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1. What is print on demand, and how does it work?

Shopify print on demand: how to start a POD store with Shopify

Starting a successful Shopify business is easier than you might think with print on demand products, and plenty of people are making their living through a POD Shopify business. It's a low-risk and simple way to start selling your product without the hassle of managing an inventory and finding local manufacturers.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Learn how to start selling on Shopify today.

  • Explore why print on demand businesses are better than traditional inventory-based models.

  • Discover how you can make a living by selling products you're passionate about.

What is print on demand, and how does it work?

Print on demand is a business model that allows ecommerce store owners to sell custom products through a third-party print provider. Partnering with a print on demand provider allows online store owners to design, manufacture, fulfill, and deliver custom products without holding any inventory.

When you partner with a print on demand provider, you only pay for the manufacturing when a customer places an order and pays you. Some benefits associated with print on demand include low start-up costs and the ability to try out various product lines with no risk of unsold inventory. Moreover, your supplier deals with fulfillment and shipment, sending the final product directly to your customer and taking considerable stress off your shoulders.

Here's an example: A customer buys a phone case from you with graphics that you designed. They buy it from your Shopify site, pay you through Shopify, and select their shipping option. Then, the order is sent to the print on demand provider. You automatically pay the provider a certain amount of money. They create the phone case and send it directly to the customer. In all of this, the customer might assume that you received, created, and shipped the order on your own from your own inventory of phone cases.

Can you make a living with print on demand?

Yes, you can make a living with a print on demand business. In fact, it's a great way to earn a living and offers a stress-free way to grow your business.

However, your POD business's success will depend on a few factors:

  • Your chosen niche

  • The products you sell

  • How your company is marketed

There is a lot of competition within the POD market, so you'll need to stand apart from your competitors to gain a larger market share. Once that happens, you can certainly make a living from your POD business.

Reasons to start a POD store with Shopify

A lot of ecommerce businesses choose Shopify to host their site. Why do people use Shopify for their POD stores? There are several reasons:

Shopify is easy to use

The simple fact is that Shopify is user-friendly and very easy to navigate. You don't need any coding or website background; you can create a fully-functional online store with no previous experience.

You don't even need a strong ecommerce background to get started.

Shopify has great customer service that can help you through any issue that you might be having. They also have countless blogs and instructional guides to help you get started.

For people who want to focus on their POD business and don't want to waste time finding website builders and coders, Shopify is the perfect option.

Shopify offers customization options

Just because Shopify is easy to use doesn't mean that every store has to look the same.

Another benefit is that you can customize your storefront through Shopify's customization options. They have a variety of themes, add-ons, and widgets that can help make your ecommerce store look perfect.

There are over 4.4 million Shopify stores active today, and it's hard to find two that look identical. This is thanks to Shopify's massive catalog of themes and customizations. Since you're selling customized products, it makes sense to have a shop that matches your brand voice and aesthetic.

Shopify allows for integrations

Speaking of add-ons and widgets, Shopify also includes several integrations from their built-in Shopify App Store. Some of those apps are specific to POD suppliers, making it even easier to get your own online store started with fewer headaches.

This raises the ceiling for people who want to add more to their store. Shopify is a rare example that's very easy for beginners to use but also has accessibility for experts to add even more to their POD store.

In other words, you can spend money to add additional functionality and perfect your Shopify store. You can even bring in a programmer to add things on the back end of your store beyond the beginner-level options that Shopify offers. You don't need to rely strictly on what Shopify offers out of the box.

How to start a Shopify print on demand store in ten steps

start shopify print on demand store

Starting a print on demand business can be an exciting and rewarding venture. With the right plan and execution, you can turn your passion for design into your own online store. If you're just getting started and feeling overwhelmed, don't worry - this beginner's checklist will help you set up a print on demand business with Shopify.

1. Define your target market and unique selling proposition (USP)

Before you start creating designs or setting up your store, you must clearly understand who your customers are and what sets your business apart from competitors. Are you targeting a specific niche, such as cat lovers or vintage enthusiasts? What are you offering that other print on demand businesses don't? Defining your target audience, market, and USP will help you create a cohesive brand and marketing strategy.

