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1. Is a phone case business profitable?

How to make custom phone cases to start an online business

For better or worse, few things are more ubiquitous than smartphones - except, perhaps, phone cases. 

While some smartphone owners are willing to go caseless, most (especially those who’ve had to repair a screen cracked by a phone drop) see a cell phone case as an important way to protect their mobile phones. Phone cases are also a common way for people to express their individuality. 

Phone cases’ durability and popularity make selling them an excellent option for an online business you can run from your home.

Main takeaways from this article:

  • Starting your own phone case business can be a great way to make money online.

  • With the print on demand business model, you can create and sell custom phone cases while minimizing your up-front costs and the risk of unsold inventory.

  • Learn how to create and launch a customized phone case business with our step-by-step guide. We’ll cover everything from identifying your target market and developing your brand to choosing a print on demand provider and designing your phone cases.

Is a phone case business profitable?

phone cases business

Absolutely! It’s one of our top product categories for 2023.

Running a custom phone case business from home allows you to sidestep many startup costs associated with a traditional storefront, helping your store become profitable quickly. 

Increasing smartphone adoption worldwide is expected to grow the $10.91 billion phone case industry to a size of $35.5 billion by 2025 - a 7.5% annual growth rate. Owners’ desire to avoid cracked or otherwise damaged phone screens drives much of this demand, as repairs and replacements can be prohibitively expensive. Many buyers will pay a premium for tough cases with advanced protective features, especially if they’re recently purchased a new phone model.

Owners also consider phone cases a reflection of themselves, opting for custom phone cases that feature favorite movies, television and streaming series, quotes, music, and more. Aligning your own phone case designs with entertainment and social media trends will keep your buyers engaged, as people will often impulse-buy an appealing new phone case even if the old one doesn’t need replacing.

Understanding the types of phone cases

Just as no one phone case design speaks to everyone, no singular phone case style appeals to every buyer. Your customers will each prioritize style and protection differently, so it’s essential to be familiar with the most common types of phone cases and what they offer buyers.

Flexi cases

flexi cases

Lightweight Flexi cases feature a frosty transparent TPU shell that’s wireless-charging compatible and impact resistant.

Clear cases

clear cases

This slim, transparent case is impact-resistant, scratch-proof, and wireless-charging compatible.

Biodegradable cases

biodegradable cases

Made of at least 70% organic, recycled, or biodegradable material, bio cases help eco-conscious consumers protect their phones and the planet. 

Slim cases

slim cases

Durable slim cases feature a wraparound design with an opaque, shock-and-scratch-resistant white polycarbonate base and a glossy finish.

Tough cases

tough cases

The double-layered security of tough cases provides serious impact resistance and shock absorption in a glossy wraparound shell.

How to make phone cases for an online business: 10 easy steps

There’s no one right way to start your own phone case business, but following these steps will give your online phone case store a solid grounding and a strong chance of success. 

1. Research the phone case market

phone case market

A savvy phone case business owner starts with a few hours of market research. Get to know the phone case business and industry by browsing competing phone case businesses and brands on Amazon, Etsy, and Shopify. Is there a way to improve their phone case designs and material choices? How can you break out from the pack?

Google Trends is another great tool. It analyzes your query and serves up stats on search volume, regional popularity, and related Google search terms to help you figure out what people are talking about and whether there’s a market gap your own custom phone case brand can fill.

2. Determine your niche

phone cases niche

To find your specific niche, think about your interests and passions. Do they overlap with the market gap you identified in the last step?

You can also differentiate your products with a unique value proposition, like battery cases with distinctive design elements, bumper cases with a focus on sustainability, or personalized phone case options. If your phone case designs revolve around popular causes, you could pledge to give a certain amount from your sales proceeds to benefit the cause.

3. Identify your target audience

phone case target audience

Social media research

Social media is a great place to solicit feedback from potential customers. Simple surveys can help you understand peoples’ wants, pain points, and needs around phone cases. For example: is wireless charging connectivity important, or do most people still prefer cords? 

Buyer personas and segmentation

Segmenting your target market with detailed buyer personas will help zero in on branding and design choices. Use broad-but-useful segments like:

  • Age

  • Gender

  • Marital status

  • Education level

  • Employment status

  • Income

You should also visit competitors’ social media pages and read the comments. Who’s engaging with their brand? What are they talking about? How can you get their attention?

4. Develop your brand

brand development

Once you’ve identified your niche and target audience, it’s time to think about how you’ll differentiate your phone case brand from a sea of other phone case companies selling in brick-and-mortar stores and online marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon. 

Your customized phone cases need a strong, well-defined identity to stand out. Good questions to ask yourself include:

  • What is your brand’s mission? Do you align with any specific causes?

  • What do you value? Maybe it’s hard work, determination, originality, or creativity. 

  • What’s your brand’s personality? Are you buttoned-up and professional, chill, or disruptive and mischievous?

Your answers will inform key choices around your color scheme, typography, logo, and brand name. Successfully tying everything together will create a brand identity that’s memorable and instantly recognizable.

Your choices will also help you develop your brand's voice for interacting with customers and followers across channels.

5. Choose your sales channel

phone cases sales channel

Locking down your brand identity is a big step toward choosing the right channel (or combination of channels) for selling your phone cases. Some of the most common choices include:

  • Running your own website. This is the path to take if you want total control over your store’s design and functionality. If you plan to incorporate additional content like videos or a blog, this is a great way to build a space that really comes to define your brand. You’ll need technical skills and strong marketing strategies to make it work, though. 

  • Selling on social media. Pinterest, Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram let you leverage naturally-segmented audiences to build a community around your brand. However, these platforms offer little room for customization, and native selling tools will be limited.

