What was the first thing you wondered when you first heard about print on demand (POD)?
If it was 'Is this profitable?' you're in luck. This article was written for that!
Depending on some factors, it can be a complicated answer, so read on as we dive into how POD is still profitable in the year 2024.
What is print on demand, and why do people do it?
Print on demand (POD) is the fulfillment model allowing suppliers to place product designs.
These items are regular clothing like shirts and hoodies and can go from mugs, towels, art prints, and phone cases, and that's just the beginning.
Without holding the item as a retailer, the supplier will ship the product with your designs for you!
This means you don't need to invest time and energy in managing the delivery and inventory of the product.
Here's an illustration of what the process will look like:
Looks great, right?
For more information about how print on demand works, check out our other guide here!
What products do print on demand businesses sell?
When you're dealing with graphics, the product that will be printed can sometimes feel like an afterthought in the planning stages.
This is why looking at what products are available and how to use them is essential.
The most commonly used products to be printed on are:
There's a lot of flexibility and comfort from materials like cotton and polyester. Combine that with the appeal of flexible sizes; it's no wonder this is the most popular print on demand product.
There's a lot where you can print on, too. The most common is right on the front center.
However, some suppliers allow the back, sleeves, or an all-over design that covers the entire shirt.
Like how t-shirts are printed, a mug has versatility in how much you want your design to be shown.
Also, a cool feature is some suppliers use a special coating over your design that conceals it on the mug.
The art will slowly show when heated from a hot liquid such as coffee or tea.
3. Art Prints
While not as versatile as t-shirts or mugs, art prints are widely popular because they make a room more lively with a personality.
Also, the materials used for art prints, such as frames and acrylic covers, can be of high quality, making it look expensive while being affordable.
If you want more products from the screenshots I made above, check out Society6 here.
Now, let's move on to your most important questions!
Is print on demand still alive in 2024? Are people still using this business model?
Now that we know what POD is and how it works, we can discuss how well the fulfillment model works in 2024.
We'll be taking a look at the POD graphs from Google Trends:
As we can see in the past 17 years, POD has been around for a while.
While the trend slowed down between 2004 and 2014, it rose again and exploded within the past few years.
There's also no sign of that slowing down, and I believe it will continue to rise above its highest point in 2004.
Now let's look at the last five years of print on demand:
It's been a noticeable rise with each passing year. The highest is in the summer of 2023, which suggests the number of people looking at additional revenue sources continues to grow.
When we look at last year, it's steady, mainly with some average peaks and valleys.
Understanding why some parts of the month do better than others can usually mean seasonal events like back to school, Black Friday, and Christmas.
Is print on demand saturated in 2024?
There are usually two different problems with demand which are:
- Scarce demand: when something is rare and difficult to find.
- Overabundance demand: When there are more ways to find something than necessary.
POD can easily fall into an overabundance of demand.
This is mainly because the number of products you can print on is not diverse. While some suppliers can have a more extensive selection, the demand is primarily based on what many people are already selling.
This is why shirts, mugs, and art prints are the most commonly sold because of the ease and everyone can use those products in some way.
So, is print on demand saturated in 2024?
This is a good question, and the answer is no.
Competition is also a factor in success. Because so many people do print on demand, it feels like you've lost before you've even started.
There is hope, though. Here are reasons why print saturation on demand isn't as challenging as you think.
The average person doesn't know how to manage their POD store
There is a sense of dread to see every POD store you search upon, but have you asked yourself if the person who owns them even knows what they're doing?
As you continue learning and growing your POD business, the more you'll know that many people are just guessing or copying others.
Yet they're wondering why they aren't successful!
This happens a lot, and it's reassuring just because competition exists doesn't mean they're something to worry about.
A business can't be perfect at everything
Even big businesses like Amazon have weaknesses that can be taken advantage of.
The easiest way to find out how to look at the reviews of similar designs and products is to see people's most significant concerns.
- Is it customer service?
- Shipping time?
Find ways to make that your strength.
Not every POD store is in the same niche
While many designs and products can seem like competition, it's those who market to the same people as you, such as Redbubble.
Say you're selling apparel that appeals to people who love dogs.
People selling giraffes sell to different people because not everyone who loves dogs will love giraffes and vice-versa.
The remarkable thing about niches is you can also niche further. There's a lot of people who like pizza. There are also a lot of people who want pepperoni pizza only.
Instead of just pizza, you can start with pepperoni pizza lovers and expand to other pizzas as your business grows.
Tip: Not sure which print on demand niche to sell in? Check out this article with 27 great POD niche ideas!
How do you make your print on demand store profitable in 2024?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions; many others are in the same boat as you.
There is no one answer, or we will all be successful. That doesn't mean there are multiple ways you can achieve it.
What needs to be said is that all print on demand dropshipping businesses are not quick-rich schemes.
We're not trying to deceive your customer into getting something else or causing harm to others for our benefit.
