Why read this? : We share highlights from our research when we were looking for a Print on Demand supplier. Learn why we picked the ones we did, and why other T-shirt suppliers weren’t such a good fit. Read this for ideas on how to find a Print on Demand supplier.
We’ve rolled out some new designs. And we spent time improving the front end of the shop.
It’s now set up via WooCommerce and WordPress, so we control the look and feel. It’s only the back-end which still links to Print on Demand suppliers. And we’ve got plans on how to improve that too.
But other parts of our business have taken a bigger priority recently. So our shop is in a “good enough for now” holding pattern.
We have a plan to take the shop to another level, but it’s still a little way off.
For this week’s post, we wanted to at least keep Print on Demand suppliers on the radar. So, we’re building on one of our first lessons when we set the shop up, which was testing the order to delivery model.
Print on Demand suppliers are an interesting e-Commerce channel opportunity you should review as part of your e-Commerce planning. Businesses with strong brands can make money selling branded merchandise. It’s a relatively risk-free way to build brand identity and drive e-Commerce growth.
However, it’s not easy. You need e-Commerce capability to find the right suppliers. So, we dug out our research into Print on Demand supplier options when we launched our store. We thought it’d help to share our thoughts on finding and deciding which Print on Demand supplier to use.
Print on Demand supplier research context
First, it’s surprising how much choice there is. And in fact, we’re sure we haven’t got all of them here. But when you are trying to find a Print on Demand supplier, you have to draw a line somewhere. And these 11 suppliers give us a pretty decent “long list” of options. We currently work with 4 of them. So, we’ll look at those first, and share why we chose them.
We first came across Redbubble because they’re originally Australian, and that’s where we’re based. Though they still have offices here, it seems they’re more of a US / European business these days. That’s where their products ship from.
We picked them because we liked the creative style the site has.
Also, the margin they offered on sales was relatively generous at around 20% of the RSP (though you can adjust it).
Their system to upload images and create mock-ups is easy to use.
There are a few quirks, like choosing which colours appear by default when you set your store-front up. But that aside, it’s easy to work with.
Its shipping within the US is relatively fast and cheap. On a $30 T-shirt, it’s US$6.50 to be delivered in 10-14 days, with express options from around US$12.
But shipping overseas is expensive. The same T-shirt would be AUD$32.15 for delivery on top of the $30 cost, though it’d arrive in a similar time frame to the US orders. The express option is a few dollars more to arrive a few days earlier.
So, overall good if you want to sell in the US. But, a struggle if you want to sell in Australia, as your designs have to be good enough to justify the extra delivery cost.
Spreadshirt was next up, and overall, we found it similar to 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 those we looked at.
We particularly like the fact you could “paste” your Spreadshirt shop directly into your WordPress site using an API.
This makes it look like the shopfront is part of your site, rather than part of Spreadshirt. This gives you more control over what your target audience sees. That’s a good thing.
On the less positive side, like Redbubble, it’s much better for US orders as that’s where they ship from. For Australian orders, there’s 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 order date. 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 they don’t deliver from Australia. That’s not so good if you’re in Australia.
Zazzle was in our second tier of choices to work with. It offers a broader range of Print on Demand goods. T-shirts are only part of what they do. And their margins are less than Redbubble and Spreadshirt.
Zazzle’s user interface and design isn’t as easy to use as Redbubble or Spreadshirt. Not impossible by any means. But definitely more fiddly.
It’s also harder to link your site to their site. It’s more like a marketplace model.
Nonetheless, their delivery options to Australia were competitive. A $7.50 option for 10-18 days delivery, a $12 option for 6-9 days, and $23.75 for 3-5 business days. From a pure order to delivery point of view, they have an edge on Redbubble and Spreadshirt.
Similarly to Zazzle, Society6 offers a wider range of merchandise. It has a much more “artistic” focus. Again, its margins were lower than Redbubble or Spreadshirt. And the user interface to upload and manage designs and your “shop” is fiddly. Not impossible, but very 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. There are no express or tracking options.
Our judgement on 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. Their order to delivery options are good for that market.
But for Australia-based online shopping, their delivery systems aren’t great.
Zazzle and Society 6 give you options to put your designs on far more different types of merchandise. And their delivery options to Australia, while not exactly fast, are at least good value.
But 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 isn’t 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 the real focus for Bonfire is on charity and community-based selling. And you have to commit to setting sales goals for what you sell.
Given the 4 suppliers we use 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 with Print on Demand, as one of the advantages is usually no commitment to hold and manage stock.
We’re on the TeeSpring mailing list, but that’s about as far as we got with them as like Bonfire, you had to set and meet a sales commitment to use them. Their delivery options also seem slower than competitors. And their user experience in setting up and uploading designs wasn’t great.
Teepublic did at least seem to offer good margins, at 11%-30%. We got as far as setting up an account. However, if you do search it out, you’ll find there are only currently 2 (not great) products to choose from.
We found the upload and usability of the site not great. And it didn’t add much different to the suppliers we’d already chosen.
Plus, they often run major price promotions (like 50% off). So those attractive margins aren’t as great when your earnings get cut by the promotion percentage. (See also our price discounts article for more on this).
Again, we have an account with Threadless. We’re on their mailing list and they offer decent margins. But, like Teepublic they run deep price promotions. So, as we write, all tees are $18, for example. That might be good for shoppers. But it’s not great for designer fees.
Their upload system was also challenging. So much so that we started but never finished it. Not a great sign. You want a system that’s easy to use.
Viralstyle publish a training video on Udemy on how to set up and work with them. Interesting. Although the fact, the guy they use poses with a BMW in front of a flash house gives off all the wrong vibes. The training video was OK by the way, once you get past that bad 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 parked this one.
Teefury and Designed By Humans
Teefury and Designed By Humans were a little different from the rest. For a start, you couldn’t directly publish your design and sell it. You submit your artwork to them. They only publish and sell the best ones.
From a shopper’s point of view, this raises the quality of designs you can buy. But it means you have no control over your designs. You hand over your design to someone else to sell.
Printful was also different. It’s more of a back-end connectivity platform for Print on Demand suppliers. You set up the front end of your store yourself 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’ll reconsider for the future.
It’s also worth checking out Best Fulfill’s review of Printful (along with 14 other Print on Demand suppliers we’ve not covered here) to find it more.
Conclusion - Print on Demand Supplier Research
So, what’s our conclusion after looking at all these Print on Demand suppliers?
For us, the real challenge is there are so many options. You can’t work with them all.
You need to factor in what matters to you and your customers. There’s a combination of usability and design flexibility, plus back-end shipping logistics and delivery costs you need to work out.
It’s a process of trial and error to find the right Print Demand supplier.
We’ve yet to find the Print on Demand supplier who nails every point. But, for where our business is now, the ones we work with feel right. If and when something changes with that, we’ll let you know.