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Blog / Style & trends / Is Print-On-Demand Worth It in 2024?

Style & trends

Is Print-on-Demand Worth It in 2024?

Is Print-on-Demand Worth It in 2024?
Lilija Karpjaka

By Lilija Karpjaka

14 min read

With the twin pillars of low startup costs and robust customization options, print-on-demand has remained a compelling business model in 2024.

But is print-on-demand worth it amidst the rising competition? 

To give you a clear idea, we’ll cover:

By the end of this article, you’ll be able to make your own informed decision, so keep reading!

Key takeaways

  • Print-on-demand (POD) is projected to reach $59 billion by 2032.

  • The POD sector is flourishing, characterized by anticipated market expansion, minimal initial investments, and a wide array of options for personalization and branding.

  • Due to fierce competition, strategic planning is crucial in the POD market, emphasizing the need for distinctive branding, understanding market trends, and optimizing costs for profitability.

  • Successful POD businesses prioritize product selection, engage in strategic marketing, use evolving technology, and provide outstanding customer service.

Is print-on-demand worth it

In the constantly changing digital environment, the POD business model remains a flourishing avenue for entrepreneurs. With an estimated market worth of $59 billion by 2032, POD is growing in popularity due to these key elements:

  • Minimal upfront costs

  • Reduced inventory-related risks

  • White-labeling

  • Easy product customization

Although certain niches within POD might be highly competitive, there are always opportunities for innovation and differentiation.

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Print-on-demand market growth in 2024

The print-on-demand industry is on an upward trajectory. 

In 2024, the global POD market’s estimated value is $6.25 billion. With an annual growth rate of 25.6% from 2023 to 2032, the print-on-demand market is projected to soar to $59 billion by 2032. These figures illustrate an industry on the rise, opening a wealth of opportunities for entrepreneurs, artists, and influencers.

Furthermore, the sector shows potential for diversification, with the global custom t-shirt printing market expected to reach $2.7M in 2024.

a graph of blue barsSource: Statista

The POD industry has also seen a significant uptick in the home decor sector. In 2024, the demand for personalized home decor products like custom pillows, wall art, and kitchenware has surged.

The home decor market is estimated to be valued at $128.69 billion in 2024. 

In the POD realm, this sector is expected to register the highest growth rate among all custom products, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 27.7% from 2022 to 2032.

a group of pillows on a bedSource: Printful

Over the past five years, interest in POD has grown exponentially. The rising interest surged during the pandemic and keeps increasing,  fueled by social media influencer content, increased online shopping, and evolving technology.

The digital marketplace has made online entrepreneurship more accessible, enabling creators and new entrepreneurs to design and sell customized products without prior business or design experience. 

a graph on a white backgroundSource: Google trends

In 2023, interest in POD was the highest it’s ever been, and it’s expected to become even more popular in 2024.

Learn more: 95 Print-on-Demand Statistics and Trends You Should Know in 2024

Reasons to start a POD business in 2024

preview play-button

Starting a print-on-demand business in 2024 is a smart move. The growing need for novel items, technological advances, and a vast online audience make the POD sector an attractive opportunity.

Today, entrepreneurs can launch a successful POD venture with just a basic set of tools—access to the internet, design software, and an online storefront connected to a print-on-demand platform.

Advantages of the print-on-demand model include:

  • Low startup costs

  • Automatic and efficient product fulfillment

  • No need for technical equipment like a printing machine

  • Potential for effortless scaling

  • Room for design and product experimentation

  • No unsold stock risk

  • Brand development with white labeling

  • Easy access to learning resources and support

  • Increased buyer interest in sustainable production and eco-friendly products

These compelling attributes continue to draw attention to POD dropshipping even with concerns about market saturation.

Let’s examine some of these more closely.

1. Low startup costs

a wall with many different colored signsSource: Printful

POD is a low-risk business model that doesn’t require a significant investment. 

Printful allows anyone to register at no cost. We only fulfill and dispatch products when an order is placed by a customer, charging the seller the production cost.

As for opening an online store, the cost will depend on the ecommerce platform or marketplace. The average subscription price is around $30 per month. Sellers with minimal technical knowledge can choose a marketplace like Etsy that charges a transaction fee of 6.5% per listing and $0.20 for each item listed, but doesn’t charge a subscription fee.

Consequently, concerns over initial expenses related to manufacturing and inventory are alleviated, presenting it as an optimal business model for aspiring entrepreneurs seeking entry into the market without substantial costs.

Learn more: How Much Money Do I Need to Start a Print-on-Demand Business

2. No inventory

boxes on shelves in a warehouseSource: Printful

POD lets you expand your product catalog and experiment with designs. You can simply choose a product, customize it, and add it to your online store for marketing.

