In this post, we’re going back to basics. I know that some– or a lot of you are right at the starting gate of opening your POD (print on demand) online store, and some e-commerce terms get bandied about that may be unfamiliar to you. There’s a lot to unpack– what with all the platforms, apps, and processes after all. This is a beginner's guide-- so if that's you, you're in the right place!
Disclaimer: I probably won't cover it all in this essay-- but I'll keep adding to it as I go along so this will be updated on the regular.
So, let’s take a look under the hood at the building blocks of your online business....so you can drive this thing!
Putting all the pieces of your online business together takes time, but will pay dividends.
Your Store’s Foundation
Your platform is going to be where your store ‘lives’ on the internet, the base of its operations. This will give you a web location and all the supporting functionality that you require to offer products for sale and shipping, and to accept payments.
By utilizing a print-on-demand platform, sellers can focus on designing and marketing their products while the platform takes care of production, fulfillment, and customer support. As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this model eliminates the need for inventory management, upfront costs, and shipping logistics, making it the ideal choice for entrepreneurs seeking to start an ecommerce business with minimal risk.
The most popular platforms for Print on Demand online businesses are:
- Shopify (the ‘Big Daddy’ of them all)
- Etsy (Yes, POD is allowed, despite what you may have heard!)
I would have previously included Redbubble in this list, but that platform has fallen out of favour recently by having implemented a tier system for its sellers. In short, the rug has been pulled a bit, and it has made it very difficult to run a profitable business on their site. So... I wouldn’t recommend it, especially if you are starting out. It has disappointed a lot of long-term Redbubble sellers, while some have fallen on the 'right side' of the tiers. But there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason, so I've been reading. So, unless you want to get very discouraged very early in your online business career, I'd give it a miss. A shame, really.
Sellers sign up with a print-on-demand platform and integrate their online store (e.g., Shopify, WooCommerce, Etsy) with the platform. This integration allows seamless order processing and fulfillment.
Integrations are most often embedded in the store’s set-up, but sometimes the separate entities must be linked via an API code. While this is an extra step, it is not difficult to do, and it’s simply a matter of copying and pasting the code as per instructions that you’ll most likely be given on the site in question.
As online POD sellers, we are very fortunate to have a wide variety of platforms from which to choose that will print our designs onto products and ship them out.
The main players are:
It's no secret that T-shirts continue to be a top-seller online.
This is integral to the Shopify platform, and it’s a framework for your online shopfront’s looks and its capabilities.
Different themes may suit different product mixes and volumes, and if you check on Shopify they give great examples, from clothing to beauty products to outdoor sports. They offer both free and paid themes at various price tiers.
Most online sellers who are price-conscious start with a free theme, and then when sales pick up they may reinvest back into their store by upgrading to a paid theme which gives a more professional look, more functionality, and faster loading speed for your site.
This is not to downplay any of the free themes, which still give a good impression and are, as I say a perfectly good launching point.
If you are on WooCommerce, which is WordPress-based, you can avail of many more native themes, so it’s more flexible. There is also Themeforest and Elegant Themes for more selection-- among others. You could get lost with the possibilities, tweaking your store to your heart’s content! I’ve compared Shopify and WooCommerce in a previous post right here. You may wish to check it out to read my comparison.
Sellers set up their online store, upload their designs, and configure product details such as pricing, descriptions, and variants (e.g., different sizes, colors).
You can have fun with this, by crafting product descriptions and using mockup photos that will attract customers, based upon your target audience. Your POD integration will take care of most of this for you with default descriptions, but you can always edit them to make them unique, and add more photos by using a Mockup generating site like Placeit, which would be the most common one and has a marvelous selection.
Canva has now got into the act, and they also offer mockups, although the selection doesn’t yet rival its main competitor’s. I still use Canva for mockups though- they have great ones for cushions and T-Shirts among others, and I’m sure that they will continue to develop this design feature. As I've said before, they are constantly evolving and this is good for us as sellers seeking to promote our products!
Just as it sounds, as in: what products you offer for sale and getting them seen. It’s best to showcase them in categories so that your shop will make visual sense, and navigation will be a breeze for your customers. Again, Shopify and WooCommerce have themes that are structured this way and make it easy for you to organize your listed products into collections.
A company, i,e, Printify or Printful that imports your designs (from the product listings via your store’s integration) and applies them to each product that is sold.
As mentioned above, there are other print providers, and I recommend researching them to compare their product/price offerings. However, the Big Two (Printify and Printful) both have comprehensive product catalogs and cater to most POD sellers’ needs.
Once an order is received, the print-on-demand platform automatically processes the order details, including the design, product type, size, and shipping address.
Making Money Online - The Math
After all, you’re going to have to get paid, right? Let’s talk about the green stuff in relation to your store!
Making money online -- when math is fun!
The price you must pay the POD company for an item from their catalog once sold in your store. This is the basic cost before any profit margin is applied, and does not include the shipping costs.
The difference between an item’s price at base cost and your retail price in-store. An industry standard is 40% profit margin. But that is not set in stone, and you may tweak it depending on the item and its perceived value, competitor's pricing, and demand.
How you get paid on your store’s platform. PayPal, Stripe, and Apple Pay are the most common payment processors. Again, your platform will make this straightforward to set up and implement so that everything is automatic and order fulfilment is initiated after a successful charge to your credit card on file.
Your charges for shipping, depending on carriers and destinations. Again, your POD platform will automatically set this up per product– but you can tweak it. For instance, if you prefer to attract customers with standard free shipping– you can alter the automatic settings to set domestic shipping to '0' whilst leaving international settings as they are (most common). But, if you do this, don’t forget to add the cost of shipping into the product price! You’re not in this game to lose, after all.
So, that is your beginner's intro to e-commerce terms-- the essential pieces of the online puzzle. The good news is that once you've opened your store, the foundation-building will have been done and the focus then switches to 'property' maintenance. The property being your store, of course.
What does maintenance look like? Think about what happens in a brick-and-mortar store. There is tidying up and organization, window-dressing, product launches, promotions, and so on. It's about visuals and your product offerings-- where the fun really starts to happen! Of course, I'll write a post about that too -- but until then, go get it-- and get those stores opened. Let me know in the comments how you get on, I'd love to hear all about it!
Until next time,
About the Author
Dani Sherman, CEO at EcomGemini
Dani's been immersed in the online space for the past several years, and she knows what it takes to establish a presence on multiple e-commerce platforms. She would like to help you get started with your own dream of running a successful online business. Her weekly(ish) blog focuses on all things Print-On-Demand and eCommerce. So, check back often to see what's new, and to be inspired!