The concept of a print on demand (POD) business is alluring: no minimum order quantities, no need to carry inventory, very little set up costs, and lots of success stories.
Who wouldn’t want to give it a go? If blank canvases aren’t scaring you and you truly want to have a stab at running a POD online store in 2020, then this simple ‘how-to’ guide is for you. Follow our steps from researching a profitable product niche all the way to marketing your products and you’ll be a POD entrepreneur in no time.
Discover a great idea for a profitable niche
You’d be surprised how many people start an online shop without assessing product profitability first. Choosing a profitable niche is the most important challenge you will face in your eCommerce journey.
How to do that?
A print on demand (POD) business can be set up in two ways – either focusing on a product niche or a subject niche.
1. A product-niche
A product-niche POD business requires you to decide early on what type of product you will be selling (or a selection of several similar products) and stick to that.
For instance, you might decide to sell movie-inspired pillowcases or t-shirts featuring humorous quotes. In this case, you will sell only pillowcases or only t-shirts, but many different designs.
2. A subject-niche
A subject-niche POD business, on the other hand, requires you to uncover a trendy subject, such as ‘dream meaning’, for example, and create a range of products carrying designs that reflect this subject niche. This could include everything from pillowcases to tote bags to wall tapestries.
Where should you start looking for that profitable niche idea?
A smart thing to do would be to examine the bestselling products of 2018. And if you take time to deep-dive into details, you might discover new trends that are just teetering on mass popularity – exactly what you want.
The best places to kick off your research:
Amazon’s Bestselling Products – check every department individually for more ideas.
eBay’s Trending Products – it even gives you the search volume!
Etsy’s Bestselling Items – a very good mix of gift & product ideas.
Notonthehighstreet – hundreds of unique product ideas from boutique designers.
Trendhunter – provides wonderful idea-collections in various categories.
Trendwatching – subscribe to their trend & innovation newsletter to get all sorts of fresh ideas straight in your inbox.
Google Trends is a very useful tool to quickly assess the popularity of any topic, as it visualizes search queries across different regions and languages, year on year.
Options No. 1 – Use Google Trends and compare niche-products
For example, hoodies vs leggings vs tote bags vs backpack
Options No. 2 – Analyze Some product trends in 2020
The global fitness industry revenue totaled $87.2 bn in 2017, with European fitness club operators alone reporting total revenues of €26.6 bn. The fitness trend and demand for gym gear is projected to grow even further over the next 10 years, so it could turn out to be a ripe POD opportunity!
According to Deloitte, “Travel and tourism are one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors, with bookings hitting close to $1.6 trillion in 2017.” With more and more people traveling, the demand for travel accessories is also growing – setting up a business in a niche that’s thriving is a solid strategy.
Tote bags have become a fashion staple. The customization option makes them the perfect statement accessory, allowing people to express their character, thoughts, and views on life. There’s also the ‘green’ element in using tote bags, as they’re often produced from recycled materials, which is something that millennials have grown to expect from socially responsible brands.
Both fitness and athleisure are huge trends in the eCommerce space, so they’re worth considering and exploring further. It is also a product that would rarely be returned due to size issues, for example, so it presents risks for eCommerce entrepreneurs.
Create and validate designs for your print on demand business
Doing your own research and extracting the best ideas from the internet and your social network is a key step in finding a profitable niche. But it’s not the only one.
Before spending any money on your business idea, take it to town. Validating your designs is a crucial part of a successful start.
What may seem like an awesome idea in your head, might be completely ignored or misunderstood by your target audience.
The most common methods for validating ideas include sharing designs on social media networks, online forums, and your personal network. When posting to platforms like Facebook and Twitter where a big chunk of your followers are close friends and family members, be sure to disguise the idea to avoid over-positive reactions that might skew the results. Reddit is a great research tool, too – no one will sugar coat their answers there, so you know you’re getting the real deal.
Design isn’t your strongest suit? Then don’t waste time trying to create something yourself and find some help. There are many people who are earning some serious money through print on demand business and they have absolutely no experience in design. It’s more about implementing a robust research and idea validation process than anything else!
Set up your Print-on-demand business with Printful
Once you decide on your winning product or subject niche, it’s time to set up your online store. Spend some time researching successful eCommerce businesses to steal and borrow some design ideas – your website will serve as the face of your brand, so it must inspire trust and entice your target audience to browse around.
Step 1: register a domain name.
Keep in mind that you’re building a brand, so choose a name that’s catchy, easy to remember, and easy to type. Then head to a site like GoDaddy and register your domain.
Step 2: choose an eCommerce platform.
Now that your domain is official, you can put it to work. The fastest way to do it is to use Shopify, WordPress + WooCommerce plugin, or Etsy.
Step 3: design your shop and create custom products.
With pre-built, customizable templates at your disposal, it’s much easier to do than it might seem. Use them as a starting point and add and customize new pages that are relevant to your store (homepage, about, contact, payment, shipping information, inspiration, etc.).
Consider buying a premium template to ensure a seamless shopping experience and beautiful aesthetics. For instance, you will want to have a top-level email marketing plugin to be able to send out cart abandonment emails as well as the functionality to generate discounts or coupon codes. While it costs you today, great design will certainly pay off in the future.
Step 4: Select a print provider.
The POD plugin you decide to integrate will be your printing partner that fulfills all incoming POD orders. The importance of choosing a reliable partner cannot be overstated – this is what your reputation depends on.