The last couple of weeks I’ve discussed my journey with creating a print on demand website, and shown you how to add products to your website. In the examples, I’ve been using Printful as my POD supplier, but to create my online store, I actually use multiple POD partners. the reason is that each one has different types of products they offer, but each one also has its advantages and disadvantages. Today I’m going to discuss what I’ve discovered.
My criteria in selecting a POD partner was that they MUST integrate with WooCommerce, Shopify, Etsy, eBay, and Amazon. I wanted a supplier where I could create a design and upload the same product to the various sites I am working with. If you only integrate with a single site (especially Shopify), you have a much larger selection of choices to work with. But all the ones I talk about today work with all of these. For me, it was critical that they work with WooCommerce. I also wanted partners who provided free plugins and free accounts since this was a startup venture.
It turns out that working with Etsy is also huge since there are already a large number of customers on Etsy and you don’t have to drive your own traffic to an Etsy store. The same is true of Amazon, but I approach that differently as I talk about later under POD markets (yes, there are other marketplaces you might want to consider for a POD business that don’t integrate with other platforms).
So let’s start with the suppliers that integrate with your own ecommerce website.
Store Integrations with POD Fulfillment
Print on Demand Fulfilment Companies act as a white-label ‘back-end’ to an online store, allowing artists to setup their own store on a custom domain, or to sell through a marketplace like Etsy. Print on demand fulfillment companies are not places that customers go to buy t-shirts – they are instead services that artists and sellers can use to fulfil orders to their customers.
Printful – Printful is an in-house print provider that does all of their own printing and fulfillment. Best interface and easiest to use. Integrates with the most store types. Includes lifestyle mockups on real models. Tons of apparel including all-over prints. Easy to copy products from one store (like WooCommerce) to another (like Etsy). They also have an integrated shipping calculator so shipping gets charged directly to the final customer (about $4 per t-shirt). They also allow product personalization – that is your customer can upload their own photo and/or enter their own text if your design allows them to do so. Of all the suppliers mentioned here, they are the only ones with this capability.
Printful is a popular print on demand and dropshipping platform launched in 2013. Since its launch, the platform has fulfilled over 21 million product orders. Additionally, Printful has an in-house manufacturing facility, which is worth up to $27 million. Products are sourced from top brands such as Gildan, Bayside, Hanes, Next Level Apparel, etc. Likewise, the platform has fulfillment centers in Charlotte, and Los Angeles plus several internationally. Biggest negative: price.
Printify – a global print on demand platform with over 90 printing facilities in the United States, United Kingdom, and China. Printify is a middle man. They don’t do any of the actual printing or fulfilling themselves. They connect you, through their system, with print houses around the world that then print and ship your items. Cheaper than Printful with about the same product selection, but they have a better offering for socks shoes, blankets and some other items, besides being cheaper. You get to choose the actual printer from among a number of them. Those are the two biggest pluses: price and supplier selection. Printify doesn’t allow you to select the category when creating a product, so you MUST edit the product on the store after publishing. Mockups are limited unless you use a 3rd party service like PlaceIt. They also have an integrated shipping option, so shipping gets charged directly to the final customer, but the prices are fixed whereas Printful provides real-time rates. If you want to save even more and are selling lots of products, you can pay for a premium service and make an additional 20%.
Gooten – Great selection of products drinkware, rugs, neckties, blankets, dog beds, puzzles, luggage tags, socks, pajamas, and more. I like Gooten and have several products on my site from them.
CustomCat – Nice selection of products including button-up shirts and housewares.
Yoycol – Balaclavas, all-overprint button-up shirts (Hawaiian style), quilts, sheets, shoes, car seat covers – almost anything you can think of. Fun 3D designer so you can visualize what your product is going to look like. Good prices and easy to work with, but they are in China and charge you for shipping which can greatly increase the cost and time to deliver to your customer.
PillowProfits – Trapper hats, Snowboots, luggage covers, pillow covers. The best for shoe selection. Shopify app currently costs $29 per month but the WooCommerce integration is in beta and costs nothing. Once you create a product, they do not show it on your dashboard, so you don’t know which products you’ve added to your store through PillowProfits unless you edit the product to include some kind of hidden code (like your sku number).
