Snapshot : There’s a lot of choice when it comes to Print on Demand supplier. We started with a ‘long list’ of eleven suppliers, before narrowing it down to two primary Print on Demand suppliers and two secondary suppliers to work with. This post shares who we looked at and why we picked the suppliers that we did.
So, it has been a while since we last posted anything about our online shop and our experiences in the world of Print on Demand and the Print on Demand supplier.
We’ve continued to roll-out some new designs. And we spent a bit of time improving the front-end of the shop itself. It’s now set up via WooCommerce and WordPress, so we control the look and feel. It’s only the back-end that still links to Print on Demand suppliers. And we’ve got plans on how to improve that bit too.
But other parts of our business have taken a bigger priority recently, so our shop is in a bit of a “good enough for now” holding pattern. We do have a plan to take the shop on to another level, but it’s still a little way off.
But for this week’s post, we did at least want to keep Print on Demand suppliers on the radar. They’re an important e-Commerce channel opportunity who should be part of any business e-Commerce planning. This channel gives you innovative and relatively risk free ways to grow your brand identity and to generate new revenue streams.
So, we dug out our research from last year into the many, many Print on Demand supplier options out there. This update is for anyone currently looking at at Print on Demand suppliers for their business.
Firstly, it can be a little surprising that there are so many Print on Demand suppliers out there. And in fact, we probably haven’t managed to capture all of them here. But when you are researching Print on Demand suppliers, you have to draw a line somewhere, and these 11 suppliers gives you a pretty decent “long list” of options.
We currently work with four of these Print on Demand suppliers, so let’s look at those first and we’ll share why we chose them, and what it’s like to work with them.
We first came across this business because they are originally Australian, and we are based in Australia. Though they have offices here still, it does seem they are much more of a US / European – centric business these days, with products mainly shipped out of those countries.
We picked them because we liked the creative style the site has. The margin they offered on sales was relatively generous compared to some competitors at around 20% of the RSP (though you can adjust it). Their system to upload images and create mock-ups is relatively user-friendly. There are a few quirks to the system, like the ability to influence what colours appear by default when you set your store-front up for shoppers to browse, but that aside, it’s quite easy to work with.
It’s shipping within the US is relatively fast and cheap – so, on at $30 T-shirt, around US$6.50 to be delivered in 10-14 days with express options from around US$12.
But when you want to ship overseas, boy does it get expensive. The same T-shirt would be AUD$32.15 on top of the $30 cost though it would arrive in a similar time frame to the US orders. The express options only add a few more dollars to arrive about 3 days earlier.
So, overall good if you want to sell in the US, a struggle if you want to sell in Australia, as your designs would have to be super appealing.
Spreadshirt was the one that we chose first, and overall, it’s on a par with Redbubble.
The creative feel of the site is appealing, the margin they offer is also around the 20% mark and their systems to upload and “design” your shop are probably the best of all the Print on Demand suppliers. We particularly like the fact you could essentially “paste” your Spreadshirt shop directly into your WordPress site using an API, so that it looks like it is part of your site rather than part of the Spreadshirt site.
But again, a little like Redbubble, it’s much better for US orders as that’s where they ship from. For Australian orders, there is at least a much cheaper international shipping option at $8.50 for a T-shirt but the delivery date goes back to 2-4 weeks from the date of the order. And their express option to get delivery in 10-14 days is a frankly ridiculous $55.
They do at least have a local Australian office to contact on shipping enquiries, but
Zazzle was in our second tier of choices to work with. It covers a broader range of Print on Demand goods, of which t-shirts is only a part, and their margins weren’t as good as either of Redbubble or Spreadshirt.
It’s user interface and design also wasn’t quite as slick as Redbubble or Spreadshirt. Not impossible to use by any means, but harder work than our first two choices.
It was also much harder to integrate the site into your own site, as it’s definitely much more of a marketplace type approach.
Nonetheless, their delivery options to Australia were competitive. An $7.50 option for 10-18 days delivery, a $12 option for 6-9 days and $23.75 for 3-5 business days means from a pure shipping point of view, they offer better options than Redbubble or Spreadshirt.
