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Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Sell Print-On-Demand on Amazon

Beginner's handbook

How to Sell Print-On-Demand on Amazon: A Guide for Custom Apparel and More

How to Sell Print-On-Demand on Amazon: A Guide for Custom Apparel and More
Lilija Karpjaka

By Lilija Karpjaka

18 min read

Embarking on a print-on-demand (POD) business journey with an Amazon seller account can transform your online business. It opens doors to a vast customer base, allowing you to sell POD products like your own branded apparel, including but not limited to the classics like custom t-shirts, hoodies, and hats. In this article, we’ll guide you through the steps you should take to start selling custom products on Amazon. 

1. Decide on print-on-demand fulfillment options

To sell custom print-on-demand products on Amazon, you need to choose a print-on-demand company. In this section, we’ll compare Printful to Amazon Merch on Demand and tell you how to get started with Printful if you choose to do so. 

Printful

Printful is a one-stop shop for all your print-on-demand needs, from snazzy custom t-shirts to cozy hoodies and trendy custom hats, and more. 

When you integrate your store with Printful and someone places an order for one of your custom Printful products, we’ll automatically fulfill and ship that product to your customer almost anywhere in the world. 

It’s like having a magic wand that transforms your creative ideas into real products. Iit also pairs well with your Amazon dropshipping store and other ecommerce platforms and online marketplaces.

Pros:

  • Quality products. Printful products are made of premium quality materials and they have high embroidery and print quality.
  • Customization. You get to customize Printful products with an advanced design tool called Design Maker.
  • Experimentation made easy. You can easily add or remove products from your online store. If a particular design didn’t sell as much as you expected, you can just remove it without losing money on inventory and add a new product with a different design. 
  • Versatility. Printful offers a broad product range, from apparel to home & living products and accessories.
  • Custom branding options. We print and ship everything under your brand with custom labels, pack-ins, and other branding options.
  • Low shipping rates. We have fulfillment centers around the world and we partner with global carriers to bring you many affordable and reliable shipping options.

Cons:

  • Cost. Print-on-demand items are pricier per unit. This is because the cost of printing, packaging, and labor is factored into each item, affecting your profit margins more compared to bulk buying.
  • Turnaround time. Expect longer processing times. Unlike bulk orders that are pre-made, print-on-demand products are created post-order, adding extra time for production and shipping. Fulfillment typically takes 2–5 business days, and shipping times depend on the order destination.

Amazon Merch on Demand 

“Merch by Amazon” and “Amazon Merch on Demand” are the same, but we’ll stick to the shorter version.

Just like Printful, Merch by Amazon operates on a print-on-demand model. This means that products are only produced when an order is placed. Sellers don’t need to pre-purchase inventory, reducing unsold product risks. Amazon handles the entire fulfillment process, from printing to shipping to customer service. This lets sellers focus on what they do best: creating and promoting their designs.

Pros:

  • Access to Amazon’s massive audience. Leverage the vast customer base of the world’s largest online retailer.
  • Ease of use. User-friendly platform, fantastic for beginners in ecommerce and print-on-demand.
  • Print-on-demand efficiency. No need to worry about inventory, storage, or unsold products.
  • Amazon’s trust and reach. Benefit from Amazon’s established trust and global reach.
  • Integrated Fulfillment: Amazon takes care of production, shipping, and customer service.
  • Royalty-Based Earnings. Earn royalties on every sale without the hassle of managing a traditional online store.

Cons:

  • Limited control over branding. The products are listed under the Amazon umbrella, and as a seller, you have limited opportunities when it comes to developing a distinct brand identity.
  • Takes time to get approved. It can take between 3 weeks and 3 months to get your Merch By Amazon account approved.
  • Competitive marketplace. Fierce competition with other sellers on Amazon.
  • Revenue share model. A significant portion of sales revenue (around 10–20% of the product’s selling price ) goes to Amazon.
  • Tier system and design limits. New sellers on Merch by Amazon start with limited slots for designs, and progressing to higher tiers requires meeting specific sales thresholds.  This structure can initially hinder your growth and success.

