POD: Selling on demand products without any inventory

Have you heard of Print on Demand?

Last week I spent a few days at the Drew Estate Cigar Factory with my buddy Steve. While we were there, we met some great folks from Houston—all customers of my new favorite cigar store, Stogies.

One of them had a great idea for a t-shirt and merchandise site, but had no technical chops.

“That's no trouble,” I replied.

It's a phrase I use a lot, and sometimes I mean, “that's no trouble for you,” and sometimes I mean, “that's no trouble for me.” The difference, as you can imagine, is huge. If I'm saying it's no trouble for me, it means that I can do it easily but it doesn't mean you can do it easily.

Thankfully, in this case, I meant that with a tiny bit of help, my friend Matt could be on his way.

This is the new space of selling on-demand products without any inventory—known as Print on Demand (POD) and the good news is that Printful makes it easy—with WooCommerce (or Shopify, Gumroad, BigCommerce or other stores).

What is Printful and how does it work?

Printful allows you to have your own site, your own store, and manage it just like you would if you actually managed inventory. Except it takes all of that away.

To use it, you use their Mockup Generator to create an image that you would put into WooCommerce when creating a new product. Once you have that image, you can create a product in your store, use the image, and then sync it with Printful so that you can match it to their inventory (matching size, color, and other attributes).

mockup

Then, when someone places an order on your site, it routes to Printful, who creates and ships your product to your customer. You make money without doing any of the fulfillment work.

Pretty cool, right?

But isn't that offered by tons of other companies too? Yes. But not all of these companies are equal. Some of them require that you sell products on their marketplace site instead of your own, or they only have a limited inventory you can sell (like only t-shirts).

That's where Printful stands apart from the others.

What does Printful allow you to sell?

It turns out that Printful offers a ton of different products, in eight different categories.

products

That's pretty nice, right? Who doesn't want to be able to create products in those categories for their customers. And unlike some of the t-shirt stores I normally use, there are no minimums here, because this is the whole notion of Print on Demand. They only print what is purchased.

How hard is Printful to use?

As Steve, Matt and the rest of our friends sat down to play poker the other night, I grabbed my iPhone and tried to see how much I could do—directly on my phone. And how long it would take.

The result was that I was able to create a new WordPress site at WP Engine in about 3 minutes. I was able to buy a domain name from GoDaddy in another 2 minutes. I was able to download WooCommerce and activate it on my new WordPress site in less than 5 minutes. And from there, it was easy to add the Printful plugin.

I then went over to the Printful site and linked it up to the new store I'd created. And with that, I paused to watch the poker playing.

All in, and I've created a video of the work you'd need to do, you can create a store like this in 20 minutes.

Do you have an example of a Printful store?

Of course, I didn't just play with the technology, I used it myself to create my own store—a t-shirt store—that regularly gets orders. How many and what it's involved? I don't know. Because I don't have to do anything. That's the benefit of print on demand.

I get to sell on demand products without any worries at all. No inventory to manage. No shipping. No fulfillment at all. All because of Printful.

Pretty cool. Check out my t-shirt store. 

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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