Here are some steps you can follow to define your target market and USP:

  • Identify your target market: Consider who is most likely to be interested in your products - this is where you will generate a consistent demand while simultaneously trying to expand into new markets. Are you targeting a specific age group, gender, location, or hobby? The more specific you can be, the better.

  • Research your competitors: Take a look at other print on demand businesses in your niche and see what they're offering. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How can you differentiate your business from theirs? Why should consumers choose your new business over already established competitors? Answering these questions will help you set the tone for your day-to-day operations and see the bigger picture.

  • Determine your unique selling proposition: Identify what sets your business apart from competitors based on your research. Is it your unique designs, high-quality products, personalization, or excellent customer service? Whatever it is, make sure to highlight it in your marketing efforts.

  • Test and refine your target market and USP: Once you have a good idea of your target market and USP, test them out and see how they perform. Are you getting the response you expected from your target market? Is your USP resonating with customers? Use this information to refine your target market and USP as needed.

2. Create your brand

Creating a brand for your print on demand business is key to building your online business with a cohesive and professional image. Here are some elements to consider when establishing your brand:

  • Name: Choose a unique and memorable name for your business that reflects your brand identity and target market. Avoid using commonly used words or phrases, and consider using a name that is easy to spell and pronounce.

  • Logo: Your logo is the visual representation of your brand, and it should be simple, distinctive, and relevant to your business. Consider hiring a professional designer to create a logo that captures the essence of your brand and stands out in a crowded market.

  • Color palette: Choose a color palette that reflects the personality and values of your brand. Use a limited number of colors to create a cohesive and consistent look for your website and marketing materials.

  • Typography: Choose a legible, on-brand font appropriate for your target market. Consider using a sans-serif font for headlines and a serif font for body copy to create a balanced and professional look.

  • Brand voice: Develop a brand voice that reflects the personality and values of your business. Is your brand fun and playful, or more serious and professional? Your brand voice should be consistent across all channels, from your website to your social media posts.

By taking the time to establish a strong brand, you'll create a professional image that helps you stand out in the crowded world of print on demand.

3. Choose your product line

choose your product line

What about your products — what type of POD products will you sell? This is something you might have thought about before, but now it's time to take a deep dive.

If you need some inspiration, you could sell the following:

  • Apparel: like t-shirts, hoodies, baby clothes, plus-sized clothes

  • Home décor: like mugs, wall art, wallpaper

  • Accessories: like tote bags, phone cases, calendars

Or any other line that speaks to you. This range of products becomes your catalog of products. Having a product line that's too varied might detract potential customers. It's typically better to sell products within a certain niche and focus on delivering the best print on demand products within that niche.

Dividing your attention across dozens of different product types can waste valuable time. It also means that each individual product won't get the attention it needs, and the designs might fall short.

On top of that, it's hard to find a single POD manufacturer that offers such a wide range of products. You might be forced to work with multiple different manufacturers, adding more logistics and supply chain headaches into the mix.

To put it simply, pick a single product line with a handful of different product options to start. You can always add more in the future.

4. Select a print on demand service

select print on demand service

There are many print-on-demand services available, so be sure to research and compare the options to find one that meets your needs and budget. Consider factors such as product quality, customization options, pricing, shipping rates, and sustainability. We are the only print-on-demand company that has a hyper-localized model - which means your products are produced and shipped in the same location as the shipping address - supporting local communities, minimizing costs, and significantly cutting down on delivery time and cross-border shipping.

Consider us biased, but with the amount of effort we put in to ensure your customers get the very best in every aspect, Gelato has emerged as a go-to print-on-demand partner for many successful businesses. Grow your business with a company that truly cares.

In fact, we put a lot of effort into quality control and ensuring your customers get the best treatment across the board. This ethos has helped our team at Gelato become a go-to POD partner for countless successful businesses. We truly care about the quality of your customers' products and experiences.