2. Connect your Amazon account to Printful

If you’ve decided to go with Printful, here’s a tutorial on how to get started.

Printful connects with the main ecommerce platforms and online marketplaces, and Amazon is one of them. All you have to do is link both accounts so they can “communicate,” which means that when you make a sale on your Amazon store, Printful will take care of everything for you. We’ll fulfill your order, personalize the item, then pack and ship it directly to your customer on your behalf.

To integrate your Amazon store with Printful, you need to have a professional seller account, aka the Professional seller plan, which costs $39.99/month plus referral fees. Remember that if you decide to sell on your own website, you’d also need to invest in the ecommerce platform that’ll host it. This investment is part of having a business, but in this case, it’s not that much compared to the potential Amazon offers for your dropshipping business.

Note: Amazon requires that the products you sell on its marketplace have a GTIN (Global Trade Item Number). If you sell products through Printful, they won’t have a GTIN. So, you’ll have to request a GTIN exemption from Amazon.

If you sell under your own brand, Amazon requires you to submit real-life product photos to get your GTIN (Global Trade Item Number) exemption. If you don’t have your products on hand to take pics, consider ordering samples. As a Printful customer, you’ll get 20% off sample orders.

Once you get your GTIN exemption approved, connect your Printful account to your Amazon store. Here’s a video to help you do it:

Watch this video to find out how to Amazon account setup works with Printful:

preview play-button

If you don’t have an Amazon seller account yet, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Choose the selling plan

  2. Consider your selling strategy (reseller or brand owner)

  3. Have a business email address or Amazon customer account, an international chargeable credit card, a government ID and tax information, a phone number, and a bank account where Amazon will send you the profits from your sales

Check out additional details on Amazon’s own guide.

3. Research your target market and competition

Navigating Amazon requires more than just creative flair; it demands a keen understanding of your target market and the competitive landscape. 

Once you understand your target market and know your competitors, you’ll be able to craft enticing product descriptions and know what kind of products sell. 

Understand your audience (target market)

Why: In a crowded online marketplace like Amazon, catering to a specific audience is crucial. By researching your audience, you gain insights into their preferences, needs, and behaviors. This allows you to create products that resonate with them.

How: Start by defining your ideal customer. What are their demographics (age, gender, location)? What are their interests and pain points? 

Craft effective product descriptions

Why: Once you know your target audience, you can tailor your product descriptions to speak directly to them. This increases the likelihood of your products standing out and being chosen by potential buyers.

How: Use language and messaging that align with your audience’s preferences. For example, if your target market is environmentally conscious, highlight eco-friendly aspects of your products in your descriptions.

Read more: How to Manage Customers’ Expectations with Product Descriptions

Identifying profitable product niches

Why: Thorough market research helps you identify gaps or niches within your target market where demand exceeds supply. This presents an opportunity for you to create authentic print-on-demand products that can thrive.

How: Analyze competitors in your niche. Look for underserved segments or trends that you can leverage. Tools like Amazon’s Best Sellers and Google Trends can be helpful.

Read more: How to Find a Niche for Your Online Store

Analyze competitors

Why: Understanding your competition is essential to positioning yourself effectively. It helps you identify what’s already working and where you can differentiate your products.

How: Study your direct competitors on Amazon. Analyze their product offerings, pricing strategies, customer reviews, and overall branding. Identify gaps or areas where you can excel. You can use a tool like SmartScout to conduct your competitor product research. 

Adapt and improve

Why: The ecommerce landscape is dynamic. By continuously monitoring your target market and competition, you can adapt to changing trends and customer preferences.

How: Track relevant metrics regularly. This could include keeping an eye on competitor pricing, customer reviews, and market trends.

Let’s visualize this with an example.

Imagine you’re selling print-on-demand t-shirts on Amazon. Through research, you discover that your target market consists of eco-conscious millennials who love unique, nature-themed designs. You also find competitors offering generic t-shirts.

