Over the past four years, the print-on-demand (POD) industry has grown by 12%. And if you think it’s slowing down, think again. With the growing demand for one-of-a-kind and customization, 36% of consumers have expectations for personalization, and 48% are willing to wait longer for them to arrive.
While running a print-on-demand business has its ups and downs, it can be a very profitable business. Know the pros, cons, and tips before selling print-on-demand products to ensure you’re prepared and well-equipped to run your business.
What is print-on-demand?
Print-on-demand is a process where you work with a supplier to sell white-label items with customized designs under your own brand name. Selling POD products is ideal if you are starting an online business. How so? The fulfillment method takes place per order and begins as soon as customers complete their orders.
Some common print-on-demand products include T-shirts, hoodies, baseball hats, tote bags, yoga pants, engraved jewelry, and mugs.
T-shirts, in particular, are the most popular — with a marketing value of $3.64 billion in 2020. Print-on-demand T-shirts are becoming a part of a corporation’s business strategy to market its company, products, or offerings.
But like any type of ecommerce business you encounter, there are pros and cons to the process of selling POD products.
You don’t want to be in charge of full customization — designing merchandise from start to finish. By opting to print-on-demand products instead, you won’t have to. POD is cost-efficient, involves lower lifting, and allows you to have control over what your products look like.
Pros: 3 benefits of selling print-on-demand products
Print-on-demand products are ideal for sellers who are short on time. You let a third-party platform handle storing, shipping, and fulfilling inventory, among other tasks. In turn, you can focus more on the creative aspects and marketing your brand to gain more customers and sales.
1. Design customization is simple
Design customization is easy because print-on-demand platforms handle making the product variations. As a seller, all you have to do is upload your product and offer designs for customers to choose from.
And if customers are looking to add their name or specific lettering to a product, great, you can do that easily through your POD provider.
Below, you can see how Merch38’s platform offers a variety of printing locations for a white-label hoodie — front, back, or both.
The variety of printing location options on the clothing allows buyers to make their hoodie one-of-a-kind.
2. No required investment in your own inventory
Unless you’re still selling non-print-on-demand items, we have good news for your business. The days of storing a load of your own inventory are over. That responsibility is on your POD platforms, too.
For POD products, inventory is ordered on an as-needed basis. That means you don’t have to worry about keeping old items that will likely go to waste.
Fortunately, the best-selling products used for print-on-demand are popular in the selling market, so there are typically many vendors to choose from. So thankfully, you’re not limited to a specific vendor that may or may not have your product available when ready to order.
Not having to invest in your inventory is a gift from the heavens, especially if you are a new business with limited capital. The reduced overhead allows you to test the market with different designs and lowers risk.
3. Freedom from the responsibility of fulfillment and shipment
As the seller, your main focus is attracting customers to your website to make purchases and grow your brand. Leave the logistics of fulfillment to your print-on-demand platform.
With the right supplier on your side, they’ll deliver fast results — leaving your customers satisfied and ready to continue doing business with you.
Since you won’t have to worry about fulfillment and shipping, you can focus on fostering stronger customer relationships to ensure customer satisfaction. According to Forbes, costumes are glad to pay 17% more for products from businesses with excellent service.
Also, those who leave satisfied are five times more likely to make a purchase again and four times more likely to make a referral.
Cons: 3 print-on-demand product challenges to keep in mind
Print-on-demand providers helping your business are great. But at the same time, they cut into your pockets. You can’t keep all the profit you generate. Rightfully so, some of the gains go into the hands of those who are helping keep your business afloat.
So before you go all in, take a moment to consider some of the challenges below before including print-on-demand products into your inventory.
1. Order fulfillment can take a long time
Because print-on-demand products are made after a customer purchases, the process to create and deliver will take longer than shipping an item that is already completely made.
Between you and your buyers, be the first one to set the expectations for your buyers. Reduce the number of customers reaching out about estimated times of delivery. Make a visible note on each product or checkout page to notify customers about the extended delivery times.
The more information they know ahead of time about their purchase, the more patient they will be when waiting for their customized products to arrive at their door.
On the other hand, fulfillment for non-print-on-demand products can be at customers’ doorsteps much faster. Through Amazon Prime’s Same-Day Delivery, for example, consumers can expect their merchandise to arrive the same day they purchase.
2. Profit margins are low
Because print-on-demand products are often custom, you can’t buy items in bulk for wholesale pricing. As a result, profit margins are lower than non-print-on-demand items.
