Dropshipping Vs Print On Demand: What's The Difference And Which One To Choose

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Are you about to start your own e-Commerce business, but cannot choose between print on demand and dropshipping? Let us help you out then, because we have already done the research for you. All you need to do is keep reading and decide later which of the strategies suits your business idea best. 

Print On Demand And Dropshipping Explained

Both print on demand and dropshipping have multiple perks as well as downsides. Nevertheless, using one of them might be ideal if you are planning to kick-start your own e-Commerce empire. So let’s get to it. 

Print on demand dropshipping explained

1.1 What is print on demand? 

Print-on-Demand (POD) is a printing method that allows a business to sell their custom-made designs online, on a pre-order basis. The goods are not printed until the company receives an order, allowing single or small quantity prints. Print on demand in fact is a type of dropshipping, when the suppliers not just fulfils and ships your orders, but makes it branded and customised with your unique design.

1.2 What is Dropshipping?

The term "Dropshipping" is a type of business strategy where the seller accepts customer orders on a pre-order while not having their own warehouse. At the same time, it means you need a reliable network of suppliers to cover up those orders for you.

Thinking to start your own print-on-demand business, get to know all tips and tricks to be successful from our complete guide on Print on Demand for beginners.

Print On Demand Vs Dropshipping: Key Differences

As you could see, in both models you don’t have to make investment into purchasing the inventory or hiring stuff to manage the orders, both with print on demand and dropshipping you can avoid this hassle. Still there are some differences to consider.

Let’s say, you sell t-shirts. You don’t want to keep a stock, so you find a good dropshipping supplier, choose the t-shirts you like from his catalogue, add them to your website and sell. Your supplier will then ship those t-shirts to your customer after the sale is made. This is dropshipping.

With print-on-demand there is one key difference - you should customise the design, which is usually made through special integrations and apps offered by POD suppliers and then add them to your online store, which is as well done automatically through integration app. Then after the order is made on your website your print-on-demand supplier will first print your design on white label product and then ship it to your customer. 

So customization is the key and most important difference. Though there are some more to consider.

Print on Demand vs Dropshipping

2.1 Level of competition

In fact, POD is a much more advantageous business model if you want to outrun your competitors. When it comes to the dropshipping, it is much harder to compete since the goods you sell are not exclusive to your stores. Most likely there is a good amount of other merchants offering exactly the same products purchased from the same warehouse as yours. With Print on demand, which is branded dropshipping, you get your brand unique identity to stand out and outperform your competitors.

2.2 Product range

As a business strategy, print on demand opens various opportunities for the range of products you can customise and sell later on. It means you can bring into life your own or customer’s designs and put them on literally anything from stationary to clothing. Moreover, thanks to modern printing technology your products will not only be custom-made but will also keep their design colour for a long time. A big disadvantage of POD products is that they have to be printed while dropshipping inventory is already there, ready to be delivered to the customers. Therefore, if you are considering starting a print on demand business, keep in mind that your printing capabilities will be limited by 100- 300 products in the catalogue. In both cases you are dependent upon the offering of the supplier. So, if you want a broader product range you need to collaborate with multiple suppliers, which means dealing as well with various pricing and billing specifics, return policy, etc that might overcomplicate the operational part of the business. 

2.3 Branding opportunities

By no means, print-on-demand products give you lots of space to implement your business ideas. You can easily establish your company’s identity with custom-made designs and logos. When it comes to dropshipping businesses, there is way less room to create a unique brand image to your company as you cannot design your own product or give them a personal touch. While having a strong branding is a key element in this competitive market, it is up to every business to decide whether they want to go this path or not.

2.4 The uniqueness of the products

Linking nicely from the text above, the uniqueness of the products falls more under print-on-demand strategy, as you can easily adjust each product to any event and in whatever style your customer desires. Whereas for dropshipping, each product comes in pre-made design with not much room for adjustment or creativity.

2.5 Inventory and processing times 

Both print on demand and dropshipping require little to no inventory at all, as it is the suppliers that hold all stock. This helps save businesses time and money when it comes to leasing spaces for stock and managing products. Nevertheless, when it comes to POD products it is easier to control the processing times, while for dropshipping it can vary depending on the stock levels in the supplier’s warehouses.  

As it was mentioned above, in print on demand business, your main focus as the owner of an online shop is on brand marketing and design development. As POD supplier is the one responsible for the orders processing, fulfilment and shipping.