It needs to be operated like a real business – because it is one! Quick throwaway tactics mean it's not sustainable and can hurt the reputation.
Be honest and showcase your business in a positive light. This means people can think you're amazing even if you don't think so.
Research what your customers want
This is easy to overlook because we're thinking about what we like when designing excellent graphics.
But will your target group like to purchase it?
Once you know your average customer, think of ways you would like to design and what they would like.
If that's hard to identify, there's a lot of ways for free:
- Ask people on social media. There are a lot of groups and communities, such as on Facebook, Linkedin, and Reddit. You can ask.
- Look at reviews of similar businesses. It is a quick and easy way to see what they like and dislike about a design.
- Create a contest of ideas for designs (or the designs themselves if they're finished) where people can choose which one they like the most. The winner becomes available to be purchased.
One more thing that you can do is create a buyer persona:
Check out this article here for more information about targeting the right audience.
Using AI technology
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming the POD industry, making businesses smarter and more efficient. Let's explore how AI is helping in simple terms:
Creating popular designs with AI
Imagine having a tool that understands what's trending on social media and then suggests product designs that are in demand. That's what AI can do for you!
If superhero movies are all the rage, AI will nudge you towards creating superhero-themed designs, and you can use AI to help create some for you, like with Canvas' new AI technology.
This way, your products align with what your customers are currently excited about, increasing the likelihood of your designs resonating with your audience.
Reaching the right audience
AI takes the guesswork out of your marketing campaigns. AI helps you understand your customers' preferences by analyzing past shopping data.
This means you can tailor your marketing efforts to show the right products to the right people.
For example, if you notice that a segment of your customers frequently buys pet-related items, AI software like Zoovu will help you target them with more pet-themed product ads, making your marketing more effective and personalized.
Efficient customer service with chatbots
In the world of online shopping, customer service is key. AI-powered chatbots can be a game-changer for your POD business.
They interact with your customers, answer their questions promptly, and help them choose the perfect product.
This not only speeds up the shopping process but also enhances customer satisfaction. For instance, if a customer is searching for a birthday gift, a chatbot like Rep AI can quickly suggest popular gift items, making their shopping experience smoother.
Use unique images
Have you ever noticed how many online stores have identical product photos?
Yep, it’s a common problem.
Using those old, duplicated images from your supplier can hurt your store's visibility on search engines like Google.
That's where OnModel steps in. This Shopify app uses AI to transform your existing photos into unique images!
- Swap out the models in your clothing images (For example, according to your target market.)
- Put your t-shirt design on an AI-made model (No more costly photoshoots!)
- Change photo backgrounds
- Add faces to cropped images.
In short, OnModel makes your store photos unique and fun. So, if you're in dropshipping or POD, you can try it here!
Looking to leverage the power of AI for your print on demand store?
Dive into our comprehensive review, where we explore and recommend the top AI tools, helping you find the perfect match for your business needs!
For the full list, check out our list of the best print on demand AI tools here.
Use your strengths
One of the greatest gifts to us is we excel at one thing and have difficulty in another.
Most people who start POD businesses are generally creative themselves. It makes sense because the designs are the central selling point, and the ability to make them reduces a lot of cost and time.
Likewise, these people can struggle with the side of the actual number of the business, such as accounting with calculating profit margins and taxes.
This is why knowing what you're good at is one of the essential aspects. It allows you to be better than the competition at something and fulfills you by doing something you're comfortable with.
By knowing what you're bad at or dislike doing with a passion, you can eventually pass that on to someone who is good and loves doing it.
This saves time and your sanity by only focusing on what matters to you.
Use free resources
While dropshipping gurus will sell you their paid courses that can be expensive, many free resources are right on this website.
They go over all the most critical information you need to start and find success – all for free!
Also, social media is more than just a marketing channel; it's a great way to meet others like you.
For example, we have a Facebook group worth checking out, and we love seeing you there.
Related article: The 5 Best Free Print on Demand Courses | Learn for Free!
Now, we have covered what helps you be successful. Let's now look at the pitfalls that lead to the most failed POD stores.
Stop being lazy
As it turns out, the most successful business owners are also the most productive and have a strong work ethic.
While POD dropshipping can be a side hustle, you still need to care about the basic operations that keep it moving.
Customers don't want to wait for their complaints to be heard. Suppliers are willing to work with you when you do. Sitting on the couch and watching TV will not help you with these.
You can make that progress. It's all about focusing on the right things.
Not understanding your branding
Believe it or not, every store has a brand. If you don't know yours, then you absolutely should before you start marketing it.
So you know your target audience and what they like the most about your store. This information allows you to spend less on marketing while getting more results.
If you market without knowing this, everyone will think, 'Why should I care about you?' and then promptly leave, never to return.
Let your brand be why people say, 'Wow, this store gets me and what I like. I can't wait to see what's coming next.'
Treating it as a get rich quick scheme
Quick rich schemes are not sustainable or for the benefit of the customer. Also, there's quite a learning curve beyond just throwing some fast graphics on a shirt, selling them on a website, and waiting for the money to roll in.