And unfortunately, because your printing company handles shipping and handling, a large part of your profit goes into their hands.
Because print-on-demand items are tailored to individual customers, it can be challenging to resell returned items.
To decrease the number of returns, add a sizing chart and encourage previous customers to leave reviews with photos modeling the product. Have them include measurements and the size they purchased to offer as much accuracy as possible for the next potential buyer.
To decrease the number of items coming back to you, ensure your third-party provider is on the same page about return policies.
4 tips to generate sales for print-on-demand products
As a print-on-demand product seller, you’ve got the advantage of easy customization. Embrace that aspect of print-on-demand to win over shoppers. At the same time, you have to work extra hard to maintain quality because your print-on-demand platform controls so much of the ecommerce process.
By implementing the four tips below after starting your POD business, you’ll be able to gain more recognition, be confident in the products you sell, and ensure higher customer satisfaction.
Tip 1: Give out swag to generate public awareness
Swag is promotional merchandise — goodies like mugs, T-shirts, notebooks, pens — you name it.
It’s common for companies to give these particular products to new hires or pass them around at trade shows to increase brand awareness. And as a print-on-demand product seller, you can give customized products to your existing and potential customers to generate leads.
You have the tools and processes to do so easily, so why not?
Not only will your invested gifts to customers encourage them to come back for more, but they’ll turn into walking billboards whenever they rock what you gave them.
Tip 2: Order samples to check for quality
It can be easy to go without seeing your products since they go straight from your print-on-demand provider to customers. Create a habit of ordering samples beforehand to ensure you’re offering excellent quality.
It’s also good to order samples because what you see online doesn’t always match the real deal in person. So seeing the quality of products for yourself before customers purchase will boost your confidence in selling them.
Tip 3: Send surveys to customers to discover satisfaction level
The opinion on your products shouldn’t stop at what you think about them. Reach out to customers to see what they think about purchasing. Based on their feedback, you’ll know if you should continue with the same suppliers or switch to someone new.
Also, because you may be in the dark about the fulfillment and shipping services between your print-on-demand supplier and customers, you can send surveys for that too as a way to check on how well your POD provider is doing.
Tip 4: Create POD content to drive website traffic
Through print-on-demand content creation, you can distribute consistent, relevant, and valuable information on your website that connects to the unique products you sell. And according to WPForms, small businesses with blogs get 126% more lead growth compared to those that opt out.
Include blog posts on trending print-on-demand items — including the ones you sell. With a strong content strategy and SEO efforts in play, your brand’s writing piece can make its way on Google’s search engine results page.
In addition to blog posts, share Twitter threads about print-on-demand products, benefits of selling, customer success stories — linking your content back to your store’s website.
The more information you offer, the more knowledgeable you will seem. With those two factors in play, you’ll likely attract new buyers.
Offer a variety of print-on-demand products to grow your business
Print-on-demand products not only allow you to play around with different designs, but you can also explore different products to expand your offerings.
If you’ve been selling customizable T-shirts and they have been selling quickly, you may want to consider venturing out to similar items like long-sleeve shirts or hoodies (especially when seasons change).
Shift your mindset to be data-driven to experiment with new products. Throughout the process, you’ll discover what additional print-on-demand products are worth keeping and which are not adding value to the business.
But equity rounds aren’t the only way for a company to raise money — alternative and other non-dilutive financing options are often overlooked. Taking on debt might be the right solution when you’re focused on growth and can see clear ROI from the capital you deploy.
Not all capital providers are equal, so seeking financing isn’t just about securing capital. It’s a matter of finding the right source of funding that matches both your business and your roadmap.
Here are four things you should consider:
Does this match my needs?
It’s easy to take for granted, but securing financing begins with a business plan. Don’t seek funding until you have a clear plan for how you’ll use it. For example, do you need capital to fund growth or for your day-to-day operations? The answer should influence not only the amount of capital you seek, but the type of funding partner you look for as well.
Start with a concrete plan and make sure it aligns with the structure of your financing:
Match repayment terms to your expected use of the debt.
Balance working capital needs with growth capital needs.
It’s understandable to hope for a one-and-done financing process that sets the next round far down the line, but that may be costlier than you realize in the long run.
Your term of repayment must be long enough so you can deploy the capital and see the returns. If it’s not, you may end up making loan payments with the principal.
