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Print on Demand vs Dropshipping: The Ultimate Guide for 2024 – Cyber Armada Hub

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Print on Demand vs dropshipping – which is the better business model? If you’re an entrepreneur looking to start an online business, you’ve probably considered both options. 

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Choosing can be difficult if you don’t know the key differences between these two business models. While similar, each has pros and cons depending on your vision for your eCommerce store.

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This article compares their advantages and disadvantages, difficulty level, branding options, and product customization to help you make the best choice.

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Key Takeaways

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  • Dropshipping and Print on Demand are both profitable, low-risk, and beginner-friendly business models.
  • Both let anyone start an eCommerce business without having inventory, storage space, or shipping responsibilities.
  • Print on Demand is an ideal business model for people who want to sell custom products, like t-shirts and mugs, with their own designs.
  • Dropshipping model is a good option for those who want to start a business quickly without customizing their products.

What is Print on Demand?

Print on Demand (POD) lets anyone start a printing business selling customized products without the hassles of production, inventory, or shipping. Products are only printed once customers order, so you don’t pay for production until then. There are no minimum order quantities, and the Print Provider handles all fulfillment and shipping. 

This business model has very low, if any, startup costs, making it perfect for those wanting to sell unique products without financial risk.

Here’s how Print on Demand works:

  1. Browse print-on-demand companies like Printify and create an account.
  2. Select products and add your own custom designs.
  3. Choose a sales channel.
  4. List the products in your online store and start selling.  
  5. When a customer orders, your Print Provider produces and ships the product to them.



Quick Tip

Visit our blog to learn how to start a print-on-demand business.

What is Dropshipping?

Dropshipping is similar to Print on Demand – you don’t need to worry about production or shipping, and you don’t pay for the product until a customer orders it. However, you don’t have the option to customize your items. 

This is how dropshipping works:

  1. Choose one or several dropshipping suppliers and list products in your online store.
  2. A customer purchases a product from your dropshipping store at the retail price.
  3. Send the information to the dropshipping supplier and pay the wholesale price.
  4. The supplier ships products directly to the customer’s doorstep from their nearest fulfillment center.

Like POD, this business model doesn’t require inventory, but some suppliers may have order minimums or a required monthly sales volume.



Quick Tip

Learn how to start a dropshipping business from our blog.

Here’s a quick overview of the print-on-demand and dropshipping business models.

Print on Demand Dropshipping
Difficulty Level Low to moderate Moderate to high
Inventory Management No inventory management. Suppliers print and ship products as orders come in. No inventory management. Suppliers ship products as orders come in.
Costs No upfront investment in inventory. No upfront investment in inventory.
Product Customization

High level of customization.

Create and sell products with your custom designs.

Very limited or no customization options.
Product Selection and Quality

Large product selection.

Popular items like t-shirts, mugs, socks, stickers, decor, and more.

Quality varies depending on the POD supplier, production processes, and printing methods.

Large product selection.

Get products that aren’t available with POD, like kitchen appliances, office supplies, tools, and sports equipment.

Quality depends on the third-party suppliers and can be challenging to maintain.

Branding Options

Possible to include custom branding on packaging and products.

Easier to create a more personalized customer experience.

Most dropshipping suppliers don’t offer branding options.

More difficult to build your own brand.

Control and Flexibility

Freedom to create and adjust designs and select printing methods.

Easy to add new products, adjust profit margins, and expand a business.

No control over the production process.

No control over product design or quality.

Easy to add new products, adjust profit margins, and expand a business.

No control over the production process.

Competition Less competition because you sell products with custom designs. High competition since other dropshipping sellers will likely offer the same products.
Minimum Order Requirements No order minimums. Some companies have order minimums or require a minimum monthly sales volume.
Shipping Time

Production time is a little longer since every product is created on demand.

Shipping time varies depending on the method and destination.

Fast fulfillment, but shipping speed depends on carrier efficiency and destination.
Profit Margins Depends on the product type, brand’s popularity, design quality, and target market. Depends on product type, competition, and the target market.
Integrations Easy integrations with many online stores. Easy integrations with many online stores.

Print on Demand
Difficulty Level Low to moderate
Inventory Management No inventory management. Suppliers print and ship products as orders come in.
Costs No upfront investment in inventory.
Product Customization High level of customization.

Create and sell products with your custom designs.

Product Selection and Quality

Large product selection.

Popular items like t-shirts, mugs, socks, stickers, decor, and more.

Quality varies depending on the POD supplier, production processes, and printing methods.

Branding Options

Possible to include custom branding on packaging and products.

Easier to create a more personalized customer experience.

Control and Flexibility

Freedom to create and adjust designs and select printing methods.

Easy to add new products, adjust profit margins, and expand a business.

No control over the production process.

