Print-on-Demand (POD) services have become incredibly popular in the past few years, and with good reason–they’re an incredible revenue stream for merchants without the major risks of investing in an entire retail venture. However, the simplicity does come with a catch. Most POD services are marketplaces where brand identity doesn’t matter. For business owners who want to build and grow a brand, POD marketplaces just don’t make sense.
GearLaunch offers merchants the benefits of POD services that sit behind a custom storefront or, better yet, plug directly into a Shopify store. To help merchants understand how neatly GearLaunch fits into their existing workflows, we’ve created a brief guide to successful POD sales through GearLaunch. Hint: you won’t even notice GearLaunch working smoothly behind the scenes.
1. Connect Your Store
Merchants can use GearLaunch in two ways:
- Launch a custom storefront (a GearLaunch feature).
- Connect an existing Shopify store.
Both options come with GearLaunch’s core end-to-end ecommerce features:
- Wide variety of POD products
- High quality print and fulfillment services
- Industry leading customer support
Once your store is up and running with GearLaunch, you can begin your POD strategy.
A successful campaign is part demand, discovery, and creativity. Conducting the proper research will help you cover all three bases.
Contrary to the popular belief “if you build it, they will come," consumers rarely discover new products simply because the product exists. Instead, retailers meet the consumer halfway by targeting the demands of a specific niche, ensuring the group can find their product through strategic keyword and keyphrases in their product descriptions, and customizing product designs to that group’s needs. The process won’t happen in a day, but here’s how you can get started researching products that work as well as the popular keywords used to describe them:
- Create a list of potential interests and keywords, then go to any POD marketplace and test your list in the search bar. If a word generates multiple results pages, then you’ve got a solid starting point.
- Add the Chrome Amazon DS Quickview extension to your browser. This nifty tool will reveal the BSR (Best Sellers Rank) of Amazon.com pages.
- Create a list of potential interests and keywords, then test the list with Pinterest search results. Use posts with more re-pins for inspiration (“inspiration” does not mean copying someone else’s work.
- Use your list on Google Trends to gauge each topic’s popularity against one another.
Once you’ve established your audience and their interests, put your ideas to paper. While we don’t have much advice on the actual design because they can vary so greatly, we can provide some guidance on how to format and clean up your work:
- Upload only hi-res images (minimum requirements vary based on product).
- For paintings or stencils:
- Erase any pencil marks or mistakes
- Remove the paper background
- Bump up the saturation and adjusting levels
- Adjust your artwork for various templates. Consider the following types and check the GearLaunch designer tool for specific dimensions:
- Square (e.g. tote bags and throw pillows)
- Vertical (e.g. phone cases and posters)
- Horizontal (e.g. pillowcases and flags)
4. Market it
Marketing is more than just running ads. It’s about cultivating a loyal community through regular interaction and engagement and keeping your brand identity consistent. Rather than spread yourself thin across multiple social channels to accomplish this, start with one or two where you know your audience definitely frequents. Check out our quick guide “Which Social Media Site is Best for Your Business?”
Communities take time and effort to build, and things will be slow at first. To supplement your efforts in the meantime, use ads to drive sales.
Your marketing efforts will fall into three buckets: before, during, and after.
Before the item is on sale:
- Build excitement with a sneak peek. This starts conversation early and gives you the opportunity to do behind-the-scenes posts.
- Provide details when when the work will be available.
- Start conversations by asking for your followers’ opinions.
- “What should I create next?”
- “What do you want to see on a mug?”
- “What would you like on a tote bag?”
- Post photos of things that inspire you or align with your brand.
- Make live videos of your editing work.
As the item is on sale:
- Share an "unveiling" post.
- Show the different products your design is available on.
- Use hashtags to draw the attention of potential customers
- Example: Cat-related design = #cats #catlovers #catpics
- Make it easy for visitors to purchase, regardless of the platform.
- Facebook + Twitter: add URLs to your post
- Instagram: Since Instagram posts can’t host links yet, add a bitly or tinyurl to your post. Your profile should also contain your store link or a link to the latest item. Check out our Instagram guide for more tips.
After the item goes on sale:
- Share promo codes and links (make sure you have a reason for running a promo or else you risk cheapening your brand).
- Continue sharing previous works or “throwbacks.”
- Mix up your content:
- Macro shots of your work
- Your products in the real world
- Beautiful and eye-catching photos
- Get influencers to share your work.
- Hypemarket is just one of the place that can get you connected to influencers.
- Try to reach out organically and offer to share your work. Include a personal touch like a handwritten note if you can.
- Re-share the content when someone features your work.
- Experiment with new ways to grow your audience:
- Comment giveaways
- Tagged friends giveaways
- Ask your audience to vote on the next product
5. Track and Analyze
Even though GearLaunch virtually removes the hassles of inventory, understanding your sales history can still help your business grow.
- Track what’s selling well and create more related work.
- Be proactive by creating holiday calendars. You’ll know exactly when you need to start creating themed products and promotions.
- Look for spikes in sales around specific events so you know which ones are worth investing more time into.