Say, for example, you secure funding to enter a new market. You plan to expand your sales team to support the move and develop the cash flow necessary to pay back the loan. The problem here is, the new hire will take months to ramp up.
If there’s not enough delta between when you start ramping up and when you begin repayments, you’ll be paying back the loan before your new salesperson can bring in revenue to allow you to see ROI on the amount you borrowed.
Another issue to keep in mind: If you’re financing operations instead of growth, working capital requirements may reduce the amount you can deploy.
Let’s say you finance your ad spending and plan to deploy $200,000 over the next four months. But payments on the MCA loan you secured to fund that spending will eat into your revenue, and the loan will be further limited by a minimum cash covenant of $100,000. The result? You secured $200,000 in financing but can only deploy half of it.
With $100,000 of your financing kept in a cash account, only half the loan will be used to drive operations, which means you’re not likely to meet your growth target. What’s worse, as you’re only able to deploy half of the loan, your cost of capital is effectively double what you’d planned for.
Is this the right amount for me at this time?
The second consideration is balancing how much capital you need to act on your near-term goals against what you can reasonably expect to secure. If the funding amount you can get is not enough to move the needle, it might not be worth the effort required.
Elon Musk said Sunday he “somewhat agonized” over the font designs for his companies Tesla and SpaceX.
The billionaire businessman added he “loves fonts” and has tweaked the logos over the years.
He revealed the SpaceX logo also holds a hidden meaning, representing a rocket’s arc to orbit.
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In a series of Sunday tweets, Elon Musk said he “somewhat agonized” over his choice of fonts for his businesses and revealed a hidden meaning behind the SpaceX logo.
Responding to a tweet about serif and sans-serif fonts, the billionaire businessman took a break from posting cryptic memes and discussing politics to say he loves fonts and put significant consideration into how his companies are presented to consumers.
“I somewhat agonized over the Tesla & SpaceX font design (love fonts tbh),” Musk tweeted. “There are some similarities, particularly use of negative space. We’ve made many little tweaks over the years.”
The Tesla logo — a T-shaped design with a custom, sans-serif font spelling out the brand name — is meant to resemble a cross-section of an electric motor. The SpaceX logo, written in a similar font with an extended X, references the reusable rockets made by the company.
“The swoop of the X is meant to represent the rocket’s arc to orbit,” Musk tweeted.
Other business logos have also held hidden messages: Baskin Robbins, a chain that sells 31 flavors of ice cream, has a secret ’31’ hidden in the letters of its logo. Likewise, Amazon’s arrow logo is meant to represent a smile, while the circular ‘B’ logo for Beats by Dre represents a person wearing the popular headphones.
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The internet has revolutionized the business world and changed how we conduct business. Any business that aims to increase its visibility and boost profit needs to pay much attention to top ranking factors, including local SEO — which introduces the topic of the local search algorithm.
Local SEO is one of the top practices that help boost a business’s visibility and generates more sales.
However, achieving better local SEO rankings is not a walk in the park, especially due to increased competition. To appear higher on local results, businesses and marketers need to understand how the local search algorithm works.
Knowing this helps guide the steps for improving rankings in the local pack.
The competition gets stiffer as more businesses open and optimize for local searching. Besides, Google is updating its algorithm consistently, meaning only businesses that can keep up with these updates can appear at the top of local search results.
Luckily, you have come to this post as this article looks at everything you need to know about Google’s local search algorithm and what you can do to get that top spot in the local pack.
Understanding the local search algorithm
Google aims to provide the best results that match a specific local search query. It constantly updates the local search algorithm to determine which business to rank on top of local search results.
Ideally, Google wants to provide local content that is relevant and valuable to users. As with search engine optimization, keyword stuffing cannot give you that top spot in local search results.
SEO specialists and marketers should consider Google’s local search algorithm updates and make the necessary changes to rank higher. Failure to consider these updates means losing your local search presence, resulting in fewer leads and conversions.
Local algorithms check the Google My Business (GMB) listings to determine where to rank a business in local search rankings.
Ideally, Google’s local algorithm ranks businesses with information that matches a searcher’s query. And the higher a business ranks in local search results, the more chances a potential customer will click on it.
This post looks at the three major pillars that determine local search results to better understand the local search algorithm: proximity, prominence and relevance.
Of course, other factors make up Google’s local search algorithm, but since we cannot identify all of them, we’ll focus on the most crucial ones in this post.
