshipping is better than non-branded dropshipping because product branding is an effective marketing strategy. By branding your products, you can earn more money through increasing brand awareness, adding credibility, improving brand growth, and more.

How do I start a branded dropshipping business?

The first step is to build an online store with a dropshipping supplier. Once you have your store, you start creating products with custom labels, and ship your packaging and packaging inserts to the supplier for fulfillment.  

Is it legal to dropship branded products?

Yes, branded dropshipping is entirely legal. A white-label product is free from any branding and is fully customizable. In Printful’s case, there won’t be our branding on any of your products or packaging. To avoid copyright lawsuits as a dropshipper and make sure your content is respectful of others, check out our Acceptable Content Guidelines.

Can I dropship branded products with Shopify?

Yes, you can. Connect your Shopify store with Printful and sell print-on-demand products with dropshipping under your brand.

Lilija is an SEO content marketer at Printful. She's passionate about ecommerce, and in her spare time, she's an avid reader of various book genres.

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