Armed with this knowledge, you create a line of eco-friendly t-shirts with exclusive nature-inspired artwork and eco-friendly packaging (not an option if you sell t-shirts or other products only with Amazon Merch on Demand). Your product descriptions emphasize these eco-friendly aspects. This targeted approach helps your products resonate with your audience and stand out from generic competitors.

As your brand grows, you can follow ongoing trends like new eco-friendly products, pop culture addressing environment, etc. You can then include those trends, messages, memes, etc., in your store and that way stay fresh and relevant.

Researching your target market and competition on Amazon is the cornerstone of all successful online businesses, including print-on-demand stores. By understanding your audience deeply, staying tuned to market trends, and keeping a close eye on your competition, you can craft a more targeted, effective approach to selling on this platform.

4. Select products

One of the most important steps for those dropshipping on Amazon is determining what you’re going to sell. As mentioned above, you’ll have to decide if you’re going to be a reseller (find popular products that already exist and offer them in Amazon’s store) or a brand owner (design and sell your own products, offering your customers a unique selection).

To make this decision more assertively, we recommend you do some market research and check trending products and top-performing categories on Amazon. To do that, use Amazon’s Best Sellers, New Releases, and Movers & Shakers lists. To narrow down your selection, remember who you’re selling to, and ask yourself which of those items your niche might be interested in.

Also, don’t forget to analyze the competition and the reviews they get about the products. Your chances of standing out are bigger when you sell products with less competition or pick a category where you already have some expertise.

Last but not least, calculate the potential profit margins of each product and the shipping costs/times. For example, products with extremely low margins may not be worth the effort, and long shipping times can scare customers away.

Ready for some inspiration? Here are some suggestions for dropshipping products with a high profit margin.

Custom t-shirts

Embroidered, all-over print, with small detailing or eye-catching colorful designs, selling custom t-shirts on Amazon can be lucrative if you do it right. The level of success you achieve depends on 2 main factors: the types of t-shirts you pick and the designs you choose.

Funny quotes and designs with seasonal themes are always a good idea. And the fulfillment technique you go with can also raise the value of your t-shirts. Embroidery designs, for example, 

tend to bring more elegance to the pieces, while all-over printing (AOP) can infuse your tees with a distinctive, original flair.

Read more about it here: What’s the Best Method for Printing T-Shirts

Pro tip: Stay up-to-date with market trends and adapt to customer preferences for a competitive edge. Amazon offers some suggestions of trending styles that you can use as an inspiration.

Amazon bestselling t-shirts

Read more on How to sell t-shirts on Amazon 

Athleisure outfits

Athleisure attire became trendy during lockdown for being stylish, practical, and comfortable. But even as people got back to their office routines and normal lives, this fashion trend has persisted as a staple in wardrobes everywhere. Why? You can seamlessly transition from work to the gym, everyday activities, and social gatherings in athleisure. So, it’s a great option to dropship on Amazon.

When assembling a compelling athleisure catalog, consider the following key items:

Custom hoodies

a light blue zip up hoodie with a polar bear on it

Source: Amazon

 

Sweatshirts

a beige sweatshirt with black text

Source: Amazon

Joggers 

a person wearing pants with a yellow duck pattern

Source: Amazon

Leggings 

a woman wearing leggings with floral design

Source: Amazon

Home Decor

The home decor industry also experienced a positive upswing during and after the pandemic. As people were forced to spend more time at home, many of us started to pay more attention to (and invest more money in) details to make our living spaces more aesthetically pleasing, functional, and comfortable.

This is a market that continues to evolve, adapting to consumer preferences, technology, and design trends. According to Statista, revenue in the home decor market sits at $32.32 billion in 2023, with an anticipated annual growth rate of 6.01% through 2028. 

