Despite some serious disruptions early in 2020, print on demand is doing better than ever. Rather than slowing, the industry has rapidly filled much of the space that many brick-and-mortar companies vacated after various governmental restrictions, closures, and other unfortunate business circumstances.
However, the POD game has, is, and will continue to change. So, in order to help Printify merchants get ahead of these evolving developments, we’ve reached out to eight eCommerce POD experts regarding trends, predictions, and hot topics for 2021.
8 Actionable tips from our experts
1. Stay active and informed
A common theme amongst our experts was the necessity of staying active and informed. This encompasses doing the underlying research regarding trending products and themes, creating products catering to that research, and looking out for new developments in the industry.
2. Stay abreast of emerging POD technology
Many of our experts looked toward the expansion of product lines. Print provider numbers are increasing, existing print providers are adding products and printing techniques, additional products are developed, and new ways of customizing current products are developed. As such, it’s arguable for merchants to explore these emerging avenues in order to remain current.
3. Watch for trends
There’s no telling when a product, theme, or occurrence will get hot. However, by identifying these developments, a POD merchant is much more likely to capitalize.
4. Be original
There’s a big copycatting tendency, but it’s not a deep financial well to tap into. A merchant is significantly more likely to reach financial success by relying on their own individuality, rather than the ideas of another.
Whether it’s with customers, print providers, or an entire social channel, getting on the same page is essential for running a business. This action promotes cooperation, understanding, and effective collaboration – particularly essential to retaining an audience base.
6. Grow your store
This can be adding new products, including new designs, branching out in a new social channel, or making any other action of progression.
7. Choose a niche
Rather than moving in a broad direction and hoping for results, target merchant efforts toward a particular group.
8. Maintain quality
When customers get upset with a discrepancy between what they think they buy and what actually arrives, that negative attention is difficult to fix. Preventing this is a mixture of understanding print provider capabilities and managing customer expectations.
Introducing our print-on-demand experts
With thousands of followers and years of experience, these knowledgeable sources are the gold standard for all things eCommerce.
A veteran of eCommerce environments, Crisp (among other pursuits) runs the tremendously successful behemoth YouTube channel Wholesale Ted. There, subscribers and patrons learn to develop webshops, improve their print-on-demand drop-shipping game, soak up inspiration in a fun and informative manner.
Specializing in company creation, Cener runs an online mentorship program helping people build their own enterprises. Significant Shopify success has resulted in Cener being featured in prominent news outlets like Techcrunch and the Wall Street Journal.
With a history of success on Amazon, Sustaita offers a number of digital courses via his online university. Members have access to tutorials regarding business development, eCommerce secrets, POD knowledge, and other insights.
A self-built entrepreneur specializing in developing affiliate sites, testing ad strategies, and maximizing his customer’s experiences with Amazon Merch through his site Merch Informer. Lassen takes a common-sense, data-driven approach to eCommerce, POD, and passive income.
A Shopify and print-on-demand expert running the Print on Demand Ninjas brand, Roberts takes a more down-to-earth approach to eCommerce. He hosts a number of premium trainings and offers free tips and advice via his YouTube channel.
A seven-figure Amazon seller and six-figure POD seller, Hogue also operates a website offering numerous mentorship, tutorial, and business plans related to how to create a successful eCommerce business using POD, Etsy, Printify, and other channels.
A t-shirt aficionado, Essek gravitates toward helping designers and illustrators come up with ideas, improve their artwork, and grow their art-based businesses. Essek’s website, blog, and other social media channels are full of content related to maximizing design feasibility, style, and impact.
Helen and Christina
With a sincere passion for all things print on demand, the Merch Money duo of Helen Kinson and Christina Sisson host a guest show where they explore topics like marketing, design, passive income, and more along with whichever specialist or expert guest is on the show.
Please be aware that, except within quotation marks, the following answers are restructured paraphrases, rather than direct quotes from these experts. This modification was done for page aesthetics, document formatting, and to be easier on a reader’s eyes.
1. What are your biggest learnings running a print on demand business in 2020?
Customers are extremely understanding when they feel heard. Clear communication regarding problems goes a long way toward resolving issues. Even when customers are angry, they’ll often become allies if the situation is treated with understanding.
