Dropshipping VS Print On Demand: Which is Better?
Any beginner marketer about to embark with eCommerce and build their own store will know that there are 2 highly popular ways one can go with this business model:
- Print on Demand (POD)
There’s often a lot of debate on which method is better with some praising dropshipping while others say that print on demand is a more reliable long-term option.
The truth is that neither is better than the other. What matters is that you choose one that works for you. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Which model you choose will depend on your experience, preferences, budget, and several other variables. In this article, we’ll analyze the pros and cons of both dropshipping and POD so that you can make an informed decision.
Pros and Cons of Dropshipping
If you’re a beginner, dropshipping will probably seem like the easier option – and it is.
The business model is simple. When someone orders a product and pays you, you’ll use a portion of that money to pay the dropshipper to deliver the product – and you’ll pocket the difference.
There’s a period of trial and error where you’ll advertise and promote different products until you ultimately find a winning product. (This trial and error phase will also apply to print on-demand products where you need to find a design that resonates with your audience and sells.)
If your advertisements convert well, you’ll be able to cover your advertising costs easily and generate an attractive profit.
With dropshipping, you’ll have a WIDE variety of products that you can promote. Very often, marketers use sites like AliExpress.com to find products that they can dropship.
Since the products are already manufactured and waiting to be shipped, dropshipping is definitely faster than POD which will require you to create designs, graphics, etc. from scratch.
Dropshipping is also cheaper because you won’t need to pay a designer. There’s no cash outlay on your end when it comes to product creation.
You’ll often notice that products sold with dropshipping tend to address people’s needs. For example, posture correctors, support pillows, sticky tape, etc. These products are useful and help to solve problems. That makes them a relatively easy sell.
However, dropshipping does have its cons.
The biggest headache that marketers will deal with is the shipping time. Shipping products from China to the US does take time.
Even if the ePacket delivery times are relatively fast, it’s still not as fast as shipping from the US, like what most POD companies do.
While you could find dropshippers in the US, the profit margins will generally not be as attractive.
Another point to note is that the quality of the products may be questionable. Inferior quality products can be sent by dodgy dropshippers to boost their profits, and you’ll be none the wiser unless you order a product for yourself and check on the quality.
There’s also a high level of competition when it comes to dropshipping.
The low barriers to entry make this business model appealing to many. So you’ll be competing with a lot more marketers – not to mention, sometimes even the product suppliers in China are advertising and competing with you.
Another point that’s not often mentioned is that dropshipping is not exactly a transparent process. The customer usually doesn’t know that the vendor is not the creator of the product and that it’s manufactured and sent by another company.
While the business model is legit and legal, there’s no denying that many customers would balk if they knew they could get the product for dirt cheap prices on AliExpress.
Some may not even want to be buying products from China. This is one of the ‘darker’ downsides to dropshipping.
Pros and Cons of Print On Demand (POD)
The POD model is simple. You’ll create attractive graphics/quotes/designs and upload them to print on demand sites such as Custom Cat, Printify, Printful, etc.
These designs can be printed on hats, t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, stickers, phone accessories, tote bags, and much more. POD companies offer hundreds of options which you will want to look at.
Despite the wide variety with POD, the product options you have will pale in comparison to dropshipping products. However, branding-wise, you’ll be leap years ahead.
Since your designs will be proprietary and can only be used by you, competition will no longer be an issue. This is EXCELLENT for branding. If someone tries to rip off your product, you can always use legal avenues to get them to stop their deceitful shenanigans.
If you looked at the products sold with POD, you’d realize that most of these products don’t really solve any problems. You’ll rarely if ever find a neck collar/brace that relieves neck aches that’s sold with POD. However, you’d find tons of such products with dropshipping.
What does this mean?
It means that POD products appeal to people’s emotions. People buy t-shirts, hoodies, etc. that have designs which appeal to their passions. Beer drinkers will buy shirts with cool beer quotes.
Republicans will buy hats that have quotes such as ‘MAGA’ embroidered on it. Christians will buy wall art that have bible verses printed on them.
These are interests and things that people are passionate about. That’s what drives sales with print on demand. So you must be aware of how you market to different audiences. You can’t and should not take the same approach.
The POD model takes more time than dropshipping for it to work, but is generally more stable and has higher longevity. You’ll also need to spend money hiring graphic designers to create attractive designs for you unless you’re designing it all yourself.
One fantastic benefit of POD - shipping is much faster since most POD companies are based in the US.
So which method do you choose?
If you’re a beginner looking for an ecommerce business model that’s low cost, flexible and fast – dropshipping is the way to go.
If you’ve got some experience with ecommerce and prefer to focus on branding yourself from the get-go and have some capital to spare – POD is the model for you.
That said, you can have a ‘flex store’ where you have both POD products and dropshipping products available. They’re not mutually exclusive – you can sell both types of products just as well from the same store.
So, don’t pigeonhole yourself too quickly. Test out both models and see which one you like. Both methods work and work well, if you can work them.
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