Before sending a massive order, it's best to get samples from the potential POD partner. Sampling the products will show you what your customers can expect. You should also look for specific product offerings to make sure your POD partner can create custom designs for embroidered items, for instance.

5. Create your Shopify store

create your shopify store

Shopify is a popular ecommerce platform that makes it easy to set up and manage an online store, and they offer a free trial and monthly subscription packages to meet your needs.

Follow their step-by-step guide to set up your store, including choosing a theme, adding products, setting up your inventory management, payment and shipping options, and customizing your website. Add your logo, color palette, and voice to keep everything consistent.

You should also write content for your different pages like the Contact page, About page, and Product pages. Make sure your personality and mission are well explained on these pages.

Creating the store can be done quickly, but it's worth taking your time. Make sure you think through every design decision to personalize your storefront. Maybe that means adding extra themes and graphics to keep customers interested and entice them to shop with you. This will be the first impression you leave on everyone who visits your POD business.

If your Shopify store is rushed, it will be obvious to potential customers. You might lose business because of this fact alone. There's something lackluster about products on a plain white background with very little custom branding — keep this in mind as you create your store.

6. Design your products

design your products

You can't sell anything until you start making products. Your POD manufacturer will handle all the creation, but you need to provide your own designs and product options. This is where your branding and voice will shine through.

In fact, the designs are arguably the most important part of your company.

Think about how many companies are instantly recognizable by their unique design styles. Vera Bradley is a good example of this: their designs stand out and can be recognized within seconds.

If you're not confident in your own branding or product design ability, it's not an issue to hire a professional designer or use some of Shopify's pre-made templates. There are tons of online resources for finding help and connecting with professional designers.

For more help, consider a Gelato+ subscription so you can gain instant access to millions of graphics, photos, and vectors. You'll also enjoy an easy-to-use design editor that will save you time and money on every product you make. Gelato+ will let you handle all the design work, even if you're not an experienced designer.

For many, this is a big part of their business. Injecting your own personality and vision into each product will create a more cohesive feeling across your catalog. As you continue designing, you'll get better at the process.

7. Set up payment and shipping options

setup payment and shipping

Shipping and payment options are a big deal to customers, and it can be a deal-breaker if you skip this step. How do you get started? Shopify comes with a lot of native systems that can be immediately added to your store.

Looking at payments first, you can use Shopify's native payment system called Shopify Payments. It covers a lot of payment options, and most shops move forward with it. By default, it lets customers pay using a credit card, Apple Pay, PayPal, and other options. If you want to add more payment options, you can definitely set up a third-party payment gateway.

Shipping is also streamlined with Shopify. They include Shopify Shipping as a default system that handles order fulfillment and determines shipping costs. You can import your own third-party shipping app if you want more customization, but Shopify's automatic global shipping system saves a lot of time.

8. List your products

list your products

Your Shopify store needs to list every product you offer and the pertinent information customers will be looking for. This description should include the following:

  • Name

  • Catchy description

  • High-quality images

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

  • Selling features

  • Specific qualities

If you are selling custom products and need help with any of these, consider Gelato+. It will quickly create product descriptions, so you must add a little copy before posting the listing. Gelato+ also comes with high-quality .jpg and .png mockups of your products, which will help with marketing and completing your listings.

It's important to mention here how critical your listings are. Customers will leave your shop if your product listings are too vague, the images are low-quality, or you're missing information. Remember, there are so many other POD stores online that are competing for your customers' money — you need to do everything possible to maximize your chances.

It's a good idea to look at a massive company's online store and get inspiration. If you're an apparel company, look at Nike's website and see how complete each listing is.

9. Market your store

market your store

Once your store is set up and the products are listed, it's time to make the right noise! Start working on a marketing strategy that promotes your business and grabs eyeballs. Marketing is an essential aspect of running a successful print on demand business.

Here are all the ways you can leverage to promote your store and drive sales:

  • Utilize social media: Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are great places to promote your store and connect with potential customers. Create a social media presence and regularly post updates, photos, and promotions to attract followers and drive traffic to your website.

