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1. Five top secrets of successful print on demand stores

5 Secrets of successful print on demand stores

Opening your own print on demand business requires a great deal of time and thought, and having access to the right resources can simplify and shorten your path to success. Looking at real-life print on demand store examples is an easy way to gain insight into what has helped other business leaders succeed in the industry. While you want to establish a unique voice for your own brand, examining other successful print on demand stores and their strategies, history, and methods is a smart way to gather inspiration and gain knowledge that will help you build the best print on demand business. In this article, we'll look at the five secrets to success for print on demand companies and explore actual businesses that have put these practices into action.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • To create a thriving POD store, find a unique niche and product line that evolves from existing passions.

  • Finding partners with useful skills and strengths is vital to creating a POD business.

  • POD stores should be ready to adjust their approach in response to global events and market disruptions.

  • A POD fulfillment service like Gelato can reduce costs, carbon emissions, and shipping times.

Five top secrets of successful print on demand stores

When it comes to opening your own store, there's no reason to start from scratch. These print on demand store examples have mastered the fundamental secrets to selling products online, from finding a niche to discovering new sales channels.

1. Finding a unique niche is essential

finding a unique niche

With more than 2.5 million online retailers in the United States alone, it's easy for a new ecommerce business to get lost in the mix. That's why one of the most important steps to opening an online store is establishing a niche that sets you apart from the competition. The Norwegian art shop Nordhuset is an example of a business that has successfully developed its own brand voice and formed a loyal customer base by selecting a unique and in-demand niche.

Also known as "The North House," Nordhuset was born during the COVID-19 pandemic when Ruth Sparkes began taking photographs of historic landmarks in Norway and transforming them into colorful pop art. The business began making sales at offline retail channels like in-person markets as well as an online shop. By partnering with Gelato, Nordhuset was able to create a print on demand store that allows customers from all over the world to access Ruth's one-of-a-kind artwork.

To stand out in a crowded industry, Nordhuset focused on marketing and design work that targeted a very particular niche. The Scandinavian style and real-life locations of Ruth's pieces are attractive to tourists and world travelers who want to capture a new perspective of well-known places. Additionally, pop art has been a popular artistic style since the 1950s, making Nordhuset's custom products appealing to art collectors, as well.

2. Following your passion can take you to new heights

following passion

Pursuing a business idea that connects to your passions, pastimes, and interests builds a foundation for a scalable business. You'll create an avenue to share what you love most with the world and develop a business plan in which you have a deep understanding of your target audience and their needs.

Consider Sportymaps, an online store that enables customers to create personalized posters celebrating their accomplishments in sports. Sportymaps was established by runner and web designer Guus van Zeeland, who combined his two passions into a single business concept. Customers who visit the Sportymaps store can create personalized posters featuring the course of their run, finish time, and name and customize the size and color of the poster. After joining forces with Gelato’s print on demand service, Guus was able to scale his business to offer more than 1,850 products, and each item reinforces his love for running.

Tattoo artist Tony Blue Arms also turned a lifelong passion into a business opportunity. His success story began when he discovered that his intricate and bold designs looked beautiful not only on people but also on products, including custom cell phone cases featuring his own designs. With excellent print quality and vivid colors, Tony Blue Arms' phone cases combine his talent and love of design with a practical and functional item that customers use to show off their personalities and protect their devices.

3. The right partnership can elevate your business

right partnership

Selling products online seems like a simple enough concept, but the reality is often very different, particularly if you're taking on the retail world on your own. Some of the most successful ecommerce stores are built on powerful partnerships, in which each member brings a unique skill set and approach to the table.

The print on demand company Just Lyne emerged through a partnership between Mariana Madaleno and Vicente Mourão. The couple had been dating for four years when they discovered a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a business. Mariana, a marketing and design specialist, and Vicente, a software engineer, combined their skills to create an online store where customers can purchase just-one-line artwork, drawings composed of a single, unbroken line. Vicente developed new software to accelerate the design and fulfillment process on their business website, while Maria dedicated her time to designing an attractive site, creating content, and understanding their customer base. The result was a strong business model that capitalizes on their individual talents and experience.

Born Beau was also the result of a flourishing romantic relationship that grew into a business partnership. Tomas Jancarek was an entrepreneur searching for the right idea for an online business when he met Shen, an artist whose style perfectly aligned with his vision. Drawing on Tom's strengths in marketing and Shen's artistic eye, the two developed a business concept that offered hand-made illustrations of couples and families. By working with Gelato, Tom and Shen have expanded their business to include more than a dozen team members who create artwork for customers all over the world.