Competition Less competition because you sell products with custom designs.
Minimum Order Requirements No order minimums.
Shipping Time

Production time is a little longer since every product is created on demand.

Shipping time varies depending on the method and destination.

Profit Margins Depends on the product type, brand’s popularity, design quality, and target market.
Integrations Easy integrations with many online stores.
Dropshipping
Difficulty Level Moderate to high
Inventory Management No inventory management. Suppliers ship products as orders come in.
Costs No upfront investment in inventory.
Product Customization Very limited or no customization options.
Product Selection and Quality

Large product selection.

Get products that aren’t available with POD, like kitchen appliances, office supplies, tools, and sports equipment.

Quality depends on the third-party suppliers and can be challenging to maintain.

Branding Options

Most dropshipping suppliers don’t offer branding options.

More difficult to build your own brand.

Control and Flexibility

No control over product design or quality.

Easy to add new products, adjust profit margins, and expand a business.

No control over the production process.

Competition High competition since other dropshipping sellers will likely offer the same products.
Minimum Order Requirements Some companies have order minimums or require a minimum monthly sales volume.
Shipping Time Fast fulfillment, but shipping speed depends on carrier efficiency and destination.
Profit Margins Depends on product type, competition, and the target market.
Integrations Easy integrations with many online stores.

Difficulty Level

Print on Demand

Print on Demand makes it easy for anyone to start a business with minimal investment and no shipping or production responsibilities.

Print-on-demand companies like Printify provide seamless integrations with popular sales channels, free design tools, and helpful resources, making starting, managing, and scaling a business easy.

Your success will heavily depend on your designs, niche, marketing strategy, branding, and customer service.

Dropshipping

It’s relatively easy to start dropshipping since there are no upfront investment or order fulfillment responsibilities. However, there are some major downsides.

Cons include difficulty finding reliable dropshipping suppliers, the time it takes to build an online dropshipping store, high competition, and no customization opportunities.

Inventory Management

Print on Demand

With print-on-demand services, you don’t have to worry about production, inventory, or shipping.

When you sell a product from your print-on-demand store, the printing company prints, packages, and ships the order directly to your customer.

Fulfillment times are a bit longer because suppliers only print products as orders come in.

Another drawback is limited control over stock availability, but Printify’s Order Routing feature solves this problem. If your chosen print-on-demand supplier can’t fulfill an order, it will be automatically routed to the nearest, best alternative supplier. 

If a customer’s order can be rerouted to a supplier with a warehouse closer to their address, it’ll lower shipping costs.

Dropshipping

The dropshipping business model also doesn’t require inventory management. Dropshipping suppliers hold an inventory of ready-made products.

When a customer places an order, it’s instantly packaged and shipped, resulting in a shorter fulfillment time.

However, shipping time can be longer depending on the dropshipping suppliers’ location, and delivery delays could pop up.

Stock availability can also be an issue. Since you rely on third-party suppliers to manage inventory, there’s a chance products will go out of stock or get discontinued without notice.

Costs

Print on Demand

Print on Demand has three costs:

Printing costs. You pay for each product when it’s printed. The cost per unit depends on the product type, printing technique, additional customization options, and branding inserts.

Shipping costs. These depend on the print-on-demand supplier’s location, order destination, package weight, and chosen shipping method.

Platform fees. Depending on your chosen sales channel, multiple fees can apply. From listing and shipping to processing fees, monthly subscriptions, and more.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping also has three main costs:

Product costs. Instead of printing costs, dropshipping has product costs. These costs vary based on product type, supplier pricing, and order quantity.

Shipping costs. If your supplier is in a different country than your customer base, shipping costs may be higher and impact the overall profitability of your eCommerce business. Research and compare shipping rates from different suppliers to get the best deal.

Platform fees. Dropshipping platforms or individual suppliers may charge fees for access to their product catalogs and services, like subscription fees, transaction fees, or commission-based charges on each sale.

Product Customization

Print on Demand

Product customization is the biggest bonus of print-on-demand services. It lets entrepreneurs create their own custom products with original designs, making it much easier for their print-on-demand businesses to stand out.

Some POD companies provide free design tools for users to create personalized products.

For example, the Printify Product Creator has features like the AI Image Generator, Text Editor, and Graphics Library, so anyone can quickly create personalized products.

Dropshipping

You can’t customize products unless you partner with a private-label dropshipping supplier. You’ll have to work much harder on marketing and offering high-demand products to stand out from other dropshipping businesses and generate sales.

Product Selection and Quality

Print on Demand

Print-on-demand suppliers usually offer a wide range of products, which may include apparel (t-shirts, hoodies, hats), accessories (phone cases, tote bags, jewelry), and home decor items (posters, pillows, mugs).

