What is print on demand?

Discover what print on demand is and whether this eCommerce business model is right for you. We unpack the benefits of print on demand, plus some important things to consider.
· 15 March 2024 · 5 minute read

Defining print on demand

Many small businesses in Australia are finding eCommerce success through innovative business models. In the ever-evolving landscape of eCommerce, print on demand, commonly referred to as POD, has emerged as a game changer.

Print on demand is a manufacturing and fulfilment method, in which products are created only when an order is placed. Unlike more traditional methods that can involve bulk manufacturing, POD offers an alternative solution, which allows businesses to customise or print individual products.

Similar to the retail fulfilment method called dropshipping, POD helps to eliminate the requirement for big upfront investments in inventory. Plus, removes the need for warehousing management. Instead, you can work with a print provider to produce and send out products featuring your designs as orders come through. Think customised apparel, accessories, home decor, stationary and even phone covers.


The print on demand landscape

Print on demand is growing in popularity on a worldwide scale. According to Straights Research, the print on demand market is projected to reach USD 45.6 billion by 2031, with the Asia Pacific region being named as the fastest growing global market.

Print on demand can help offer an opportunity for small businesses wanting to compete in markets traditionally dominated by larger players. As products are only produced once a customer places an order, this method can also offer greater customisation and flexibility. Your small business can also uniquely tailor designs to meet specific or changing customer demands.

Read on to explore how POD can reshape the way small businesses approach production and distribution. And consider if this business method may be right for you.


Considering whether print on demand is right for you

When evaluating the suitability of POD for your small businesses, it's important to weigh up the benefits. And where potential limitations may arise. This will help you make informed decisions so you can harness the potential of on demand printing.

Read on to explore some of the benefits of this eCommerce business model. Plus, some important things to consider.


Benefits of print on demand

Speedy product creation

Print on demand companies can operate swiftly thanks to efficient digital processes and printing technologies. They receive orders, transmit the designs directly to the printers and quickly produce products without the need for large inventories. Collaboration with reliable and efficient printing partners can help minimise shipping times. Plus, help businesses meet their customer demands.

Low initial investment

Print on demand companies generally require a low initial upfront investment. This is because they don't need to stock inventory or set up extensive production facilities. As a result, this can be a great option for entrepreneurs ready to dive into the eCommerce space. Business owners can test new markets or products more easily, which can help foster innovation.


Print on demand can help offer flexibility by allowing businesses to create and customise products based on current market trends and customer preferences. With POD, there's no need to maintain a large inventory of specific designs, as products are produced on demand. This flexibility can help enable businesses to adapt quickly to changes in customer preferences and respond promptly to customer feedback.


The POD business model can help enable scalability. This is because businesses can expand their business operations without the need for significant upfront investments. Since production is based on demand, there's no limit to the number of products that can be offered. As sales grow, POD businesses can increase production capacity by leveraging their network of printing partners or investing in additional resources as needed. This scalability allows businesses to seize growth opportunities. And minimise some of the risks associated with overproduction or excess inventory.

Global Reach

With POD, businesses can access a global customer base. Partnerships with printing facilities worldwide and integration with international shipping services, can help businesses fulfill orders efficiently, regardless of location. This global reach can help open up new markets and revenue streams and allow businesses to tap into diverse consumer demographics.


Things to consider

Lower profit margins

The print on demand business model can sometimes lead to lower profit margins. This is because it generally costs more to produce items individually compared to purchasing items in bulk. As a result, this higher production cost can eat into your profits margins.

Dependency on partners

When you have less control over product quality and shipping, there's a risk of delays or mishaps that could lead to a bad customer experience outside your control. Typically, the print on demand business model relies heavily on third-party suppliers or printers. Shipping delays or receiving items in poor condition can disappoint customers and damage your brand reputation. And customers may be less likely to return if they have a bad experience. Therefore partnering with reliable suppliers is an important part of your POD business operations.

Longer turnaround times

When you buy inventory in bulk, your products are made before an order comes in. You have the products on hand and ready to go. This means you can often process and ship faster. Print on demand products are made after an order comes through, which can lead to extra time for processing and fulfilling the order.

Print on demand presents a dynamic opportunity for small businesses wanting to thrive in the eCommerce landscape. It can offer flexible, customisable, scalable and globally accessible solutions, that can help empower entrepreneurs to adapt swiftly to market trends and customer demands. With minimal upfront investment, businesses can explore new ideas, experiment with product offering and expand their reach, without having to worry about inventory management.

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