4. Choose a POD partner that can deliver globally—quickly

choosing POD partner

If you want to distinguish your ecommerce store from other successful sellers, it's vital that you offer global delivery at reasonable prices and fast speeds. Making customers wait weeks to receive their items is a recipe for disaster that's likely to end with frustrated, unhappy patrons who take their money elsewhere.

Mapiful recognized that in order to sell products to a broad pool of customers, fast worldwide shipping was a necessity. The company originally sold personalized wall art, including stylized maps, exclusively from Sweden and Finland, but they quickly realized that this strategy was inefficient, expensive, prone to disruptions, and harmful to the environment. Fortunately, there were more eco-friendly and cost-effective shipping options available.

As Mapiful's sales grew, the team finally decided to pursue a print on demand business partner with low shipping costs and speedy delivery times. The answer was Gelato, whose global network of local production partners allows customers from all over the world to receive their products in record time. With more than 130 production hubs in 32 countries, Gelato's services allowed Mapiful to produce and deliver their items locally rather than from one or two central locations, keeping costs low and minimizing environmental impacts. As a result, Mapiful is set to scale and keep customers happy, no matter their location.

5. The ability to pivot is key

pivot is key

When your business launches and you make your very first sale, you probably have a very specific vision in mind, one that draws on your strengths and meets your personal and professional goals. However, circumstances outside of your control often make it necessary to shift your business focus and strategy in ways that you never expected.

Such was the case for Maikel, the founder of The Art of Photographs. As a photographer and digital artist, Maikel had always independently printed and sold his photographs and artwork, but the pandemic introduced a slew of unexpected challenges that caused him to reevaluate his approach. Maikel had sold his products through an Etsy store for several years, but he knew he needed a partner who could help him to streamline his operations without sacrificing the quality of his own products.

Enter the Gelato app, which allowed Mikael to continue selling posters and prints of his incredible photographs and eliminated many of the headaches he had experienced while overseeing all of his operations. Mikael's business could have fallen apart when the pandemic interrupted his traditional plan, but instead, he chose to pivot and optimize his sales channels with the support of Gelato. As his business continues to scale, he plans to create a print on demand Shopify store featuring new products.

Build a cutting-edge print on demand business

While no two print on demand companies follow exactly the same trajectory, there's a lot you can learn by examining other successful stores. Make note of how entrepreneurs have created their own print on demand sites by embracing their passions, finding valuable partners, choosing the right niche, and adapting to demands and changes in the market.

When you're ready to get your print on demand store off the ground and start selling custom products, reach out to learn more about Gelato's print on demand services. With the world's largest network for production on demand, Gelato makes it easy for your business to quickly deliver quality products to customers and scale your business.

Print on demand FAQs

Can you really make money selling print on demand?

Yes, selling print on demand products is an excellent way to make money. In 2021, the value of the global print on demand market grew to $4.91 billion. Experts project that it will grow to $39.87 billion by 2030, with a remarkable compound annual growth rate of over 26%. Print on demand companies allow consumers to order custom products from their mobile devices, which is a compelling combination of features for the more than 230.5 million people who shop online.

What products sell best for print on demand?

The best-selling products for a print on demand business are both practical and visually appealing. Some of the top products to sell online include:

No matter what you want to sell, take a close look at customer demand and examine samples before settling on a specific line of items for your ecommerce store.

How do I make a successful print on demand shop?

Starting a new business is a daunting venture, and it inevitably comes with some degree of risk. To help ensure that your print on demand store will make a profit, follow these key steps:

  • Choose a niche: Narrow your focus to a particular market segment based on factors like product type, location, demographics, price, and quality. For instance, if your niche is humor, you might sell affordable t-shirts with a silly all-over print or funny slogan.

  • Understand your audience: Consider your audience's pain points, needs, and interests, and then offer products that meet them. For example, you might offer sustainable items like premium organic tote bags to environmentally-conscious customers.

  • Create eye-catching designs: Creating unique artwork to incorporate into your custom products is essential. Whether you make your own graphics or commission an artist to create them for you, your designs will help set the tone for your brand and make your products more attractive to customers.

  • Set up a user-friendly store: Make it easy for prospective customers to find and purchase your products with a high-quality website. If you have the resources and technology skills, establish your own store through an individual site, or use a Shopify website template to create an ecommerce store with less effort and financial investment.

  • Find a print on demand partner: Fast deliveries and affordable shipping costs depend on the print on demand service that fulfills your orders. Look for a reputable print on demand company like Gelato that offers global delivery and production at a low cost.

  • Promote your products: Develop a marketing strategy that incorporates multiple platforms and approaches. Start a fun social media page where you can interact with customers, create an email list and newsletter, and run free and paid ads on social media platforms and search engines.

Running a print on demand store can be personally, financially, and professionally rewarding if you take the time to implement these sound operational strategies.


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