2020 was a balancing act between maintaining customer service, securing high-quality products, and facilitating efficient print-on-demand product delivery.
Expect the unexpected for the coming year. 2020 unearthed a large number of weaknesses in the supply chains of various print providers, factories, and shipping services. Make sure your suppliers are able to withstand the pressure and deliver.
Too many merchants gravitate toward products, designs, messages, etc., that appeal to them personally. Instead, merchants should strive toward understanding what people want. In other words, do the research because “you are not your target audience.”
It’s important to keep the beginner’s perspective. This way, you’re not afraid to try new things. Lastly, putting value and work into building a quality brand is the key – both to selling to the real people of a modern audience and for enticing them to come back.
While print on demand is a largely passive income stream, it pays to be active. The surge in mask sales was an easy opportunity to capitalize with little additional work required.
There’s something to “following your heart”. A creative or funny product can suddenly pop and become a big hit. This is because originality and personality are hard to find in print on demand.
Helen and Christina
Be prepared to pivot quickly. The pandemic showed that print providers and products can encounter opportunities (or problems) that result in everyone involved downstream becoming entangled. Being agile enough to avoid obstacles while reaching performing aspects is key.
2. What do you think will be the next big thing in print on demand in 2021?
All-over-print items are becoming increasingly popular. As more and more print providers and suppliers develop the capability to provide AOP items consistently, these fields will prove to be increasingly lucrative and fun.
2021 should see increases in the demand for “new, unique, and not-so-typical” print-on-demand products. Therefore, supplying unexplored items or alternative methods of presenting old ones is a good idea.
Look past the current surges in mask sales. Since more sellers will be entering the market for basic products, stay ahead of this “basic” wave by developing new products for customization.
Pointing out the current saturation of products and vendors in the print-on-demand ecosystem, Lassen recommends distinguishing a store by putting effort into brand building. Becoming known as a credible source for a particular facet or niche is a great way to stick out.
We’re going to see more advances in the capabilities of print providers regarding more advanced customization. Whether that’s products, images, or other options, print on demand is making the shift to increasingly easy and variable customization.
The next big thing will be paid advertisements on major platforms like Amazon, Etsy, etc. With the growing saturation of the print-on-demand ecosystem, the growing need for merchants to differentiate themselves will shift this direction.
The fulfillment space will continue to grow. This means new products, providers, and methods of customization for brands and businesses. Furthermore, fulfillment speeds will shrink as shippers work to meet rising demands.
Helen and Christina
With the rise of work-from-home environments, more people will be buying home items like blankets, wall art, comfortable t-shirts, etc.
3. Can you mention 3 things to watch out for in 2021, primarily for sellers?
1. All-Over-Print products: These items offer increased opportunities for creativity, experimentation, and profit (in large part due to their high perceived value by influencers).
2. Customer communication: With COVID-19, there will continue to be disruptions in logistics, shipping, and supply, particularly for international operations. Staying in contact with customers is paramount to keeping customers happy despite these occurrences.
3. Shipping delays: Shipping is problematic with different countries enacting various regulations on ships, planes, trucks, and other methods of transportation entering their territories. This has slowed international transit tremendously. Therefore, consider rerouting products to print providers closer to destination points.
1. Print Provider status: Make sure that your sources and supply lines are operating well.
2. Customer service: Make sure to maintain communication with expectant customers regarding shipping issues.
3.Product expansion: Keep adding and testing new products. Experimentation toward unique product types is key.
1. Facebook updates: Stay up to date regarding updates to terms and conditions. Many accounts have been shut down.
2. Merchant support: Expanding social media channels to two or more is recommended. This way, there are more routes to connect with buyers.
3. Profit margins: Print providers and suppliers are being hit hard right now. Make sure to react appropriately to changes in product base costs, shipping, etc.
1. Trend identification: The simplicity and consistency of evergreen products are nice, but capitalizing on a single trend can change everything. Be sure to stay active regarding sales developments.
2. Multiple integrations: Instead of limiting a store’s customer traffic to a single eCommerce platform (like Etsy), branch out to others (maybe to eBay). Many people feel safe and comfortable with the first platform they start out with, but these merchants are “leaving money on the table.”
3. Customer communication: Customer support needs to be a priority for the brand. Even the unhappiest customers can be flipped with good service.
