Blog / Beginner's handbook / How to Find the Best Print-on-Demand Service
Getting into print-on-demand means choosing a print partner that best fits your ecommerce business. But how to choose the best print-on-demand service while there are many options on the market?
In this article, we’ll go over 10 main things you need to look for in a partner to ensure that your online store receives quality products and services.
You need to choose a partner keeping in mind that you’ll eventually want to scale your business. Later switching print-on-demand companies will be tricky as it means you’ll have to change your product line. So keep these 10 things in mind when you’re doing your research on service providers.
Which print-on-demand service has the best prices? You have to compare product, shipping, and other costs between different service providers to find the answer.
But best is not synonymous with cheap. A higher price for print-on-demand services can mean you’ll get better quality products and unlock access to additional tools. And that translates into more loyal customers and higher sales numbers.
Some companies charge a monthly subscription fee, which impacts your profit, especially when you’re just starting out. Others might charge a percentage of your final sales price—so you pay more when you sell more.
No matter which print-on-demand service you choose, each company will charge you for products and shipping on each order. That’s the total cost of every product you sell.
Don’t make the mistake of ignoring shipping costs.
Always keep this simple equation in mind:
product + shipping = total print-on-demand costs
The product price usually consists of material, fulfillment, and packaging expenses. Some services add product costs together while others list them separately. So you might need to add up all the costs to compare service providers.
Choose a provider that offers flat shipping rates to avoid changing shipping rates in your storefront. Flat rates refer to a set shipping price that remains constant under all circumstances. So the t-shirt you sell today won’t suddenly become more expensive around the holidays.
Even if you plan to start your online shop only with custom t-shirts, it pays off to have a print-on-demand service that offers a large range of products. Then you’ll have the chance to add niche products like beanies, notebooks, or swimwear to your collection in the future.
The material and print quality affect the final price. Also, the quality of the materials used in the production process is important. This means using fabric, ink, and thread (for embroidery and cut & sew products) that will last longer and look good. Your designs make your brand special, so don’t cut corners regarding print and product quality.
So, before choosing the final product, test the quality by ordering a sample. Then you’ll experience a part of your customer journey from the order process to receiving the final product.
Once you have the item in your hand, pay close attention to the material, colors, and texture. If your sample order matches your expectations, you can be sure that your customers will get the same quality. Then you can conclude if the product quality matches the costs and the print partner is worth your business.
Shipping speed is one of the main things customers check before making a purchase.
While on-demand fulfillment generally takes longer, the products are worth the wait. Each item is made on-demand, creating less fabric waste than conventional manufacturing. This aspect is especially important to 21st-century shoppers.
But you don’t have to compromise on fast shipping if you have a good print-on-demand partner. There are two main things you should pay attention to regarding the shipping speed of your print partners:
If you want to sell your products globally, you need a print partner that can ship worldwide. So look for a print-on-demand service provider with fulfillment centers around the world to access different regions faster.
How fast the print-on-demand provider can fulfill your orders will impact your product delivery speed. When products get printed on demand, the delivery takes more time. So we have another equation for you to remember:
fulfillment + shipping = estimated delivery time
It’s wise to keep this equation in mind because you can more efficiently compare delivery estimates and determine which companies offer fast shipping to your specific selling region.
Integration with an ecommerce platform is the bridge between a print-on-demand service and your customers. Etsy, Shopify, Amazon, Wix are only a few out of many platforms that you can use to host your store. Choosing one or more platforms where you’ll be selling your products is another important business decision.
You need to make sure you can seamlessly integrate your store with the print-on-demand service. And while might be looking for a specific platform for now, browse through other ecommerce shop options on the list.
Imagine you’re selling on a marketplace like Etsy. Perhaps one day, you’ll want to have your own online shop. If your chosen print-on-demand service has the option to manage multiple stores in one place, adding a new shop will be easy.