Should a product underperform in sales, you can swiftly discontinue it with just a few clicks. In most cases, there’s no need to order bulk or worry about inventory management and warehousing costs

3. Saving time in the production process

a calendar with a pen and clip on itSource: Printful

Print-on-demand stands out for its cost advantages and ability to save time. 

When a customer buys from your online store, the order is automatically sent to Printful. This means that we take care of the entire process—from printing and packing to shipping without you manually handling each order. 

This leaves you more time to concentrate on design and product marketing, which are key factors for the success of your business.

By concentrating on these aspects, you can make significant progress, especially if you're a creative entrepreneur with a small company.

Learn more: Why a Faster Time to Market Matters in the Fashion Industry

4. Scalability

a screenshot of a product

The inherent scalability of a print-on-demand store allows business owners to branch out into many niches, including apparel, home and decor, accessories, pet products, and more. This diversification opens up new avenues for expanding your enterprise. 

Today, you can choose from 300+ premium quality custom Printful products and explore various customization options, such as all-over print, direct-to-garment, UV printing, and embroidery.

Plus, it’s easy to jump on trends. In an industry where style trends change faster than seasons, it’s essential to meet ever-shifting market demands.

You can stay relevant by incorporating popular designs or creating products for events and holidays. This approach caters to your customers' interests and supports your business's growth.

Seasonal or holiday-themed products can leverage peak shopping periods to broaden your customer base.

5. Straightforward product design

a white t-shirt with colorful textSource: Printful’s Design Maker

Designing custom products has become remarkably accessible, making it an attractive aspect of print-on-demand.

With plenty of user-friendly design tools and software, creating appealing and marketable designs has never been more straightforward. That means entrepreneurs can quickly bring ideas to life and test them in the market without significant investment or specialized skills.

Intuitive tools like Printful’s Design Maker and Canva offer drag-and-drop interfaces and pre-made templates, simplifying the design process for beginners and professionals alike.

The accessibility of these tools means that designs can be quickly altered to cater to different audiences or respond to the latest trends.

This empowers entrepreneurs to produce a diverse range of products with minimal hassle, from custom t-shirts and custom hoodies to posters and phone cases.

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6. Rapid prototyping and testing

a blue bag and phone case next to a picture Source: Printful

The ecommerce world is dynamic, and starting an online business can be risky, but with POD, that risk is minimal because it doesn’t require significant startup investments.

Moreover, the POD model allows you to test new designs and products quickly without significant risk. If the idea doesn’t work, you can simply start from scratch and not lose money on inventory. 

You can experiment with different niches and trends to see what resonates with you and your audience, making it easier to adapt and find successful products.

7. Brand development

a group of white shelves with different items on themSource: Printful

Print-on-demand offers an exceptional foundation for crafting and nurturing a brand’s unique identity. 

Printful operates as a white-label company, meaning you can add your branding on the product labels and have the products shipped under your name. 

Extensive customization across a diverse product range empowers brands to create items that genuinely reflect their vision and ethos. Such personalization is crucial in distinguishing a brand in today’s competitive market, where uniqueness and brand identity are paramount for attracting customer interest.

Building a brand is not just about selling products—it’s about ensuring customer satisfaction to foster loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.

Printful’s commitment to quality production and customer service helps safeguard the seller’s reputation by ensuring that customers promptly receive premium quality custom products.

Print-on-demand challenges and considerations

a collage of images of clothesSource: Printful

While POD brings numerous advantages, entrepreneurs must also navigate obstacles, including steep competition, elevated costs per product, and the necessity to identify a profitable niche.

Competition

The POD market is highly competitive, teeming with new entrants and established players vying for attention. Success hinges on more than just a great product. Brands need a unique selling proposition (USP) to differentiate themselves.

Business owners must scrutinize competitors’ pricing, branding, marketing, and customer perceptions.

Gaining insight into what rivals are presenting to customers and their standing from a customer perspective allows you to pinpoint areas where you can innovate or improve—securing a distinctive position within the crowded domain of POD.

Higher cost per item

One of the critical considerations in POD is managing the higher cost per item and maintaining healthy profit margins.

The higher cost per item refers to the unit cost of producing each product on demand being generally more expensive than traditional bulk manufacturing methods. 

This is because POD operates on a model where products are only printed, created, or assembled after each sale rather than producing large quantities of inventory in advance.

This means that POD product sellers need to perform a careful balancing act with their pricing strategies to ensure they can achieve a sustainable profit margin.

With POD, you have the freedom to set your own prices based on your work, target audience, and competitor offerings. However, pricing the products too low may not cover the costs or deliver the desired profit margins, while pricing them too high can deter customers and reduce sales volume.

So, careful attention to pricing strategies and understanding the dynamics of profit margins within your business are essential.

Market saturation

The rising popularity of POD has led to concerns about an increasingly demand-saturated market. As more sellers flock to platforms offering POD services, the competition intensifies, making it harder for individual stores to stand out. 