  • Utilize AI copy: Within seconds, AI programs like ChatGPT can come up with a unique copy that can be included on your site, shared with a mailing list, or posted on your social media accounts. Using AI can save you time on every piece of content you make.

  • Use email marketing: Email marketing is a powerful way to reach out to potential customers and keep them informed about new products, sales, and other updates. Use a tool like Mailchimp or Klaviyo to create and send newsletters and other email campaigns to your email list.

  • Collaborate with influencers: Partnering with influencers in your niche can be a great way to reach a larger audience and gain credibility. Look for influencers with a large and engaged following and offer to collaborate on product launches or promotions.

  • Utilize paid advertising: Paid advertising can effectively reach a wider audience and drive traffic to your website. Consider using platforms like Google AdWords or Facebook Ads to create targeted campaigns that reach your ideal customers.

  • Optimize your website for SEO: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving the ranking of your website in search engine results. Optimizing your website for relevant keywords can improve your visibility and increase organic traffic. To optimize your store for SEO, consider the following:

    • Use relevant and descriptive titles and descriptions for your products.

    • Use keywords in your product titles and descriptions.

    • Use alt tags to describe your product images.

    • Use an SEO plugin to help optimize your store.

10. Monitor and optimize your store

Running a successful print-on-demand business requires ongoing attention and optimization. Keep an eye on your sales and customer feedback, and make adjustments as needed to improve your store's performance. Here are some steps you can follow to improve the performance of your store:

  • Analyze your website traffic: Use tools like Google Analytics to better understand who visits your website and how they interact with it. Look for trends and patterns, and use this information to identify areas for improvement.

  • Improve your website speed: A slow-loading website can be a major turn-off for potential customers. Use tools like PageSpeed Insights to identify issues that are causing your website to load slowly and take steps to fix them.

  • Enhance the user experience: Make sure your website is easy to navigate and user-friendly. Consider adding filters and sorting options to make it easier for customers to find what they're looking for, and make sure your website is mobile-friendly to cater to the growing number of mobile users.

  • Optimize your product pages: Your product pages are the most important pages on your website, so optimizing them for conversions is essential. Include high-quality product photos, detailed descriptions, and customer reviews to help convince visitors to make a purchase.

Monitor and analyze your sales data: Keep track of your sales data and use it to identify trends and areas for improvement. Look for patterns in your best-selling products, customer demographics, and other data to help you make informed decisions about your store.

Gelato makes it easy to create a Shopify print on demand store

Starting a print on demand business can be rewarding, but it requires careful planning and execution. By following a simple process, you'll be well on your way to setting up a successful print on demand business with Shopify.

Gelato is an easy-to-use platform that will help you make a living as a POD operation. Creating and connecting your Shopify store with Gelato is a breeze! With just a simple click, you can successfully integrate your store from the Shopify app or Gelato app. Once that is done and dusted, you can begin selecting print on demand products from our catalog and start designing them with custom add-ons. Gelato also has an extensive global network of local suppliers, allowing print on demand business owners to redirect orders to print providers closest to their customers. This not only helps cut down on long-haul shipping but also gets orders ready and delivered on time, especially during the festive seasons when there is an increased demand.

Another advantage of the print on demand model is that you can generate some awe-inspiring, high-definition mockups using our premium mockup generator. All you have to do is sign up for Gelato+ and unlock your access to this useful tool to create product mockups and display them on your Shopify store and social media profiles. When your audience sees high-definition visuals of your range of custom offerings, they will feel compelled to visit your Shopify store (and make a purchase for all you know!)

Starting a print on demand Shopify store is really easy, low-risk, and profitable. Other than being able to design and add products to your catalog in minutes, you can operate your store without any upfront costs and inventory. No more headaches of running out of stock or having to deal with unsold stock; just pay for what you sell—after you sell it – and pocket the profit.

So, what are you waiting for? Shed your inhibitions about owning an online business, and sign up for Gelato today to expedite the process and unlock your business' potential.


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Create a successful Shopify print on demand store online with Gelato