It’s a good sign if a print-on-demand service constantly invests in cutting-edge printing technology as it indicates that the company cares about the quality of its products and services. But in the world of print-on-demand, you can sell far more than printed products.
Consider a couple of customization options for your designs—embroidery, direct-to-garment (DTG) and screen printing, sublimation, and others. They’ll have the chance to diversify your online store with various product styles.
Open communication is key. Your chosen print-on-demand provider is responsible for your products, so the company should be open and honest about everything.
That means not only informing you about new features and products, but also owning up to mistakes, giving heads-ups about out-of-stock products, or letting you know about other issues.
Having a partner that can handle unexpected situations is essential if there’s an issue. Take a look at customer reviews and how companies communicate online. That should give you an insight into how well companies do in tough situations.
A three-way communication exists between you, your customer, and a print-on-demand service.
You’ll want to make sure that your partner is quick with responses if there is an issue. It’s hard to test customer support before actually signing up for a service, but you can still reach out to the company’s support team to have a quick chat. That will help you determine how the company communicates with its customers.
By working with a POD service with 24/7 customer support, you can manage any errors much faster.
Before doing business with a company, 92% of customers look at online reviews. It’s nothing new or groundbreaking, but now reviews are easily accessible on internet platforms anywhere in the world.
The company’s website is the first place to look, and the number of reviews is vital. A 4.5 out of 5-star average from 2000+ reviews is far more impressive than a 5 out of 5 from just 20 reviews.
Social proof is a good indicator of how good a print company is. The more people publicly endorse a print-on-demand service, the more trustworthy they are.
Another good place to search for feedback is social media. You’ll most likely see a mix of good and bad reviews, so read through a few of them to better understand the customer experience.
Customers don’t shy away from feedback, so you can find out all you need to know about their experience with products, prices, and the overall service itself.
Your brand gives you a voice among a sea of competitors. Yet when you don’t control production, your branding options can be limited. Most print-on-demand services are while-label, so your customers will only see your brand. But what about additional branding options that help establish your brand credibility?
As each print-on-demand service offers different branding options, you need to find out which service can give you more brand visibility.
There are two things to consider: branding your products and packaging. Ideally, you’ll want a print-on-demand service that offers both.
Learn more: How to Start a Clothing Brand: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide
It’s most common to add branding to product labels, tags, and the product itself. Think of all the big designers—one way they make sure to get noticed is by marking each product with their brand visuals. Likewise, you can strive for the same visibility if you build your brand awareness with each product.
While you’re online shopping, you’re missing the physical touch and feel of the brand. It’s the main reason why unboxing has become quite the trend online. Besides that, 89% of digital brands invest in customer experience personalization, so branding is also essential to keep up with the market.
Print-on-demand companies are catching up by offering branded product packaging. So look for services that offer to add to orders your logo, pack-ins, custom packaging, or all of the above.
Your brand can blow up online overnight by creating Instagram or TikTok worthy unboxing experience that people want to share. You just need the right service provider that’s going to make it happen.
In today’s world, it’s hard to ignore the effects of climate change. All of us have to recognize our role and the footprint we leave behind. Yet industries need to lead as an example as they have the biggest impact on our environment.
The print-on-demand industry is already tackling part of the problem by offering products that are made only when an order comes in. Yet, there’s still a long way to go. When researching and comparing sustainability plans, take a look if the company:
Grow your business.
You probably hear this phrase all the time. Even if you’re just starting out, you already need a long-term plan for your business. Your print-on-demand service provider deals with important elements of your business, so make sure that your partner can help you achieve your goals.
Depending on your business strategy, growing can mean several things, such as adding new products or jumping into new markets. The best print-on-demand services will give you the tools to do whatever you wish.
Now it’s time to do your part! Compare print-on-demand services and choose your future partner.
Amanda is a Content Marketing Specialist at Printful and her experience in the arts and media helps her to dig into all creative aspects of writing. She likes to lead people into a discussion and doesn’t shy away from personal or professional challenges.
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