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Print on demand - How to get started

BlogJan 26 2022
social media marketing
how to guides
product development

Gelato is proud to be at the forefront of making print on demand (POD) accessible to ecommerce entrepreneurs and creators everywhere: opening up new ways to apply creativity, as well as access previously unexplored markets. All without the headaches of investment, pre-ordering of stock and managing inventory associated with traditional production and shipping (and a far lighter environmental impact).

Without the commitment of pre-ordering and maintaining an inventory, POD also allows businesses to be nimble (with the option to change models and products quickly and painlessly), as well as branch out into time-sensitive, limited edition ranges with ease. For individuals who have worked hard to establish fan bases and grow followers, POD can be a quick path to monetization.

A new year offers the chance to embark on new projects, so for those of you considering POD for the first time (or perhaps diversifying and expanding your existing offering), we’ve put together a guide to making the most of one of the most exciting and fastest-growing sectors of ecommerce.

Here's how you get started:

1. Find a niche, and enjoy the flexibility to change

Ecommerce, as with traditional retail, is littered with stores that faltered and failed. Ideas that either seemed like a good idea at the time (and simply never were) or for which no market existed (and never would).

Don’t get blinded by the belief that you must come up with something entirely unique. If you can devise something never before seen (and is a new category or product sure to spark consumer demand), that’s fantastic. However, most of the best ecommerce store concepts powered by POD supply exceptional and interesting products within an established market or category.

Be sure to research your potential customers, and feel confident that your products will be wanted. As is so often suggested in our blog posts, whether it’s fine-tuning the design of your store or zeroing in on the products to sell, seek the opinions of others, be they existing customers or friends and family.

Importantly, as has already been mentioned, the very nature of POD means that ecommerce entrepreneurs and creators are not absolutely committed to one business model without the option to pivot in response to circumstances. With POD, if an idea doesn’t quite work, you won’t be panicking about a warehouse full of pre-ordered stock that you are unable to sell.

Thomas Edison once said that “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration”. Though he certainly wasn’t referring to setting up and growing an ecommerce store, he might as well have been! You need a good idea, an understanding of what makes it a viable business, but the hard work comes in its realization and preparation for first contact with your future customers.

2. Find your platform

A great store with compelling products should not act like some beautiful yet undiscovered island: holding out for the right kind of customers to miraculously wash up on its shores.

Visibility is everything, and the good news is that online platforms and marketplaces - from Shopify to Etsy, Wix to Google - allow you to place your store simultaneously across several prime locations that different target customer groups frequent and browse for inspiration. This previous blog post might provide some inspiration about what these various channels offer.

By exposing your brand and designs to more people where they are and at the time when they are looking for the products you sell, you are increasing the entry points to your store and thereby your volume of potential shoppers.

3. Select a POD provider and connect your store

Do some research and find a POD provider which best suits your needs. Some aspects to consider include:

  • Average production and delivery time - how long until your customers receive their orders?

  • Production locations - do they produce where your customers are located?

  • Product selection and pricing - what kind of margins are you looking to make?

  • Sustainability

As luck has it, if you’re reading this blog you are already familiar with Gelato as a POD provider, and we are here to support your POD needs.

If you do choose Gelato, we offer integrations with ecommerce platforms such as Shopify, Etsy, WooCommerce, Wix, Squarespace, and BigCommerce. Integrating your store with Gelato allows your orders to be fulfilled automatically, which means as soon as an order is placed by your customer the information is received by our team and we get started on production! This eliminates the need to manually place orders and enter information.

You can find detailed information on how to connect your store in our Help Center.

4. Select & upload your products

Once your store is connected to Gelato, it’s time for you to add products such as wall art, apparel, cards, and mugs. Think about what types of products best fit your niche - perhaps it makes sense to just focus on one product category initially, or launch a few different products to figure out what your bestsellers will be.

Adding products is easy and our flow can guide you through all the necessary steps: selecting the product, uploading the design, defining a name and a description, selecting beautiful mockups, defining the retail price, and publishing to your store.

Find instructions based on your ecommerce platform in the Help Center. Note - if you already have products in your store, you can connect them to Gelato in a few clicks. Read more.

5. Market your store

Now that your products are live, it’s time to show off your store! Friends and family can be your biggest fans - make sure to spread the word to your biggest supporters. Ask them about their experience using the site and use their feedback to make improvements for future customers.

Marketing can have a huge impact on the success of your store. Although there is no perfect recipe for success, here’s how you can get the ball rolling:

Our recommendation is to build up your organic social media presence before diving into paid advertising. This ensures that when potential customers end up on your social channels, there will be plenty of posts for them to explore and hook them into a purchase.

Social media accounts are a free way to easily connect with current and future customers. Typical accounts for new businesses include Facebook and Instagram, but do some research to find what competitors in your industry are using. Twitter, TikTok, Pinterest, and YouTube are all great tools to spread the word about your business and generate awareness.

Although the world of paid marketing can be overwhelming (and maybe a little scary), there are tons of great resources online for guidance. Do your research to determine a strategy that best fits your business.

6. Start selling

With the preparatory and back-office work done, it’s time to focus on the greatest reward that an ecommerce store owner can have: sales.

Success might be gradual. It might come overnight. New challenges will emerge, but one of the many joys of POD is that the barriers to entry - much like the risks - are lower, and the opportunity to change and adapt is always there.