The print-on-demand (POD) market generally, and Amazon print-on-demand specifically, has been steadily rising for years, but the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic, improvements in technology, and large-scale shifts in consumer values created a perfect storm that changed the online retail landscape altogether.
Let’s explore why POD is so popular, what the market looks like in 2022, and what the horizon looks like for this expanding ecommerce industry.
After nearly 30 years of existence, digital printing reached a peak in 2021 as a $4.9 billion market with a projected 26.7% compounded annual growth rate (CAGR).
This success is no accident.
It’s the natural result when sellers and buyers are both getting what they want from a market.
POD has always been an ideal market for sellers. It eliminates the need for bulk orders, taking the guesswork out of what items and which designs to stock. It also makes overstock and warehouse fees — two major profit killers — things of the past.
But there was a catch.
Historically, the POD’s convenience came at a premium cost: The money saved on warehousing ended up going toward the higher per-unit cost, leaving profit margins lean. It was often unclear if apparel sellers would be better off ordering screen-printed designs in bulk for a higher potential profit or accepting the lower margins on POD products.
Times have changed, though.
New digital printing technology has resulted in much higher quality products with lower production costs. Not to mention, Amazon streamlining digital services to make it easier for laypeople to become sellers overnight. And, today’s consumers are often willing to pay higher prices for customized, personalized, or unique products.
All things considered, sellers are more and more incentivized to deliver the POD products that the market is clamoring for.
The pandemic shook global commerce to its core. No aspect was left unaffected, including the consumer base, whose changing priorities have influenced their purchasing decisions.
People are more environmentally conscious today, and they’re aware of the “fast fashion” industry’s negative impacts. This is where POD shines.
There’s no overstock to get rid of, and modern printing technology requires around 90% less water and 30% less electricity. Shoppers can even buy eco-friendly items like reusable shopping bags with their favorite designs.
Consumers today are increasingly looking for unique and personalized items, either for themselves or to give as gifts. They want to express themselves with one-off designs that they find meaningful — and they’re often willing to pay more and wait longer for customized products.
The print-on-demand boom has also benefited small businesses. Small runs of branded merch with no minimum order quantities allow these companies to present a professional image and market themselves without breaking the bank.
The first online search spike for print-on-demand happened in early 2020 — and it hasn’t slowed down since. The most popular categories are home decor, drinkware, apparel, and accessories.
Home decor alone is expected to have a CAGR of 27.7% over the next decade. With more people working from home, there’s strong demand to improve and personalize their combination work and living space. In this category, you’ll find mats, cushions, wall art, and more, all eligible for print-on-demand customization.
T-shirts are a perennial apparel stand-out. Beyond funny sentiments and business branding, T-shirts are being used to raise awareness and support social causes. In the age of social media and live streaming, tees send their message straight into people’s eyes — even when the volume is off.
North America unsurprisingly dominates the POD market, and there’s no sign of that changing. Huge consumer demand, a stable economy, a strong technology infrastructure, and a booming manufacturing industry form the foundation for POD success in this region.
But sellers should also pay attention to the Asia Pacific region, which is expected to have the highest growth rate over the next 10 years. As a growing number of people gain access to the internet, online shopping is becoming normalized, which is boosting the market size for print-on-demand. Additionally, several large textile companies entering the market will drive growth to the region.
The POD market boom is due to growing consumer desire being met by eager suppliers. One of the consequences of the Great Resignation is that droves of workers decided to become their own boss.
The POD market helped these workers succeed.
It allowed them to start with minimal costs, avoid expensive overhead like storefronts, and deliver to a global market. With the forecast showing continuous growth, there’s plenty of motivation to join the movement.
The first step? Decide where to sell your goods. The POD market has quite a lot of options, at local, regional, and global scales. Several companies are in the process of mergers and acquisitions, as well, which will change the future landscape.
Amazon Merch on Demand (previously called Merch By Amazon) is a great marketplace for beginners because of its massive, built-in audience. It also offers stellar convenience by handling item sourcing, printing, and shipping. All you need to get started are the designs themselves.
If you want to stay on the cutting edge, keep on top of what’s new. When you can see a burgeoning trend, you can get your winning designs in front of the public before everyone else catches on.
The PrettyMerch toolkit can help. It includes the Trend Finder research tool, which shows you items that spike in popularity, long-standing bestsellers, and newly released designs. It also offers detailed analytics to help you keep track of your business and a product manager to keep all of your listings organized.
The print-on-demand market is on the precipice of continuous growth for the foreseeable future. As technology improves and more of the world comes online, it will continue to take up more shares of the online printing space — and the entire retail market.