Similarly to Zazzle, Society6 offers a wider range of merchandise and has much more of an “artistic” focus. Again, it’s margins were less good, and the user interface to upload and manage designs and your “shop” is fiddly. Not impossible, but definitely fiddly.
Australian shipping is cheap but slow. There’s a flat $5 on a standard T-shirt, but the delivery window is 2-4 days to manufacture and 10-20 business days to deliver, with no express or tracking options.
Our conclusion from the Print on Demand suppliers we use
For US based activity, Redbubble and Spreadshirt offer the best systems to design and set-up your Print on Demand goods, and their delivery options are good for that market.
But for Australia-based online shopping, their delivery systems are less than great.
Zazzle and Society 6 give you the options to put your designs on far more different types of merchandise, and there delivery options to Australia, while not exactly fast, are at least decent value.
But you have to be prepared to work with much more fiddly systems to set your design and shops up.
What other Print on Demand Suppliers did we consider?
So, here’s a quick look at other options.
In some cases, we signed up with these vendors to create accounts, but for various reasons we chose to not go further than that with them.
So, this is not a review of using them, more our initial impressions and why we don’t currently use them.
In no particular order …
From our notes, it seems that the real focus from them is on charity and community based selling, and you have to commit to set sales goals for what you sell.
Given that the four companies we reviewed above don’t expect you to make a volume selling commitment (they print on demand), you’d only go with these guys if you were confident about how much you’d sell.
Not great for anyone starting out with Print on Demand suppliers as one of the advantages is no stock holding commitment
We are on their mailing list, but that’s about as far as we got with these guys, because like Bonfire, you needed to set and meet a sales commitment with them. Their delivery options also seemed slightly slower than competitors. And their user experience to set-up and upload designs was pretty painful.
Teepublic did at least seem to offer good margins, from around 11% to 30%, and we got as far as setting up an account with them. Though if you do search it out, you’ll find there’s only currently two (not great) products there.
We found the upload and usability of the site not great, and it didn’t really add or differentiate from the four Print on Demand suppliers we currently go with.
In addition, they do frequently run major price promotions (like 50% off), so those attractive margins aren’t quite as great when your dollars earned per item sold drops by the promotion %.
Again, we have an account with them and we’re on their mailing list and they seem to offer decent margins, but like Teepublic they run very deep price promotions. So, even a quick look today has all tees at $18 for example.
That might be good for shoppers but it’s not great for earning designer fees.
Their upload system was also quite challenging, so much so that we started it, but then never went back to finish it.
These guys do at least publish a training video on Udemy on how to set up and work with them. Although the fact, the guy they use poses with a BMW in front of a flash house gives off all the wrong vibes about this supplier. The training video was OK incidentally, once you get past the first impression.
And it was OK to load up designs.
But there’s no real shop set-up or integration of your designs to your website. So, it’s very much a marketplace to promote your designs and not much more.
We ended up parking this one.
So, both these guys were a little different, in that you couldn’t directly publish your design and sell it.
You submit your artwork to them, and they only publish and sell the best ones.
From a shopper point of view, this does raise the quality level of designs you can buy. But it does mean you have no control over your designs. You are effectively handing over your design to someone else to sell.
This one was also a little different as it’s more of a back-end connectivity platform for Print on Demand suppliers. You need to set up the front-end of your store and then connect it to one of their print suppliers. At the time, we thought it was too complicated so parked it.
We’ve never gone back, but it’s one we’re going to reconsider for the future.
Phew, that’s a bit of a quick run-through of what the Print on Demand supplier options are. The real challenge is there are so many options, you can’t really work with them all.
You need to factor in what matters to you and to your customers. There’s a combination of usability and design flexibility, plus back-end shipping and mechanics that you need to work out. It’s a process of trial and error to find the right Print Demand supplier.
We would say, we’ve yet to find the single Print on Demand supplier who nails every point. But, for where our business is now, the four we work with are probably still the right ones.
If and when something changes with that, we’ll let you know.
You can read more about drop shipping and Print on Demand in our guide to online retailer strategy.