Here’s a list of some great home decor products to dropship on Amazon:

Wall art (posters and canvases)

a woman with a towel on her head reading a newspaper poster

Source: Amazon

Blankets

a custom floral blanket on a chair

Source: Amazon

Pillow cases

a blue pillow with white stars on it

Source: Amazon

Candles 

a custom printful candle in a glass container

Source: Printful

Towels 

embroidered towels on a wooden ladder

Source: Amazon

Mugs

a group of coffee mugs with letters on them

Source: Pinterest

Tech products

Beyond video games, computers, and cell phones, the range of tech products you can dropship on Amazon is infinite, especially when it comes to custom items. That’s why using print-on-demand dropshipping for tech items can prove to be a strategic approach to navigate the intense competition within this category.

Add exceptional customer service and competitive pricing, and you’re sure to find your way as a successful Amazon seller. Below are some cool customizable tech product options:

Phone cases

  custom phone case with a cat doing maths

Source: Amazon

Earphone cases

an ipod case with a camouflage design

Source: Amazon

Gaming products

pink gaming mouse and pad

Gaming mouse pad. Source: Amazon

Accessories 

Given their versatility and affordability, accessories couldn’t be left off the list. While in some cases their individual profit margins may not be the most substantial, they can contribute to a profitable business overall when pursued through high-volume sales or as add-ons for other items.

Explore a range of accessory ideas that can help you increase your Amazon store numbers:

Bags

a pink duffel bag with cherry designs

Source: Amazon

Backpacks

  a backpack with a pizza print

Source: Amazon

Scrunchies

  a group of scrunchies next to a ruler

Source: Amazon

Footwear

  a person's legs with colorful custom shoes

Source: Printful

Hats and Fanny packs

a colorful hat and fannypack

Source: Amazon

 

Pro tip: Offer product variations (different colors and sizes) to cater to a broader audience, always taking into account market demand, seasonality, and originality. And don’t forget to monitor the performance of each product, replacing underperforming items with different options when needed.

5. Create designs

Giving your products an original style is one of the first things that’ll differentiate you from the competition, and it’s crucial to attract clicks to your store. If you have artistic skills, this should be the fun part. But don’t ignore key considerations behind the creative process.

To start, make sure to define the purpose behind your product. Who’s it meant for? What message should it convey? Is it intended for personal use or as a gift? Again, consider the preferences and interests of your audience to design items that resonate with them.

Then, look for inspiration from different sources, that don’t necessarily have to be design magazines. Movies, music, places, everything can serve as a wellspring for your creativity. Creating a mood board can also be useful.

When it comes to the actual design phase, there are many tools available depending on your skills and preferences. If you choose Printful as your fulfillment partner, you can use our Design Maker, a free online tool with many features to help you create your own products. Then, you can generate mockups to showcase your products on your Amazon store. 

preview play-button

Check also: 16 Free Photoshop Alternatives to Discover This Year

Pro tip: Always use high-quality images and graphics to guarantee the quality of your final product. Going for an all-type design? Select fonts that are easy to read and be mindful of font size, style, and spacing. For the color scheme, keep in mind the emotions you wish to evoke. Take a look at our article on Color Psychology in Ecommerce and Branding.

6. List your products

Got your product catalog ready to shine? Then you’re ready for the next step: product listing. There are two ways of doing this: by matching an existing listing (if someone else is already selling the same product on Amazon), or by creating a brand new listing (if you are the first or sole seller for that item).

The specific process for sellers to upload and list their products may vary depending on their selling plan. Sellers with an Amazon professional sellers account can list multiple products through bulk uploading or inventory management using their third-party systems. Individual sellers are required to list their products one by one.

Remember that, for the majority of cases, products should have a Global Trade Item Number (GTIN). Amazon relies on these product IDs to pinpoint the exact item you’re selling. If you’re 

matching an existing listing, there’s no need to provide a product ID, as it’s already in the system. But if you’re introducing a new product, you might need a UPC code or to apply for an exemption.

Besides the product ID, you’ll need the following info for each product listing:

  • SKU

  • Product title

  • Product description

  • Product images

  • Search terms and relevant keywords (learn more about Amazon SEO)

7. Launch and market your store

According to Amazon, the first 90 days are crucial for new sellers. That’s when you’ll establish marketing, fulfillment, pricing, and other practices to accelerate your store’s performance beyond launch.