2.6 Shipping time and costs

As a general rule, the nearer the fulfilment centre is to the customers, the faster the shipping process will be. Some suppliers have facilities across different countries, making shipping easier and quicker. Nevertheless, sometimes production times can heavily influence the delivery time. While POD supplier needs to take time to create and print your products, the order made with a dropshipping company is already created and ready to be sent right away. It means that even if there are any delays, they will not be major. Whereas with print on demand, you need to take into account production/fulfilment time, required to make your product ready for shipping with printing custom design first.

With Helloprint Create & Sell you can sell globally and count on most competitive shipping rates and fast delivery times, because we have the network of printers in 18 countries and try to fulfil the orders in the location closest to your customer.

2.7 Profit

When it comes to short-term profit margins and ease, dropshipping has the cake. These products go without branding and require less work than print on demand to maintain, which cuts down costs significantly. Meanwhile, print on demand requires time and effort on creating designs or logos. Dropshipping does have a higher profit margin in the short term to generate fast sales and profit, however, print on demand is more sustainable in the long run, with long-term rewards and a more established brand reputation. 

Pros and cons of dropshipping

The pros of Dropshipping: 

  • No inventory
  • Small startup costs
  • Suppliers handle everything
  • Start selling as soon as you open
  • Highly scalable

The cons of Dropshipping:

  • No control over things designs, shipping times 
  • Often can't combine product orders due to different suppliers
  • Quality control issues
  • Refunds can be complicated 
  • Big competition
  • An easy way to get rich mindset

 Pros of Print on Demand:

  • No bulk orders
  • No equipment and inventory is needed
  • Experiment with designs easily 
  • Experiment with different products 
  • Easily customisable 
  • Easy to establish your brand
  • Take advantage of services and resources (like automated integrations, smart pricing algorithms, full orders processing automation, high quality mock-ups, etc).

The Cons of Print on Demand:

  • No control over product quality
  • Dependency on the printing partner
  • Orde delivery takes longer because of fulfilment time
  • Returns are more complicated as the products are customised

Dropshipping vs Print-on-Demand: legal aspects 

Dropshipping legal aspects

So, print on demand vs dropshipping. In terms of legal aspects, both business models have the same setup as any retail business. Your legal entity should be registered, you should comply with legislation and tax rulings. Make sure you make the required analysis in advance. Moreover, it’s good to be transparent with your customers. Be clear as to the fact you don’t manufacture the products yourself and explain the supply chain in a transparent manner. 

Dropshipping with Helloprint Create & Sell

Dropshipping with Helloprint Create & Sell

Helloprint Create & Sell specialises in branded print-on-demand dropshipping, empowering you with various solutions to run ecommerce business without involving into orders processing, fulfilment and shipping. We offer you the curated catalogue of more than 100 sustainable and high quality white label blank products you can customise with your design. Then we print. Pack and deliver to your customers. Consider these benefits:

  1. Design editor for easy products customization
  2. High-quality and sustainable white label products range
  3. Print partners in 18 countries for quick and cheap deliveries
  4. Backed by Helloprint - the world’s biggest marketplace for custom print products
  5. Excellent customer service by real people


What to choose print on demand or dropshipping

So which model  to choose? In regard to an overall winner in dropshipping vs print on demand, we would say there isn't one. It totally depends on what you are looking for out of your business and how you want to reach your goals. If you are more creative and are looking for a brand you can build over time with long-term rewards then print on demand would be the best option to go for given all its pros in regards to those points. 

Whereas if you are looking for a short and fast growth period with a higher profit margin and very fast scalable, then dropshipping would be the best option for you. Either way, they are both very similar startup eCommerce models that have similar results, therefore, buckle in for the ride and get ready to launch your company off the ground and into the sky!


Is Print On Demand The Same As DropShipping?

While Print on Demand and Dropshipping are very similar business models with no inventory and little investment required to start your business, there are some key differences. Dropshipping is a model that allows businesses to sell products already manufactured through a third-party distributor. While print-on-demand implies that your design will be printed on a blank product only when the order is placed. 

What Are The Best Print-On-Demand Products To Sell In 2023?

Print on Demand is making waves through the world of eCommerce, and the list of products you can choose to sell is getting longer by the minute! Here are some of the best Print-On-Demand products to sell in 2023: T-shirts, Hoodies, Mugs, Posters, Stationery and Stickers. 

What Are The Popular Dropshipping Products To Sell In 2023?

Dropshipping had been a popular method of selling to gain growth, but you need to be keeping up with what sells well and what doesn't as it changes like the wind. For 2023 this is what we have seen selling well: Eco-Friendly items, Apparel items, Pet Supplies, Tools and home improvement, Office products and Baby items.

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Passionate about print business, we help entrepreneurs and businesses to turn their ideas into printed products and grow own brands online.

  • Design custom products
  • Sell online without stock
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