Print On Demand vs Dropshipping

Print on Demand vs Dropshipping: Deciding the Best E-Commerce Model for Your Business

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Deciding between print on demand vs dropshipping? This concise guide compares the two popular e-commerce models on essential aspects such as cost, customization, and ease of operation to help you determine the right fit for your online business ambitions. Expect a clear-cut analysis without the fluff, tailored to aid your strategic decision-making process in the print on demand vs dropshipping debate.

Key Takeaways

  • Print on demand suits creatives and offers customization leading to unique products and higher prices, while dropshipping is good for trending items and faster to deliver despite less customization.
  • Both models provide low start-up costs and enable scalability without holding inventory, yet they differ in control over product quality, production time, and cost per unit which affects profit margins.
  • Real-world operational challenges for both include finding reliable suppliers, ensuring product quality, and employing effective marketing strategies to differentiate your brand and connect with your target market.

Exploring Print on Demand and Dropshipping: A Comparative Analysis

Comparison of Print on Demand and Dropshipping business models

Print on demand and dropshipping are both prevalent business models each with its own set of benefits. Both allow you to sell products without stocking inventory and with low upfront costs, making it easier for businesses of any size to join the game. However, they have significant differences that can impact your business journey, especially when considering dropshipping and print options.

Print on demand attracts creative entrepreneurs who can consistently generate fresh designs, while dropshipping appeals to those good at spotting trending products. Success in both models requires proficiency in marketing, customer service, market research, and financial management. But how do these models differ in terms of customization and processing times?

Customization holds a prime role in print on demand. You can design unique products that command higher prices and reduce competition. However, because items are made-to-order, processing times could be longer. In contrast, dropshipping vs print on demand offers faster delivery of pre-made products but with less room for customization.

Considering market competition and environmental impact, print on demand gains an upper hand with its product versatility. It also contributes to reducing waste as it only produces what’s needed.

Defining Print on Demand

The print on demand business model is one where products are made to order, eliminating the need for hefty inventory stocks. When a customer places an order, the store owner sends it to the printing company, who processes it and ships the product directly to the customer. This model provides the possibility to customize a broad range of products, from clothing and accessories to wall art and home decor, paving way for selling distinctive items that cater to your target market. As a result, print on demand businesses have become increasingly popular among entrepreneurs, especially when considering the advantages vs print on demand alternatives.

Understanding Dropshipping

Conversely, dropshipping is an ecommerce model where the seller partners with dropshipping companies to fulfill customer orders, eliminating the need for maintaining inventory. In this model, the dropshipping supplier holds inventory, while the retailer’s main role is marketing and advertising. The supplier or manufacturer handles inventory management and shipping for dropshipping businesses.

This translates to decreased concerns about stock management, especially when it comes to stock physical products, and increased emphasis on customer attraction and product sales.

Breaking Down the Pros and Cons of Each Model

Pros and Cons of Print on Demand and Dropshipping

Having grasped the basics of each model, it’s time to analyze their advantages and disadvantages.

This will help you evaluate which model aligns best with your business goals and capabilities.

The Upsides of Print on Demand

Print on demand offers several advantages:

  • It allows for customization, which increases the product’s perceived value, leading to improved profit margins.
  • The low start-up costs, ranging from $43 to $100, make it an accessible option for those starting with a modest budget.
  • Moreover, the uniqueness of your products sets you apart from competitors, giving you an edge in the market.

This, along with the relatively low competition, simplifies market entry for new businesses.

The Downsides of Print on Demand

Nonetheless, print on demand has its own set of drawbacks. Some of these include:

  • The cost structure of producing products only as orders come in may lead to higher per-unit costs
  • The production time could be longer than other models, typically taking 2-5 business days before the products are ready to ship
  • The variety of items and styles might be more limited compared to other ecommerce models

The Benefits of Dropshipping

Conversely, dropshipping comes with a spectrum of benefits. It has low start-up costs due to the elimination of inventory and warehousing needs, freeing you to focus on marketing and customer experience. You can offer a wide range of products without the hassle of holding inventory or managing logistics.

And since you’re not limited by physical location or workforce size, scaling up your dropshipping business can be done quickly and efficiently.

The Drawbacks of Dropshipping

Notwithstanding its benefits, dropshipping presents its own challenges. Some of the drawbacks of this model include:

  • High competition
  • Less control over product quality
  • Potential shipping delays
  • Product quality issues due to mass production

While eliminating the need for physical inventory reduces overhead costs, it is important to be aware of these potential challenges.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing Your E-commerce Path

Factors to consider when choosing E-commerce path

The choice between print on demand and dropshipping goes beyond understanding their functionality and their pros and cons. It’s also about how they align with your profile as an entrepreneur, your business motivations, and the amount of time and effort you’re willing to invest in the project.

It’s time to examine some key factors to consider.