To help explain it, Amazon data analysts created the Perfect Launch guide, composed of five steps that should help you generate 6.3 times more revenue in your first year than other sellers. These steps are:

  • Brand Registry

  • A+ Content

  • Fulfillment by Amazon

  • Automated pricing

  • Paid advertising

Read more about Amazon’s Perfect Launch to get the full scoop.

Is selling print-on-demand on Amazon profitable?

Selling print-on-demand (POD) products on Amazon can be profitable, but it depends on various factors, including margins, the competitive landscape, and your strategies. Let’s break them down.

Profitability factors

Margin considerations. POD products often have lower profit margins than other ecommerce models. Understand your production costs, including printing, material, and Amazon’s fees, and then add your profit to make sure you don’t lose money while selling.

Pricing strategy. To maintain profitability, you must set your product prices strategically. Consider both competition and perceived value. Competitive pricing is important but not at the expense of profitability. 

To learn how to price your products the right way, check out our video. 

preview play-button

Competitive landscape

Competitor research. As we mentioned earlier, researching competitors is vital. Analyze their pricing, product offerings, and customer reviews. Identify gaps where you can differentiate and offer unique value.

Niche selection. Entering niches with less competition can lead to higher profitability. Find niches where demand exists, but there aren’t many sellers.

Quality and design

Product quality. High-quality designs and materials can command higher prices and customer loyalty. Ensure your POD products meet or exceed customer expectations. Your customers will be more likely to choose you over your competitors in the future when they know that they can trust the quality of your products. 

Unique designs. Investing in original and appealing designs can set you apart. There are thousands of printed and embroidered t-shirts on Amazon, but not all have modern and truly appealing designs.

Marketing and promotion

Effective marketing. Successful marketing strategies can drive sales and improve profitability. Use Amazon advertising, social media, and email marketing to reach your target audience.

Loyalty programs. Implement customer loyalty programs or discounts for repeat buyers to boost profitability in the long run.

Read more: 10 Effective Social Media Strategies for Your Print-on-Demand Business

Real-world example: Let’s say you’re selling custom-printed phone cases on Amazon. You’ve researched and found that the competition in generic phone cases is fierce, with slim profit margins. However, you notice a demand for trendy, personalized phone cases. By offering custom designs with a marginally higher price, you attract customers looking for something unique, leading to better profitability.

Final words

Securing profit on Amazon is a multifaceted endeavor that extends beyond artistic flair. It involves a calculated approach, combining creativity with astute market analysis and effective marketing strategies. If you’re going to start selling on Amazon, start right and take decisive action:

  • Understand your costs. Begin by calculating your production costs, including printing, shipping, and Amazon fees. This foundational step lets you to set prices that are not only competitive but also profitable.

  • Stand out with unique products. Differentiate your offerings with unique, high-quality designs. Cater to specific, profitable niches or customer segments to carve out your own space in the market.

  • Maximize visibility through optimization. Elevate your product listings with compelling descriptions, high-quality images, and well-researched keywords. This not only improves your visibility but also enhances conversion rates.

  • Stay agile and informed. Keep a close eye on your sales metrics, customer reviews, and market trends. Be prepared to adjust your strategies, pricing, and product offerings in response to market dynamics.

  • Regular profitability analysis. Make it a habit to analyze your profitability data regularly. This will help you spot trends, fine-tune pricing, and make informed decisions to maximize profits.

And consider exploring beyond Amazon. While Amazon is a key player, diversifying your sales channels can mitigate risks associated with reliance on a single platform. Consider selling through your own website or other ecommerce platforms.

In essence, achieving success on Amazon is about understanding the platform’s nuances and leveraging them with well-crafted strategies. As you embark on this print-on-demand journey, blend innovative thinking with strategic acumen to unlock the full potential of your creative pursuits on one of the world’s leading ecommerce platforms. Here’s to a prosperous and fulfilling venture on Amazon!

author

By Lilija Karpjaka on Jan 19, 2024

Lilija Karpjaka

SEO Content Writer

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

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