Blog / Beginner's handbook / Drophipping vs. Print on Demand vs. Warehousing
In the world of ecommerce, you can quickly get lost in the industry jargon. If you’re just starting out, it can be intimidating – with the abundance of choices between different business models and service providers, you may find yourself wondering what it is that you actually need. There are many companies that offer seemingly similar, but often slightly different, services and you need to grasp these differences to choose the best partner for your business.
To make this a bit easier, in this blog post I’ll go over these three topics:
We’ll take a look at what each of them means and what their pros and cons are.
Tip: If you’re confused about some other terms you’ve encountered on Printful, check out our Printful Glossary blog post where we explain more than 50 common ecommerce terms.
Ready? Let’s get started!
What is dropshipping? It is a business model in which a store doesn’t keep an inventory of the products it sells, but purchases them from a third-party supplier who then ships the dropshipping products directly to end customers.
The way dropshipping works is that you have your online store, a customer visits it and buys something from you. When you receive the order, you then pass it on to your dropshipping partner, essentially buying the product from them on your customer’s behalf. The dropshipper then takes the product, packages, and ships it to your end customer.
Tip: Check out the branding options Printful offers here. They include branding stickers, custom labels, and more.
Tip: It’s incredibly important to do proper research before committing to someone – when orders already start rolling in, you don’t want to be stuck with a dropshipper that’s not as reliable as you’d like. It’s always a good idea to place test orders to see the product itself, how quickly the package arrives and how the products have been packaged.
Who is dropshipping for? The dropshipping model is ideal for stores that are starting out since it doesn’t require as much capital as ordering your own stock would. This model gives you the freedom to experiment more, but keep in mind that it also means smaller profit margins and giving up some control over the product quality and the entire fulfillment process.
What is print on demand? With the print on demand (POD) model, your designs are printed on products only as orders come in and only in the quantity that the order asks for. Similarly to the dropshipping concept, POD means that you don’t need to buy large quantities of products when you get started – each order is printed as it comes in.
Tip: If you’re using Printful, this kind of customization may mean that you can’t submit orders to us automatically (although if you’re tech savvy, you can set this up too through our API), but it may be worth it to make your customers extra happy.
Tip: You can always check on the new products and other things we’re currently working in the Upcoming products section of our website. Or, if there’s a product you’d like to see added to our catalog, leave your vote in the Feature requests.
Tip: Click on the Availability tab on the product’s page to check its stock levels. Take a look at the Bella + Canvas 3001 t-shirt as an example.
Who is POD for? POD, just like dropshipping, is ideal for stores starting out. It’s also great if you want to grow your business and test new products. POD gives you the freedom to experiment with new ideas with ease. But keep in mind the POD model means that order fulfillment takes longer – it’s something you don’t have to worry about if you have a stock of already printed products at your disposal.
What is warehousing and fulfillment (W&F)? With W&F services (often called third-party logistics or 3PL) you keep a stock of your products at a warehouse of your partner who fulfills incoming orders and sends them to your end customers. Printful also offers W&F services to our customers alongside print-on-demand dropshipping. This means that if your store also sells products that are not made by Printful, you can keep the stock at our warehouse and as orders for these items come in, we’ll fulfill them and send them out to your buyers.
Tip: This is one of the reasons why we ask you to submit the products you’d like to store at our warehouse for approval before you send them to us – this way we can be sure that we’ll be able to store and handle them properly.
Printful was listed as one of Top 20 Order Fulfillment Services & Companies of 2018 by FinanceOnline!
Who is warehousing & fulfillment for? W&F can be a great help for stores that already have an established presence and a steady stream of incoming orders. It can free up valuable time that you can then devote to other parts of your business.
This more or less covers what dropshipping, print on demand, and warehousing and fulfillment is all about. Now the ball is in your court – take a look at your business idea. Give it careful consideration – what is it that you want to do exactly? Once you’re certain of your goal, you can start looking into the means of achieving that and finding the right partner that can help you.
Whoever you end up choosing as your partner – be it Printful or someone else – make sure you do the proper research beforehand. You’ll want to commit to a partner that’s really able to help you with all that your business requires.
Do you have any questions about dropshipping, POD, or W&F? Or maybe you’d like to tell us about your experience with these methods? Feel free to share it all in the comments below!
Printful is a printing and dropshipping service with fulfillment centers located all over the world. We help people follow their passion and turn ideas into brands and products.
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