  • Using an ecommerce platform. Opening a store on marketplaces like Amazon, Etsy, Shopify, eBay, WooCommerce, and others gives you instant access to a broad audience of potential customers already primed for buying phone cases. But these platforms often limit store customization options, which can mute your brand identity. Online marketplaces also charge hosting and transaction fees.

6. Set up your storefront

store setup

If you’re selling from your own business website, you’ll need to procure a domain name that aligns with your own business name and is easy to remember, type, and share.

Ensure your site and storefront match your brand identity, with your logo and color scheme incorporated meaningfully. Create an aesthetically pleasing layout that naturally guides users toward shopping options.

If you’ve opted to open your store on an ecommerce platform, you may not have access to many customization options, but it’s essential to pull whatever levers you can. If possible, create variations of your logo or a custom banner you can incorporate into your storefront in a way that fits within platform guidelines.

7. Select a print on demand service

print in demand service

Most people don't know how to make phone cases, and even if they did, fabricating your own custom phone case often requires sophisticated printing equipment. Working with a print on demand (POD) partner like Gelato for your custom phone case business is essential. It also saves you inventory management headaches: your partner will only print the cases you sell, so you’re never saddled with unsold units.

When searching for potential print on demand suppliers, consider their business structure, pricing, product range and quality, shipping locations, and platform integrations.

Gelato is a premier POD partner offering high-quality phone cases in a variety of styles. Their hyper-local production and delivery business model keeps shipping costs manageable no matter your customer's location. Gelato’s expansive integration options allow them to work seamlessly behind the scenes to fulfill your orders, regardless of your chosen platform.

8. Design your custom phone cases

custom phone cases

Finally: it’s time to design some phone cases. Even if you already have a folder full of designs, look through the steps below. You never know where you’ll find your next big idea.

If creating the design itself isn’t your strong suit, that’s okay! Consider working with skilled designers who can help bring your ideas to life. 

Revisit your research 

Refer back to your market research from Step 1. Do your own designs offer something unique or is it hard to tell them apart from the competition? Revisit their social media or store pages to read reviews. What do people love? What turns them off?

Take another look through Google trends and search popular hashtags to see if you can adapt a trending design or get ahead of the curve.

Mock it up

Once you’ve got some ideas, sketch them out on paper or use the Gelato Design Editor to see your image on digital mock-ups. Upload a vector image or PNG to get an idea of how your design looks on a case and how it might change if you switch from a back-only design to a wraparound case.

Order product samples

Once you’re happy with your design, it’s time to order samples from your chosen print on demand supplier to see how it looks in the real world. Review them to ensure you’re happy with all the design elements of your case and confirm the production quality.

9. Add your phone cases to your store

phone cases store

If everything looks good with your samples, it’s time to start prepping your digital inventory

Take photos and create product descriptions

Use your samples to take some photos for your store, but don’t settle for blurry, potato-quality shots! These pictures will be one of the most significant factors in whether your phone cases sell online, so hire a professional if you need to. 

Your product descriptions should be no less impressive. Good, search-optimized product descriptions include relevant keywords about the durability of your cases, their production materials, dimensions, compatible phone models, and more. 

Set pricing and configure payment and shipping options

Finding the right retail price balance for phone cases can be a challenge, so turn once again to your competition. What’s their price point? Can you justify charging more?

Depending on how you built your store, you’ll find many tools available to help you configure multiple payment options and set shipping rates.

Define your return policy

Your return policy should offer your customers basic protection and be clearly communicated throughout your ecommerce website.

10. Promote your custom phone case business

custom phone cases business

Optimizing your site for search engines and establishing pay-per-click ads are two important steps you should take right away.

Leverage your social media accounts on Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, and Twitter to show off your phone cases. An influencer collab can drive huge traffic, but a steady mix of genuine, organic content and paid ads will help you avoid seeming too sales-y. 

Whether through your site or social media, get engaged followers to sign up for emails, then send out updates on discounts, promotions, and new designs. 

Sell custom phone cases online with Gelato

There’s never been a better time (except yesterday) to start selling phone cases online. Following the steps above will help you create a successful phone case business and tap into growing customer demand for high-quality cases that look great and keep their devices safe. 

To help fast-track your sales, start your own phone case business with Gelato today. Our API and ecommerce integrations with Etsy, Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, Squarespace, and BigCommerce make designing, proofing, and producing your phone cases simple.

We can produce cases for the following phone models: 

  • iPhone 7

  • iPhone 7 Plus

  • iPhone 8

  • iPhone 8 Plus

  • iPhone X

  • iPhone XS

  • iPhone XS Max

  • iPhone XR

  • iPhone 11

  • iPhone 11 Pro

  • iPhone 11 Pro Max

  • iPhone SE

  • iPhone 12 Mini

  • iPhone 12

  • iPhone 12 Pro

  • iPhone 12 Pro Max

  • iPhone 13

  • iPhone 13 Mini

  • iPhone 13 Pro

  • iPhone 13 Pro Max

  • iPhone 14

  • iPhone 14 Plus

  • iPhone 14 Pro

  • iPhone 14 Pro Max

  • Galaxy S20

  • Galaxy S20 Plus

  • Galaxy S20 Ultra

  • Galaxy S21

  • Galaxy S21 Plus

  • Galaxy S21 Ultra

Plus, our network of 130+ local production partners in 32 countries enables creators and ecommerce sellers to scale their businesses quickly and reach new markets faster while reducing waste, costs, and carbon emissions. 

It's a win-win for business owners and the planet.

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Start selling custom phone cases with Gelato