Product quality depends on the company and its print providers. Read reviews and order samples before choosing a print-on-demand company to ensure the quality meets your standards.

At Printify, we thoroughly vet our Print Providers to ensure our merchants get the highest quality products, the best prices, and the fastest order fulfillment.

Dropshipping

Many dropshipping services offer products that print-on-demand suppliers don’t, like sports equipment, electronics, kitchen appliances, furniture, and even auto parts.

Dropshipping businesses partner with suppliers whose reliability and product standards vary, so ensuring consistent quality can be challenging. Be sure to order samples to test product quality.

Branding Options

Print on Demand

Most POD companies offer these branding options: 

Custom packaging. Unique packaging increases brand recognition and creates a memorable unboxing experience.

Branded product designs. Placing your logo on neck labels or other areas of your products reinforces brand identity and authenticity.

Custom inserts. Custom packaging inserts, such as thank-you notes or promotional materials, let brands connect more personally with customers.

 

Dropshipping

Although dropshipping gives you less control over product branding, there are other ways to make your online business stand out.

Compelling product listings. Write detailed product descriptions and add eye-catching images that make your products more appealing.

A strong brand identity. Developing a distinct brand identity for your website can increase brand recognition and encourage customer loyalty.

Control and Flexibility

Print on Demand

Print-on-demand businesses are very flexible. You can easily choose products, create and adjust product designs, select printing methods, change suppliers, and add new products to your store.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping also gives you the flexibility to add new products, adjust profit margins, and expand into new markets.

Competition

Print on Demand

Print on Demand empowers you to outshine the competition by creating one-of-a-kind products nobody else has.

Establishing a solid brand and selecting a profitable niche will improve brand recognition, increase profits, and reduce competition.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping can be challenging since many online businesses offer similar products at competitive prices.

Increase your chances of success by creating a solid brand, doing market research, developing an effective marketing strategy, providing excellent customer service, and finding unique products to sell.

Minimum Order Requirements

Print on Demand

There are no minimum order requirements. With Print on Demand, products can be produced in tens and hundreds, matching your or your customer needs.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping suppliers don’t typically have per-order minimums, but some may require a minimum monthly sales volume to have an account.

Shipping Time

Print on Demand

Shipping time differs depending on the carrier and destination. Every product is customized before shipping, so it can take a bit longer for products to be sent.

Dropshipping

While choosing a dropshipping business offers the advantage of quick fulfillment, shipping times vary based on carrier efficiency and the distance between the supplier’s fulfillment centers and the end customer.

Profit Margins

Print on Demand

We recommend a minimum profit margin of 40% to cover the expenses of running your eCommerce business. If you design products people love, you can set it even higher.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping suppliers charge a slight premium compared to general wholesale prices. You have to sell more to make the same amount of money.

The average dropshipping profit margin is between 15% and 20%. However, this really depends on your niche and the average product costs.

Integrations

Print on Demand

POD suppliers usually integrate with eCommerce platforms and marketplaces. This lets sellers easily connect their POD supplier accounts with their own websites on popular sales channels like Shopify, WooCommerce, Walmart, and Etsy.

Dropshipping

Dropshipping companies also offer integrations to streamline the selling process. Sellers can connect their dropshipping stores to suppliers to automate order processing, inventory management, and shipping.

FAQ: Dropshipping vs Print on Demand

Both dropshipping and Print on Demand are profitable business models. However, your success will depend on your product selection, niche, pricing strategy, marketing efforts, and customer service.

Dropshipping and Print on Demand are similar order fulfillment methods, but they have some key differences. 

With Print on Demand, products are created and customized as orders are received. On the other hand, dropshipping typically involves selling existing products from a supplier without customization.

Print on Demand is generally considered a low-risk business model. There’s no risk of unsold stock since products aren’t created or customized until a customer orders.  

However, a successful print-on-demand business requires careful preparation. You need to find a reliable printing company, create original designs, select a profitable niche, and bring your marketing A-game.

Yes, a print-on-demand business is easy to start, scale, and manage. You don’t need to invest in inventory or storage space, and all order fulfillment is handled by your POD supplier.

POD platforms provide seamless integrations with eCommerce platforms and marketplaces, so you don’t have to build your own website. This gives you more time to create designs, improve your advertising skills, and build your brand.

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Conclusion

So, which is better: Print on Demand or dropshipping? There’s no clear winner. It really depends on your business goals and preferences. 

Print on Demand is the way to go if you want to express your creativity and cater to a more specific niche. If customization isn’t your priority, dropshipping may be the better route. 

If done right, they’re both great business models that enable entrepreneurs to start businesses without production, inventory, or shipping responsibilities.

Start a Print-on-Demand Business Today!

Start Selling

The post Print on Demand vs Dropshipping: The Ultimate Guide for 2024 appeared first on Printify.

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