This saturation can dilute the market, leading to a situation where only the most unique or high-quality products capture customer attention. Sellers might face a fierce battle for visibility, requiring them to invest significantly in marketing and brand differentiation to rise above the noise.

Another concern with market saturation is the pressure it puts on pricing and profit margins. With numerous sellers offering similar products, the temptation to compete on price can lead to a race to the bottom, where margins become razor-thin. Sellers must carefully balance between competitive pricing and maintaining healthy profit margins, often requiring creative strategies to add value without increasing costs.

No control over shipping times

a map of the world with different countries/regionsSource: Printful

A pivotal challenge in POD is meeting customer expectations, especially regarding shipping times. Unlike conventional retail, where products are readily available from existing inventory, POD items are fulfilled after the customer orders, extending the time to shipment. Delivery durations can vary significantly based on the geographical distance between the printing facility and the customer’s location.

To tackle this issue, transparency becomes your most valuable tool. It’s crucial to clearly communicate the expected timelines for production and delivery right from the start. 

Establishing realistic expectations early helps foster customer understanding and patience for the time taken to print/embroider, pack, and ship the custom products.

How to grow a successful POD business in 2024

To guarantee success for your print-on-demand business in 2024, it’s crucial to focus on:

  • Strategically choosing products 

  • Crafting unique designs and establishing strong branding

  • Implementing powerful marketing strategies

  • Providing outstanding customer service

Product selection and niche marketing

In 2024, POD store owners must do thorough target market research and pinpoint the right products, as well as tactically cater to a profitable niche to succeed. 

In other words, you need to assess your target audience’s preferences and focus on areas within the print-on-demand industry that boast high profitability, strong demand, and lower market saturation.

Once you’ve found your niche, you can choose the right products. If you don’t know where to start, we suggest checking out trending products or bestsellers, as these products have worked for others in the industry.

Tools like Google Trends can provide valuable insights into market trends, helping entrepreneurs understand and evaluate the potential of different niches through search engine optimization (SEO), even in a demand-saturated market.

Design and branding

a t-shirt with a picture of a mouse on itSource: Dogecore online store

Achieving success in print-on-demand hinges upon embracing emotionally resonant design strategies and consistently ensuring that all products reflect your brand’s identity.

It’s also crucial to strategically invest in branding and marketing to set your print-on-demand offerings apart. The branding needs to be strong and uniform. It needs to have a voice. 

It’s also worth noting that creating high-quality designs will be the most important factor in generating repeat purchases and bringing customers back for more. Working with print-on-demand suppliers that provide consistent, high-quality results is also important.

Learn more: Brand Story: A Definitive Guide to Brand Storytelling

Marketing strategies

Effective marketing strategies are the lifeblood of POD businesses, underpinning the success of all marketing efforts. 

A comprehensive strategy outlines the goals and vision for your brand’s marketing campaigns. It also bridges the gap between individual marketing campaigns and the broader business objectives, providing a structured approach to allocate your budget effectively.

Integrating a strategic marketing plan ensures that your marketing efforts, whether through social media marketing, email campaigns, or content marketing, are cohesive and consistently driving toward the same end goal.

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Customer service

a screenshot of a phone

​​Retaining customers is far more cost-effective than acquiring new ones, as repeat customers spend more over time. Loyal customers also serve as brand advocates, organically boosting your brand through word-of-mouth, which is invaluable in today’s competitive digital marketplace. 

Moreover, a stable base of returning customers ensures predictable revenue streams, facilitating better planning and investment in growth. 

Focusing on customer retention reduces operational costs and strengthens your brand’s reputation, leading to long-term business success.

  • Choose a POD provider that offers premium quality products and fulfillment.

  • Maintain communication with customers through newsletters, social media, and personalized outreach to keep your brand at the top of mind without being overwhelming.

  • Ensure your customers can reach out and respond promptly. This will help build trust.

  • Reward repeat purchases with discounts, exclusive offers, or points to encourage continued business.

  • Regularly ask for and genuinely consider customer feedback to improve your offerings and show customers their opinions matter.

Superior customer service for POD businesses elevates customer satisfaction, bolsters the chances for recurrent sales, and aids in cultivating fervent brand supporters.

Growing a successful POD store is a nuanced dance, and much can be done to increase sales significantly. Check out our Printful Academy for free in-depth video courses to learn more.

Taking the print-on-demand plunge

Is the POD model profitable? 

Absolutely, for those who are game to strategize and target niche markets.

Print-on-demand stands out with its seamless automation, broad integration and personalization capabilities, and the promise of global reach. It’s a model of modern efficiency and adaptability.

The pivotal question isn’t merely about print-on-demand’s inherent potential—it’s about your entrepreneurial spirit, your knack for crafting designs that pop, and your acumen in deploying clever marketing tactics that resonate.

If you’re ready to embrace the challenge, we’ll be here to help you along the way. 

author

By Lilija Karpjaka on Apr 8, 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.