Customization Capabilities

In print on demand, you command customization. You get to design unique products that command higher prices and reduce competition. This freedom to get creative and customize your products makes them unique and personalized. However, dropshipping doesn’t offer as much customization, limiting the personalization options.

Scalability Potential

Both models offer scalability, albeit with distinct limitations. With dropshipping, your growth potential is limited by the products your supplier offers. With print on demand, you have more flexibility to offer custom designs, but scaling up can be challenging, as not all products can be printed.

Profit Margin Possibilities

Profitability is a significant factor to consider for any business model. In print on demand, the customizability of products allows for higher pricing, thereby improving profit margins. However, customized products may have higher per-unit costs, which could mean thinner margins.

In dropshipping, bulk production can lead to better gross profit margins because the cost per unit goes down. But, shipping costs can impact profit margins significantly.

Operational Insights: Fulfillment and Quality Control

Fulfillment and Quality Control in Print on Demand and Dropshipping

Beyond choosing a business model, it’s important to understand how the day-to-day operations work in both print on demand and dropshipping. How are orders fulfilled, and how can you ensure the quality of your products?

Fulfillment Method Differences

Fulfillment methods differ significantly between print on demand and dropshipping. With print on demand, you offer unique, made-to-order products, giving you more control over the production and quality of the final product. With dropshipping, you’re selling pre-made products from a supplier, so product selection is more limited.

Ensuring Product Quality

Quality control is pivotal in both models. In print on demand, ensuring product quality can be challenging due to the nature of on-demand production and dependence on outside vendors for printing.

In contrast, dropshipping requires regular checks to ensure product quality, as the retailer relies on the supplier’s processes.

Navigating Supplier Selection: Print on Demand vs Dropshipping

A significant step in establishing your ecommerce business is the selection of dependable suppliers for your online store. This step can make or break your business, so it’s essential to choose wisely among various online stores.

Finding Reliable Print on Demand Suppliers

Selecting a reliable print on demand supplier is critical, impacting product quality, fulfillment times, and customer satisfaction. When selecting a supplier, consider their location, charges, product and print quality, customer service, integration with your platform, product range, fulfillment and shipping policies, reputation, and scalability.

Choosing the Best Dropshipping Partners

In the context of dropshipping, supplier selection holds equal importance. Consider dropshipping suppliers with a wide product range such as Sunrise Wholesale or AliExpress, and always read customer reviews to gain insights into the supplier’s reliability and product quality.

Marketing Strategies for Print on Demand and Dropshipping Stores

Marketing Strategies for Print on Demand and Dropshipping Stores

Proactive marketing is essential for the success of any ecommerce business, be it print on demand or dropshipping.

Promoting Print on Demand Products

Advertising print on demand products necessitates strategies that emphasize their distinctiveness. Here are some effective ways to market your products:

  • Maximize user-generated content
  • Host interactive Q&A sessions
  • Set clear goals for your campaign
  • Select the best social media platforms
  • Connect with your target audience

These strategies will help you effectively advertise your print on demand products.

Advertising Dropshipping Offers

Advertising dropshipping offers necessitates a diverse strategy. Here are some effective strategies to increase visibility and sales:

  • Running ads with discount codes
  • Using platforms like Facebook and Google ads
  • Planning a customer acquisition funnel
  • Optimizing product descriptions
  • Starting a blog
  • Utilizing email marketing


Choosing between print on demand and dropshipping depends on your unique business goals, resources, and entrepreneurial profile. Both models offer exciting opportunities, but they also present unique challenges. By understanding how each model works, their strengths and weaknesses, and the operational insights, you can make an informed decision that aligns with your business vision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you really make money with print on demand?

Yes, you can definitely make money with print-on-demand by focusing on the right niche, creating high-quality designs, choosing the best POD companies, and implementing effective marketing strategies. It’s absolutely possible to profit from a new print-on-demand store.

Is print on demand risky?

Starting a print-on-demand business is generally low-risk and can be a great option for new entrepreneurs or those seeking a side hustle.

Is print on demand good for beginners?

Yes, print on demand is great for beginners because it allows you to test different products without investing a lot of money in production. This way, you can offer a variety of products and identify the most profitable ones to work with.

Which is better dropshipping or print on demand?

Print on demand is likely the right choice if you want to create a brand with unique products and have some design skills. On the other hand, if you want to enter the market quickly and sell a wide range of products, dropshipping is a good option.

What are some effective marketing strategies for print on demand businesses?

To effectively market your print on demand business, focus on creating top-notch content, optimizing for SEO, carving out a unique niche, utilizing user-generated content, reaching the right audience, and leveraging social media and email marketing. Additionally, fine-tune your store and showcase testimonials and reviews for credibility.

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Cam Morales

Cam is the Founder & CEO of, Bix and EcomUpstart - he built two 7 figure businesses since he started his entrepreneurship journey in 2016. He now helps others launch ecommerce stores and other online businesses.

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