Technology brought forth the beauty of ecommerce, and since then it has been evolving the landscape in many new ways. The digital ecosystem has nurtured creativity and commercial endeavours, providing new ways to reach customers with compelling products. Shopping online has become an inherent part of consumer life, and this has enabled ecommerce innovation to hurtle forward, meeting the demands of consumers and merchants alike.
Print has emerged as a new beast. Print-on-demand (POD) originated within publishing, as a reaction to the increased pressures on the book industry. Soon enough, ecommerce merchants selling customised printed products realised the potential for applying POD to their own offerings. For the owners of ecommerce stores, POD has removed risk and cut down upfront costs.
Why is print-on-demand the new flavor?
How did it work traditionally? Well, printed merchandise would be ordered in bulk, at great cost and significant risk. The bulk order would arrive with the merchant, who would need to hold the stock in a physical location until sold. The merchant would need to manage the packing and delivery process, incurring all the overheads and labour costs as a result.
How does it work now? A customer places an order. This order goes past you, directly to a POD service and delivery partner. The customer receives their order, delivered to wherever they are located on the planet. Stakeholders take a cut to cover their part in the process, and everybody walks away happy. Risk is mitigated at all levels, because the customer order is secured.
Of course, not every ecommerce business operates using POD, but it has proved to be very effective for many who sell custom merchandise online.
How to launch your POD ecommerce store
Luckily it’s not rocket science, and all the help you need is readily available. It doesn’t take long to set up an ecommerce store in the first place, and integrating a POD solution into an existing online store is usually quick and easy - depending on the tech stack in place. You can always lean on the tech vendors for support during the setup process.
1. Choose the right platform
If you’re already operating an ecommerce store, this isn’t necessary. However, if you can’t integrate a print-on-demand and drop-shipping service to the platform, you may wish to revisit this stage and start from scratch.
You can choose a standard CMS such as WordPress or Squarespace, integrate an ecommerce solution with third-party POD, and get underway. Alternatively, you can build with ecommerce at the heart of your brand using one-stop-shop platforms such as Shopify or WooCommerce.
2. Integrate your solutions
Always select a POD service that will work with your online store technology, and complete the integration process. This differs based on the solutions that you use, but the vendors will provide assistance to get you up and running. These third-party tools must be invisible to the consumer, in order to maintain brand consistency and simplicity throughout the customer experience.
3. Build your catalogue inventory
The beauty of POD is that you’re not limited to what you can physically stock in a warehouse, and you’re not limited to what the printing company can access. Typically, POD offers a wealth of products from clothing to device cases, to wall prints, to photo books.
Depending on the nature of your store, you may wish to create and upload your own unique designs. This is particularly effective for creatives, artists, photographers, and musicians who sell their own merch to fans. But it’s also great for brands that want to build an identity.
Tips to promote and sell more products
Setting up POD for ecommerce is the easy part. The challenge thereafter is to promote your store and sell more products. With smart use of the digital marketing options at your fingertips, you can build a long-term brand whilst achieving immediate sales.
1. Paid social
Whilst organic social can be effective, particularly with visual channels such as Instagram, most platforms ensure that brands must pay for maximum exposure to their audience. Luckily, levels of investment don’t need to be huge to get the ball rolling on content promotion and advertising. The targeting options on the major platforms provide a superb opportunity to push a unique and interesting product range, powered by POD and sold via your ecommerce store.
2. Influencer marketing
According to AdWeek, 67% of marketers think influencer marketing campaigns helped them reach a more targeted audience. The rise of the micro-influencer has revolutionised this approach, and opened up influencer marketing principles to businesses of all sizes. With the admin task of order fulfilment off your desk, you can focus on building relationships with influencers in your niche and getting in front of more potential customers.
3. Google Ads
Google’s advertising platform is unrivalled, and ecommerce brands should look to utilise the Display network and the Google Shopping Campaigns platform in particular. Furthermore, you should look at the potential for remarketing (or retargeting) to hit website visitors with product ads after they’ve browsed your website.
4. Content marketing
This should be seeing in the context of brand-building for the long haul. Content marketing should incorporate all of the previously-mentioned tactics; by way of creating better content through the use of influencer insights, and distributing content to an audience via paid channels.
Take a journalistic approach to content marketing; understand the topics that resonate with your target audience, and tap into compelling story themes to provide high quality and engaging content.
The beauty of POD for ecommerce is its flexibility. It is one of the simplest ways to provide your customers with an unrivalled wealth of choice, without physically stocking thousands of items in your inventory. This is why POD simplifies ecommerce so dramatically.
Large businesses, SMEs, and startups can use POD to sell merchandise without risk. Specialist ecommerce stores can also allow visitors to customise clothing and other merch according to their tastes. The benefits are passed onto the customer in the form of greater choice, smoother global delivery, and better overall customer service. Profit margins are somewhat tighter due to the increased number of stakeholders, but the opportunity to scale growth is far greater.