1. COVID: The issues that popped up aren’t 100% fixed yet. This could mean delays for both production and shipping. Therefore, consider your print providers.
2. The competition: Print on demand is becoming increasingly popular. So, common niches are quickly becoming oversaturated. Newbies should move to alternate and unexplored areas for the best effect.
3. Rising POD costs: These are “the golden years” of print on demand. It’s unlikely that the current rates stay as low as they are, particularly regarding Facebook marketing.
1. The sales journey: Understand your customers and adjust online presences accordingly.
2. Positivity: Optimism and politeness make a direct impact on conversion rates. With more and more stores out there, this is another way to stand out from the competition.
3. Text designs: Customers like products with simple text messages. They’re a consistent seller.
1. Trends: It’s easy to capitalize on a trend whenever you see it coming. If there’s a hot development, act soon to make it work for you.
2. Partners: Work from the viewpoint that you’re partnering with these companies, rather than simply selling a product. Then, it’s easier to plan out long-term strategies for connecting with audiences.
3. Opportunity: There are many underserved markets out there waiting to be satisfied. Many retailers and brands are on the lookout for trending, quality, original designs.
Helen and Christina
1. Differentiation: More people are starting side hustles and earning incomes online. There is room for everyone, but it’s becoming harder to stand out.
2. Complacency: There were a lot of merchants who did very well in 2020. However, they should stay active rather than relying on past successes.
3. Customization: Offering a wide variety of products will continue to grow in importance. Customer expectations are growing regarding both quality customizable products and affordable prices.
4. What are your personal do's and don'ts for 2021?
– Prepare for growth: The industry is growing at a rapid pace. Therefore, make sure your store is ready to meet these evolving needs.
– Stay current: This world moves fast. So, make sure to check for update emails regarding supply lines, print providers, shipping entities, national policy changes, and other relevant occurrences.
– Be human: Try not to take anything personally. Delays may pop up, but these are mostly results of institutional, governmental, or logistical realities – not a personal error. Getting angry is unlikely to help a situation.
– Expand inventory: Launch new and unique customizable products.
– Tighten core products: Keep a focus on a store’s reliable products with a history of performance.
– Prepare support: Have a pre-written customer service sequence.
– Go original: It’s more profitable to discover a new opportunity than follow someone else’s example. Even if you do better another seller’s process, that idea is already out there for anyone to copy.
– Create email lists: These are the greatest asset and they lower ad spending.
– Learn sales copy: Effective communication with customers is the key to conversion.
– Avoid infringement: Learn to use the United States Patent and Trademark search tools to stay clear of any legal mishaps, intellectual property theft, etc.
– Do the research: By spending 80-90% of your time researching, a very clear picture will form regarding which customer base to target and what will sell. Don’t waste time on a beautiful product that no one will ever buy.
– Create unique designs: Copycatting won’t get anyone very far. To make big changes, venture into new territory, make stellar designs and put different spins on things.
– Pick a niche: Print on demand depends on customers developing emotional connections to merchants, designs, brands, and stores.
– Quality designs: If a merchant doesn’t have a background in design, it’s recommended to consider hiring a professional.
– Seek help: Educate yourselves regarding print on demand and get in touch with the community. There is lots of good, helpful content out there.
– Stand out: This can be mean just about anything -from quirky designs, odd colors inclusions, changing thumbnail backgrounds, etc. Catch the customer’s eye.
– Stay active: Continue building your catalog and offerings. Expand into as many markets as possible while following customers.
– Have patience: Sales cycles are no less than one calendar year. So, plan accordingly so you can get a full 365-day evaluation period before making drastic changes.
– Maintain quality: Good, original designs are the ones that stand the test of time.
– Create a series of designs: These can breathe new life into an aging idea, offer opportunities to tap into other zones of thought or put a new spin on things.
– Remember the audience: Create original work for a specific group of people that would like it.
Helen and Christina
– Seek diversity: Offer quality designs (based on current trends and interests) through a variety of products (including home and office) on multiple platforms.
– Keep learning: Improvement is always possible and profitable.
– Avoid copycatting: Imitating another designer has a shallow market depth.
Do you know a great POD merchant or Dropshipper that we should get in contact with?
Drop us a line in the comments and let us know.
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