What is Print-on-Demand? Services for Custom Shirts, Books, Etc. (2023)


Having an online presence for your business has become very crucial in this age. We are living in an information age where technology is driving everything, right from business discovery to sales to customer support. If you are in the print industry, today we would be helping you in understanding how you can start your print-on-demand business and offer amazing services such as online printing of custom t-shirts, books, stickers, etc.

What is Print on Demand?

A lot of people come to us with questions such as “what is print on demand?”, “how it is going to help them transform their print retail/ wholesale services?” and most importantly, “what is the benefit of investing in the technology?” So, let’s start untangling each one of them for an easy understanding of technology and how it has transformed the print industry.

By definition, print on demand is a process where people can approach you to customize the products offered by you and place an order with your company. It can be customization of apparel, branding material, books, branded collaterals, or anything that you can print at your business.

In general, it is like having an ecommerce store for a print service where your customers get to choose the product, add their own design and customize the product, and ultimately pay online and place an order with you. The process completely eliminates your intervention, unless the customer approaches you with certain questions about the products before they place an order – but that is very rare.

Some of the most important constituents of the print-on-demand store are:

  1. Design editor
  2. Unlimited Template Library
  3. Quicker Customer Support
  4. Fast and secure online payment system
  5. Unlimited product listing / Cataloguing
  6. Comprehensive filters for better Browsing and more.

Now you must be wondering, is print on demand just about providing your customers with an online service. Well, that is just the part of it. For you, it does a lot more than you can think about.

How are businesses benefitted from print on demand?

Like any other industry, the printing industry is laden with a number of challenges. If you have a physical print store, you must be investing a huge amount of money in sales and marketing to sustain yourself in a cut-throat environment. Likewise, there are other challenges too such as ensuring customer satisfaction, improving enterprise resource management, optimizing workflow, etc. To your surprise, you can do that all and more just by implementing the right technology. Let’s learn how starting an online printing business puts you at a major benefit.

  1. Improves reachability

Having an online presence does not require you to invest your money in the infrastructure. Even if you are a chain of print businesses, you can improve your customer reachability by multiple folds. Online websites allow you to reach your customers over the internet. A little effort in digital marketing and having a great strategy to penetrate your target market allows you to improve your business reach to a great extent. You are no longer just a print store that is around the corner.

  1. Improves customer experience

The print industry is very much dependent on the part where you have to provide your customers with personalized services. Sometimes mimicking their exact needs into your solutions become difficult – given the communication gap, skill gap, and customer’s knowledge about your services and solutions and other things.

With print on demand, you get to give the reins in the hands of your customers. They can use the editor to edit the products that are offered on your platform and this helps you in ensuring customer experience. This allows them to design the products as per their idea and needs. And people love DIY it is a great trend where people want to do things themselves. Just in case you get some customer that requires professional help with designing you can provide an added service.

  1. Workflow

Since you are providing customers the power of customization, the only thing that is left for you to do is print. Otherwise, multiple changes in the original design, iterations taking up the time of your graphic designer, delays in order processing, etc. can be very tedious, especially if you are offering a B2B service. Also, taking online final approvals for bulk others on print-on-demand book publishing is easy. People can design covers, choose a number of copies to be printed, add a requirement for sample approvals, and improvises the workflow in a great manner.

  1. Added tools

Added tools such as inventory management, enterprise resource planning, CRM, data analytics, order tracking, shipping, etc. are also streamlined as the print-on-demand solutions have almost all the functionalities of an ecommerce store where you can operate your business in a more professional and technically sophisticated manner.

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How to start a print-on-demand business?

  1. Identify your niche:

Print on demand is an evolving technology but there is a big global competition. Identifying your niche would allow you to showcase your expertise in the services and solutions offered by you and also capture the market which yields long-term profit for your business. Furthermore, you can develop more targeting marketing strategies. Going in multiple directions at the same time especially when you are starting out can be tough and overwhelming for you. Identify the services and products that can provide you with faster sales.