By understanding these pillars, marketers can better position themselves for local search success.
Proximity is one of the major ranking factors when it comes to local search. That means the distance between a business and a searcher is a ranking factor in local search.
When a searcher searches for something, Google considers how far the searcher is from the location of the term they use in the search. When a searcher doesn’t specify the location, Google calculates the distance based on the information they have regarding their location.
Ideally, Google aims to provide the most relevant results to a search query. For instance, why would Google provide a list of coffee shops in Los Angeles if the searcher is searching from Colombia?
That would be irrelevant local search results that won’t benefit the searcher.
Unfortunately, while proximity is a major local search pillar, it’s one of the factors that businesses have little control over. After all, you cannot change where your business is located, right?
You can only ensure your business location is as clear as possible, so that it appears for related nearby queries. Here are steps you can take to achieve this:
Claim and verify the Google My Business listing
Ensure local listings are accurate and optimized for local products or services
Get the Google Maps API Key and optimize for your location and routes
Set up your profile correctly (for Service Area Businesses) to avoid violating Google’s guidelines
Users can perform several types of local searches, including:
Users will perform geo-modified searches when they are planning to visit somewhere. For instance, a searcher in Los Angeles planning to visit Toronto, Canada, may search for a “coffee shop in Oakville.” The results will differ from if they searched for “coffee” while physically in Oakville.
To be specific, geo-modified searches are mainly based on relevance and prominence as opposed to proximity when a user searches for something when outside the city included in the search.
Searchers perform this type of search when looking for something around them. For instance, a user in Los Angeles performing a local search for “coffee.”
Ideally, the user only needs to search for something and is shown results based on proximity. They will get the results that are closest to them.
“Near me” searches
“Near me” searches have been so popular in recent years. Although their popularity has significantly declined, users still perform this type of search when looking for something locally.
For instance, some users could add “near me” when searching for a coffee shop, hoping to get the most relevant results near them. As we’ve stated, this trend has lost popularity because when you perform a local search, you are searching for something near you.
It is not necessary to add “near me” to what you’re searching.
Prominence refers to how important Google thinks your business is, which gets factored into the local search algorithm.
In other words, it refers to how well a business stands from the rest in various aspects, including directories, links, reviews, mentions, among other things.
If search engines view your business as trustworthy and credible, they will likely show it on top of related search query results.
The local search algorithm views businesses/brands with a stronger online prominence as credible and trustworthy. Some of the factors that determine prominence include:
A local citation is the mention of a business’s information online. The mention can include the partial or complete name, address, and phone number (NAP) of a local business.
Citations are an excellent way for people to learn about local businesses and impact local search results.
A business with high-quality citations can rank better in local search results, although businesses must continually manage citations to ensure data accuracy.
Backlinks play a crucial role in local business prominence. Gaining relevant backlinks from high-quality sites is an excellent way to build a business’ online reputation.
If you’re trying to outrank your competitors without much success, your backlink profile could be the reason.
In that case, you should check your competitor’s backlinks and compare them with yours. When doing this, pay attention to the number and quality of their backlinks.
As a rule of thumb, aim to have high-quality local backlinks pointing to your site to improve your page’s authority.
Next, you need to pay much attention to reviews to improve local prominence. Many customers look at a business’s online reviews before deciding whether to engage more with the business or not. Besides, many positive online reviews can increase a business’ ranking factors.
Consider this scenario. A potential customer is looking for a pub around Oakville. When they perform a search, they are presented with two results: one with over 100 reviews and another with less than 10 reviews.
Which business do you think the searcher would trust? The one with 100 reviews, obviously.
As with search engines, customers need to trust a business before they decide to do business with it. Similarly, search engines can view online reviews and analyze them to determine a business’s online prominence.
That said, here are strategies you can use to boost your online review signals:
Have a strategy
You won’t have a strong online prominence if your products or services are not of a high standard. So, the first step to having many great reviews is to develop great products and services.
After that, develop a strategy to encourage your happy customers to leave honest but valuable reviews of their experience doing business with you to help boost your online reputation.
Monitor and manage the reviews
Having many reviews is one thing; you need to develop a plan to engage with your customers for better results. Responding to reviews shows people that you care and are genuine about your products and services.
People will avoid businesses that don’t respond to customer reviews (whether positive or negative).
Search engines, too, can tell whether you engage with customer reviews or not and will use the information to determine where to rank on local search results.