That doesn't happen in 2024.
POD dropshipping is a business just like every real one. Treat it as such, and you'll achieve more than anyone trying to 'get rich quick.'
Many of the gurus that advertise POD this way don't dropship anymore and stick to the old ways of what worked for them.
While the information isn't wrong, it cannot be nearly as effective today as it was back then.
Techniques like Facebook Ads and SEO change a lot every year (if not every few months), So what works right now may not work soon.
This is why you don't see published books on these topics. It takes too long for them to be ready in a constantly moving and evolving industry.
Once you go around learning from different sources, you'll eventually find out that the information they use can be contradictory.
This isn't to say some are lying. Instead, there are other ways to get meaningful results.
There are a lot of different ways you can market. If one method doesn't work out, it's not to give up but instead to try again differently.
Is print on demand worth it in 2024?
Based on the information you've learned in this article, this question can still be hard to determine. The answer is that it depends.
The amount of success is mainly on the design and marketing skills. It would be best if you did it unless you can use those skills from someone else.
If yes, I can design and market these products or have the means to do it; it's worth trying. If not, then you can look into traditional dropshipping instead.
And yes, if you're wondering, you can combine POD and ordinary dropshipping!
Now let's look at successful POD stores and how they got where they are today:
Print on demand successful store examples in 2024
Like with all good things, it takes time to achieve them. This is why the success stories of POD all have a humble beginning that reflects the owner's attitude and mindset.
This is a big key to success, and we'll look into how you can apply that to your business.
Below, I will cover three fantastic print on demand stores, but if you're interested in seeing more examples, check out this article.
Pop culture is a fun phenomenon that makes people laugh and share similar niche interests.
Famous in Real Life (IRL) uses these designs based on pop culture that brings out the personality and hobbies of the customer.
What can you learn from this store?
Here's what you can learn:
Gallery of photos
Photos of your products are much needed to know if it's worth purchasing them. Famous IRL knows this by having a gallery page of their appeals being used out realistically.
Having your gallery gives you an excellent page to show off all your products straightforwardly.
Have a mystery product
With so many designs to choose from, it can be not easy to find your next shirt. That's why Famous IRL has a mystery shirt option where you purchase a shirt that will be randomly selected from their collection to be sent to you.
It's exciting to find out what it could be, and it adds a fun element to the mystery.
You, too, can have a mystery product where you can decide what they'll receive. It's all about having fun and fitting with the humorous brand.
2. I Like Maps
I Like Maps started as a hobby of loving maps from the owner and realized it's a profitable business having map locations worldwide.
Their maps are used for every major city. This works well for people who love their hometowns or tourists who like to have a keepsake.
What can you learn from this store?
Here's what you can learn:
Allowing custom design work
Because there are so many globally, it can be difficult for I Like Maps to cover them all. That's why they have a service to do a specific location for your request.
Let's consider ways to allow your customers unique designs in your POD business.
When you think of designs, you think of creating a wow factor for your customers. But, sometimes, it's as simple as making them resonate with something they're proud about.
The locations of maps have a story within themselves, and the product idea can apply to many other designs.
So don't worry about constantly looking fabulous but also what emotions they want to feel.
GearBunch is a well-known brand for yoga pants and leggings for women. It started as a research project to find the best workout pant designs.
As it turned out, finding the answer to that can be profitable!
There's a lot of surface area in leggings to work with, so there's lots of room for creative expression, and it shows.
They're popular based on a strong focus on workout pants while looking great.
What can you learn from this store?
The product images
When you look at a legging product, you'll see in the photos a range that captures the full 360 degrees of how it looks.
This is useful because you can see it from all angles to know how good it'll look.
Mostly, when you see a product, it's just a forward-facing picture of it. With this idea, we can use more angles to ensure what it'll look like without surprises.
So, consider adding a new product to your store if it needs other photos.
If you want to see 12 more POD store examples, don't forget to check our other article.
Getting started with print on demand in 2024
So, with all this wealth of information, are you ready to start your POD venture?
It's an incredible journey, and you'll find much about yourself and growth opportunities unlike any other way.
For a more detailed look at how to begin your POD store, we've made this incredible guide: How to Start a Print on Demand Business in 2024 (8 Steps)
You'll find information about the pros and cons of what POD dropshipping you should focus on and how to avoid the most common problems like returns and supplier problems.
There's even a step-by-step guide on how to start from the idea to run a successful store. There's a lot more and worth checking out.
So, can you answer the question, is print on demand profitable in 2024?
I hope so! The data and examples of success from others don't lie. It's growing and thriving.
It's all about how you use your skills to be able to compete and become profitable. If there's a will, there's a way because there are multiple ways to do anything.
Are you ready to start?
Let me know in the comments below, and I wish you well on your POD journey!
Want to learn more about POD?
Ready to move your print on demand store to the next level? Check out the articles below: