Print On Demand

Print on Demand vs Drop Shipping

Written by Jason Groom
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Originally published
March 26 2020,
April 10 2021

Dropshipping and print on demand have a lot in common. They’re both ecommerce business models, neither requires you to hold or manage stock, and each is a great option for beginning entrepreneurs.

With Coronavirus pandemic, we’ve seen supply chains in all areas of business come to a halt, and many companies close but does that need to be the case. Print on Demand and Drop Shipping changes how you operate and can keep you open, local, global and keep customers happy 24/7.


What is Drop Shipping?

Drop Shipping requires you to form multiple partnerships with wholesalers whose products you then sell on your website. When a customer places an order, you pass the details on to the relevant wholesaler, and they pick, pack and ship the product directly to the customer. It’s an effective and more efficient way of supplying your customers with the products that they want, without you having to handle or store the items, cutting out wasted time, effort and costs.


What is Print on Demand?

The Print on Demand (POD) model works in a similar way to Drop Shipping, where you only need to order what your customers request. Where the models differ is that with POD, you create a partnership with a printer who will finish the product with your design at the time it is ordered. Printing what you need, when you need it

Some confusion between the two can arise when you see printing companies who offer direct shipping on your behalf too. In these situations, consider the products you order (as the business) are a standardised version in which case it will be Drop Shipping, or they will be finished with your specific design requirements before being sent to the customer and is therefore Print on Demand.


Which should I use for my ecommerce business? 

The answer to this question will depend on your business objectives. Neither model is superior to the other, but the differences between them mean that they enable you to offer an entirely different experience and product to your customers.

Both models are great for business who are just starting as they don’t require you to buy more stock than you need at any one time or arrange for the storage of it. They also both ensure that you don’t have to manage a complicated supply chain as you would if you were manufacturing the products yourself.

These benefits combine to give you the flexibility to test out new products as often as you wish and react to your market’s demands – without putting any capital at risk.

As mentioned above the main difference between the two models, especially with those printers who offer an all-inclusive Print on Demand service, is the fact that print on demand allows you to have your design printed onto the products before they are sent to the customer. The critical thing to note here is that this design doesn’t have to be the same for each product – you can offer customers a range of designs to choose from, or even enable them to personalise the design and make it unique to them.


What are the pitfalls I need to look out for?  

As with anything, there are potential negatives for each model to bear in mind when making your decision.

With Drop Shipping, you are effectively buying “off the shelf”, you are giving up some of the control over the quality of the products and the fulfilment process. It can also mean smaller profit margins as you are buying finished products and can be at the mercy of the wholesaler with regards to which shipping method is used. There is also the possibility that you end up having to manage relationships with a large number of wholesalers to provide the range of products that you wish to.

The main thing to be aware of with Print on Demand is the time that it takes from when the customer places their order, to the time it lands on their doormat is going to be longer than with Drop Shipping. It is the price that you pay for being able to offer unique and personalised products to your customers. 


If you’re still unsure which to go for this chart is an easy way to see what each model can (and can’t) do, so you can see which is the best fit for your business:

  Print on Demand Drop Shipping
Personalised / Customised Products YES NO
Ability to Offer Unique Products  YES NO
Design Control over Product YES NO
Design Experiments on Product YES NO
Easy to add new Products  YES YES
Can Easily Adapt Catalogue to Market Demand  YES YES
Inventory Needed NO NO
Potential for Stock Shortages NO YES
Ecommerce Integration YES YES
Automated Ordering YES YES
Fulfilment & Delivery Direct to Customer YES YES
Can Add Business Brand YES NO


If you decide Print on Demand is the route for you, get in touch with a member of our team today to discover how we can make your life easy while delivering the highest quality goods every time. 

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