  1. Marketing

One of the biggest things that can make or break your business is marketing. Since the business is online, you need to understand all the platforms you can use online to market your business better. Social media works amazing for print-on-demand businesses. Also, search engine optimization, PPC advertising, email marketing, etc. are good digital marketing practices for you to succeed in your print business.

  1. Use a good eCommerce platform

Now, you need to understand that there are two parts to your on-demand print store. One is where you have all the functionalities of an eCommerce store, and the second part is the design editor that is used by your customers for customizations in the product. The design editor would be an extension to your eCommerce store where you would be able to provide personalization services to your customers.

Talking specifically about eCommerce platforms, Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce by WordPress are some of the leading eCommerce solution providers for the print industry. You can go with any one of them based on your needs and the technology solutions you need for your business. We highly recommend you WooCommerce by WordPress given it is a cost-effective, secure and reliable solution. To know more about WooCommerce, connect with our customer support team where we can help you in setting up a web-to-print editor/design editor for the WooCommerce store.

  1. Design Editor Or Web to Print Editor

Web to print editor or a design editor is very important for a print-on-demand store. It is the life of the entire business. No print-on-demand business can function efficiently without a good web-to-print editor. It allows your customers to edit the products with the help of the tools available on the editor. It includes an unlimited design library from which users can drag and drop available designs, or they can choose the design tools to edit the products. Particularly, your customers don’t have to know designing to edit the product. Hence simple yet efficient solution for individuals and businesses both.

Tips for starting a print-on-demand business without a print business

There are a lot of advantages of the technology, one of which is you don’t necessarily need to own all the resources to fulfill the demand of the customers. You can outsource the work to the other service providers while only becoming a platform for the customers.

In simple terms, you just want to offer a platform where people can choose products and make customizations to the product and place an order with you. Now, once you receive the order – you can simply outsource the work to a print business in your local market or partner with a chain of the print business.

Using a print-on-demand service would be much easier than managing your own inventory. The print industry is technical, old, and new both at the same time, and it requires a great understanding of the material. You don’t necessarily have to deal with all these things. Here are some creative solutions for you to start your own print-on-demand store without having to own print business.

  1. Always order samples

For you to ensure the customer experience of your customers, it is very important for you to assure the quality. It is always possible that some things get lost in translation from the designer and hence you should always see the design, see the material, check the print quality, and double-check the design.

This would help you ensure that the physical product looks perfect and the best way to do it is by seeing the product with your own eyes. Some companies offer you great discounts on sample products.

  1. Shipping

Shipping is one of the most challenging aspects. People are in love with the online shopping experience and most of the time highly disappointed with the shipping services provided by the company. Product damage, delayed delivery, difficulty in order tracking, etc. can make your customers agitated.

Even if you are not providing shipping, always:

  1. Add shipping cost to the product cost
  2. Provide estimated delivery date (shipping companies provide APIs that can be integrated into the website and that automatically calculate time and cost based on zip code)
  3. Provide FAQs on shipping, payment, return policy, etc.
  4. Have a separate shipping page to explain the shipping process to the customers.
  5. Attend to the queries about shipping by your customers.

On top of these, you can provide:

  • Free shipping
  • Conditional Free Shipping
  1. Have Mockups

While you have an amazing website to showcase the product, you must have some compelling photos of the products along with mockups which is a product with a customized design. Visualizing the product post personalization helps your customers immensely in making quicker buy decisions.

Also, it helps ensure the customer experience. Just with visualization, they can understand the size of the print, and quality of the print, get an idea of the look and feel of the product, and who knows it might inspire them creatively too. So, on your product page always add mockups.

If you don’t want to design the mockup due to any technical reasons, you can always go with free mockup templates. There are plenty of sites that provide license-free images that can be used on the website.

Wrapping Up

Designing your product gives your customers a whole different kick. People love DIYing. They want to get the exact products that they have imagined and this saves you all the time spent on designing print designs for customizing products. Hence, if you are a print business and want to start an online print business, get connected with the WTPBiz team we would be happy to answer your questions.

Also, if you just want to create a platform, you don’t have to know about print-on-demand printers, materials, processes, etc. you can just partner with a print business and start your own print-on-demand to offer services to individuals and businesses.

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