Print Aura – I only recently discovered Print Aura. They have fewer products than most of the suppliers shown above, but they meet my other criteria of working with both WooCommerce and Shopify as well as Etsy. In fairness to this review, I created a product with Print Aura and uploaded it to my Adventures In Skiing website. The process was pretty cumbersome compared to some of the other platforms. Combined with the number of products offered, the limited mockups, and the difficulty publishing, this is not a top choice for me.
Print on Demand Markets
In addition to selling on your own ecommerce website, I have always been a proponent of selling on marketplaces where customers are already congregating. This puts the requirement for driving traffic to your listings on the markeplace rather than you. It is much like a mall or a major department store, where they bring the traffic to your product, rather than you having a stand alone shop on a little side street.
Print on Demand Markets are self-contained websites where customers will go to buy products. A Print on Demand Marketplace is a much simpler and quicker way for artists to make money from their designs than a Print on Demand fulfillment company.
Merch.Amazon.com – The biggest of these kinds of marketplaces of course is Amazon. What many people don’t realize is that Amazon has their own Print on Demand business, much like Kindle Direct Publishing for those who author books. Merch by Amazon is very similar, except that you upload your designs, and amazon prints them on t-shirts when a customer orders your design. You are then paid a royalty. So, this is not like having your own store on their platform, you are simply publishing your designs and allowing amazon to sell them. Given the size of the Amazon marketplace, I believe this is a must for anyone doing a POD business. To participate in merch by Amazon, you must be invited, but you can request an invitation. Once approved, you will be allowed to upload 1 design per day for 10 days. After that, you must sell 10 products before they upgrade you to the next level and allow you to upload more designs. There are many levels in the Merch by Amazon program, with the highest sellers being at level 2,000 or more.
Merch By Amazon is simply the best Print on Demand opportunity for artists because of their sheer size and reach. There is no other Print on Demand site that comes close.
Etsy – I almost left Etsy off this list, as they are not a POD marketplace. Instead, you must use a POD fulfillment company like Printful or Printify. But as a marketplace, they not only need to be considered, but should be one of your top choices.
RedBubble – Redbubble is the biggest standalone print on demand marketplace by total traffic and organic traffic, and has grown steadily over the past several years. Redbubble uses Google Shopping ads and re-targeting to promote your designs – at no direct cost to you.
Zazzle – Zazzle is a site with very high levels of traffic (est. 9.9M visits a month) – but very little of it comes from organic search (just 18%).I have not personally used Zazzle at this point.
TeeSpring (now just Spring) – TeeSpring is a decent marketplace option which I have used (https://teespring.com/stores/greg-jamesons-store)
CafePress – The number of visits to CafePress has dropped significantly as other POD companies have risen. I still have a store of CafePress (https://www.cafepress.com/gregjameson), but admittedly, I don’t see much action there.
Spreadshirt – This is somewhere in-between a fulfillment platform and a marketplace. You can have a shop on spreadshirt, and you can also integrate with WooCommerce. This is a print on demand platform that specializes majorly on clothing. To use the Spreadshirt WooCommerce plugin, you have to install the plugin from your WordPress dashboard and then connect using the Spreadshirt API. With this WooCommerce plugin, you only have to worry about publishing products to your store. Customers are redirected to Spreadshirt checkout pages when they click on checkout, and so, payment and order processing is handled by Spreadshirt. I’ve ordered several t-shirts with my designs on them from Spreadshirt because they have some of the best prices, but the quality is inconsistent.
Others – there are actually a large number of POD marketplaces. And even more POD direct to consumer sites (like CustomInk and Queensboro). But the ones I’ve discussed here are your best bet for starting your own POD ecommerce website.
My recommendations: Start with Printful and after you are comfortable with building products, use Printify whenever you can to get a better price. Use the other suppliers if they provide a specific product you are looking to offer. Check out my store Adventures In Skiing to get an idea of how I’ve used multiple suppliers to create a niche store. Add your products to Merch by Amazon and Etsy as those 2 markets have lots of customers already. Depending upon your specific niche, you may want to look at other markets, but don’t spend a lot of time with them unless you know that your ideal customers are hanging out there.
Before we talk about Creating Designs, I’m going to spend some time next week talking about organizing your shop. Stay tuned!