When responding to online reviews, pay special attention to negative reviews and how you respond to them. While no business likes getting negative reviews, how you respond to them can positively impact your business — respond positively to turn the negative reviews around.
As earlier stated, Google wants to provide the most relevant results to a local search query. This key ranking factor will determine a business’s position in local search results — how well does a local business match a search query?
Even if your business ticks the above pillars (prominence and proximity), if the content on your page isn’t well structured and doesn’t cover the topics that a searcher is looking for, you won’t appear on top of local search results.
Here are factors that businesses should consider to create a relevant listing:
Local page signals
Local listing categories and attributes
Social posts and responses to online reviews
Local listing signals and categories
A business GMB listing and category can impact its relevance score for local searches. As such, complete your business profile carefully and continually add quality content to the web page to ensure it is relevant for proximity searches.
More specifically, ensure that all information on all listing pages, including Yelp, Bing, and Google, is complete and accurate. Aside from these factors, here are two crucial features you should pay attention to:
Selecting the right categories for your local business listing is among the crucial factors for ranking locally. With over 4000 GMB categories, you want to choose categories that best describe your business — ensure they are relevant and specific.
Here are guidelines to follow when selecting a category:
Describe your business as opposed to your services
Be specific to minimize competition
Reduce the number of GMB categories to describe your business better
Without a proper description, users won’t know what your business is about. This section is about adding an introduction to your business so that customers and search engines can know more about your business.
However, don’t use this section for marketing your business. Just give users and search engines descriptive info that can help determine whether your business matches their needs.
Local page signals
Another way a business can improve its standing in the local search algorithm is by optimizing web pages for specific keywords. For multi-location businesses, it’s essential to have separate, localized pages for each location, with relevant information and contact details for customers to reach you.
Performing competitor research is advisable to determine what terms or keywords to use for a specific query. Here are top on-page signals to consider when trying to gain relevance for a given topic:
Keyword research — Before creating local content, you need to find keywords that matter to your business. Perform keyword research to determine highly relevant keywords with high intent. When finding relevant terms to use in your content, base your research on the customer perspective; think about what they search for and the type of content they are looking for.
Create local content — After finding the right keywords, it’s time to create your content. Google values the quality of content more than the length of the content, so keep this in mind when creating content. Another crucial thing to pay attention to is localizing the content. For example, you can create content on local news and events or use your city’s name within your content.
The goal is to create a connection between what’s happening in your local area and your business. Also, use pictures with your specific geolocation to increase your content relevance.
Creating quality and relevant content is only the start. You need to optimize your content for on-page signals so local search algorithms can discover and rank them better. Here’s how you can optimize your local content for on-page signals:
Meta descriptions — Include keywords in your meta descriptions to encourage searchers to click through and increase visibility
Title tags — Title tags are some of the factors that search engines use to determine where to rank content. Incorporating keywords naturally in your title tags can help boost local rankings
Image tags — Another way to improve local rankings is by including relevant keywords in your image tags. Including geotags also comes with an added advantage
Headings — Users and Google value pages with clear structures. Consider creating headings within your content to capture readers’ attention and encourage them to read on. However, ensure your heading tags describe the content that comes after them well. Also, include keywords in your heading tags to help search engines understand them and their importance.
Off-page local signals
Gaining high-quality backlinks is a great way to boost credibility and trust. Backlinks refer to external links from another website to your site. Aim to have more high-quality backlinks to boost your website authority.
Ideally, having many quality backlinks shows search engines that your website or page is credible and trustworthy, which boosts the chances of ranking it higher in search engine results.
Guest posting is one of the best examples of link-building strategies you can use. Finding great guest posting opportunities provides an excellent opportunity to share your content to a new but relevant audience, which helps boost your website authority.
Another strategy you can use is to create longer and better content than what is already available on the web. When your content is high quality and relevant, it will be easier to get high-quality backlinks.
Review and social signals
Online reviews can also help boost relevance for your local business. Aim to get as many positive reviews from your happy customers as possible.
Remember, when customers perform a local search, they get not only the relevant businesses but also reviews related to the search. The more positive reviews a business has, the higher chances a potential customer will do business with them.
Closing thoughts on the local search algorithm
Ranking on top of local search results can seem daunting, but it shouldn’t when you know the vital things to focus on. As you have seen above, the local algorithm is based on three pillars: relevance, proximity, and prominence.
Of course, other factors determine local search rankings depending on your industry and competition.