Print-on-Demand Success: Strategies and Realities in 2024

The world of print-on-demand (POD) has undergone significant transformations over the past five years. In an era defined by rapid change, the endurance of the POD community is a testament to its strength.

What can we learn from the last few years and how do we stay ahead so we can continue to succeed in 2024?

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The Evolution of the POD Community

The POD community has flourished over half a decade, thanks to the unwavering commitment of its members. Unlike many entrepreneurial groups in the digital era, this community has adhered to a fundamental principle—honesty. It has rejected the lure of quick fixes, secret formulas, and the allure of overnight success stories. Instead, it has embraced transparency.

Certainly, there are those who have not necessarily followed these ethics, but as with most quick-buck schemes, they fail and the perpetrators move on.

Within this community, there’s no room for extravagant promises or silver bullets. It’s a space where creators confront both the possibilities and challenges inherent in the world of POD. Sometimes, this honesty necessitates uncomfortable conversations, conversations that redirect our peers from fruitless diversions toward the path of sustainable success.

Merch By Amazon is a competitive place, but competition only makes for fertile ground for the best ideas to grow above the others. This is going to be even more important as economic headwinds tighten the marketplace and increase competition.

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The Need for a Tough Conversation

Today, the POD community faces a challenge—an unprecedented crisis of confidence. Complaints are mounting, morale is flagging, and creativity among many POD sellers appears to be stuck in a rut. The messages received in recent times are indicative of this struggle:

  • “My latest designs just aren’t catching on.”
  • “I’m dependent on ads to make sales.”
  • “Amazon seems to be burying my listings.”
  • “Merch By Amazon doesn’t seem as lucrative as it used to be.”

This crisis warrants an honest and robust conversation. However, let’s be clear: the erosion of confidence is, for the most part, unjustified. Here are some essential points to consider:

  1. Managing Expectations: Amazon provides an invaluable platform for POD creators. They handle customer orders, printing, payment processing, shipping, and returns. When our designs fail to sell, it’s unreasonable to lay the blame on Amazon. Amazon’s algorithms prioritize quality, so the responsibility lies with us to create designs that resonate with consumers.
  2. Indexing and Advertising: While it’s true that Amazon faces indexing issues, it’s crucial to recognize that this shouldn’t spell doom for your POD business. Your products are live on Amazon, and if you’ve built a niche-focused brand, you can drive traffic to your listings through various channels, including social media and advertising. Yes, ads can accelerate your sales and rankings, but it’s entirely possible to succeed without them.
  3. Strategic Approach: The landscape of POD has evolved. Success now hinges on quality over quantity. Rather than inundating the platform with a multitude of designs, the focus should be on thoughtful, strategic, and methodical creation. Don’t let tier limitations distract you; prioritize delivering quality over quantity.
  4. Dealing with Copycats: Copycats are a vexing issue, but they shouldn’t consume your attention. While you can’t control which designs get stolen, you can report infringing designs and take appropriate action. Instead of letting the threat of copycats overwhelm you, concentrate on what you can control to mitigate their impact.

Despite the hurdles, the time ahead offers unprecedented opportunities for those looking to establish a thriving POD business – as long as they are willing to put the time into what works:

  • Prioritizing Quality Over Quantity: Quantity no longer guarantees success. Concentrate on producing high-quality designs that resonate with your target audience.
  • Building Social Media Presence: Establishing dedicated social media pages for your top 5–10 niche brands can significantly boost your visibility and sales.
  • Targeting Copycats: Allocate time and resources to address copycat issues. While it’s crucial to report infringing designs, don’t let this issue divert you from your overarching business goals.

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  • Driving Traffic to Listings: Whether through social media or paid advertising, directing traffic to your listings is essential for gaining initial sales, securing reviews, and resolving indexing problems.
  • Managing Expectations: Set realistic expectations for your POD business. While Amazon plays a crucial role, success largely depends on your efforts and the quality of your designs.
  • Understanding Amazon Advertising: Invest time in understanding how Amazon advertising works and how it can be optimized to promote your products effectively.
  • Experimenting with Listing Strategies: Explore different listing strategies to evaluate their impact on indexing and visibility on Amazon.
  • Expanding Beyond Amazon: Diversify your POD reach by exploring other platforms such as Etsy, KDP, and more.
  • Regular Catalog Refresh: Your catalog should evolve with time. Nothing created in 2024 should resemble what was created in 2023. From fonts to aesthetics, keep your portfolio fresh.

What Doesn’t Work:

  • Blaming Amazon for All Sales Challenges: Amazon is not solely responsible for your sales performance. Success depends on various factors, including the quality of your designs and your marketing efforts.
  • Fearing Copycats: While copycats are a concern, letting this fear consume you is counterproductive. Focus on addressing infringements rather than dwelling on the threat.
  • Quantity Over Quality: A vast portfolio of mediocre designs is unlikely to succeed. Concentrate on delivering high-quality, original designs.
  • Declaring the Best Days Are Behind Us: Despite challenges, the potential for growth in the POD business is immense. Don’t let negative attitudes hinder your progress.

In essence, the year ahead presents a unique opportunity to thrive in the POD industry in general, for MBA creators in specific. Success hinges on your ability to adapt, prioritize quality, and embrace the evolving landscape. The potential for growth is substantial, and with the right mindset and strategies, you can navigate this dynamic terrain and achieve the success you aspire to.

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