10 Criteria To Evaluate A Print-On-Demand Provider
On-demand printing has become one of the most developed dropshipping sectors in the world. As a result, print-on-demand providers are springing up like mushrooms from all around the world. Thousands of providers are waving for you to consider one of them as your long-term partner. Amidst the options, you need to assess them before making any decision on partnering. So, we’re going to prepare yourself a list of 10 evaluation criteria that you can use in order to choose a print-on-demand provider who will be the best fit for your business.
1. Product Range
Print-on-demand products are known as diverse with a large range of product categories due to the growing demand of consumers. Print-on-demand product category includes clothing, accessories, jewelry, home décor, homeware, etc. As a beginner, you are recommended to choose a niche at first. However, once your business grows bigger, you will need to offer different ranges of products in order to keep up your store.
Thus, to save more time for later in the developing process, you should look for a provider that provides a large range of products. Since you will partner with providers in a long term, it is best to import most of their product sources for your business. Be careful in choosing a provider with a large product range, since it should adapt your future plan to grow your business. At the same time, the products they offer need to be qualified and confirmed as high quality.
This is a crucial criterion that needs to be carefully assessed. A good print-on-demand provider will be proud of the product quality that they’re offering because this is one of the things that makes their name go far in the industry. A provider who focuses on product quality will use the most qualified ink and embroidery material to fulfill products.
Furthermore, you need to look at the production resources of the provider, whether it is modern or old. Providers who keep their machines and production line up to date, tend to produce better product quality. Because they see the bigger picture of being modern and up to date with the technology development. Thus, it can help to raise and go further in the industry, which is also the help of favor to you to put trust on these providers.
3. Delivery Time
During the growth of e-commerce due to lockdown, shipping time becomes one of the most crucial factors to gain customer satisfaction. Since people can’t go out to shop for items that they want, they will tend to feel like craving for the items to be delivered within a few days, or sometimes, a few hours. But since we’re talking about print-on-demand services, a few hours are impossible because it needs to include the production time. Normally, total delivery time will be calculated following this formula: Total Delivery Time = Production Time + Shipping Time.
Production time is the time that a product is finished printed out by the manufacturer. This information is normally updated and published on the provider’s official channels. Most providers will inform an average production time for all products range (Printful, Picanova, Printify,…). But there are some providers who update their production weekly to their merchants (CustomCat, Dreamship).
On contrary to the production time, shipping time is depended on the shipping carrier. Regularly, a provider will partner with the shipping carriers to help them in delivering fulfilled products to the customers. Shipping time will fluctuate during holidays. However, normally, your provider and their shipping carrier will try their best to remain stable for the shipping time. If a delay occurs, the provider will be responsible to inform you about the details and resolutions.
You can look for both production and shipping time on the website of the provider. For weekly updates, they will usually inform on their social channels, their custom site, or within their platform.
4. Manufactory Location
Why you should look into this information? Because it will affect the delivery time that I’ve mentioned above. The nearer the manufactory location is, the shorter delivery time can reduce, which means happy customers. To identify a suitable location for your business, you need to determine the market that you want to sell first.
For example, you want to sell your products in the US. It is clear that you should choose a provider that is placed within the US, like Printful, CustomCat, or Dreamship. But if you’re selling in the EU, somewhere within the EU would be a good option, like Picanova. Within Asia, you can choose a provider that is located in China like Yoycol. Though Printify is an exclusive case, since they’re a third-party platform, they have manufacturers connected to them from all around the world.
Nevertheless, I’m not saying that you can’t choose a provider that is located far away. Because there are opportunity costs in here, a provider near you doesn’t mean that its products can be qualified to you. So remember that this is only one of the criteria, we still have 9 other criteria we need to look at when comes to selecting a good provider.
Well, of course, reviews are important. These are the wise knowledge and experiences that those who have been ahead, had gone through.
Within a review, you can check how other customers feel about the product range, product quality, delivery time and other aspects of a provider. Basically, this is where you can look for references, to help you on determining whether the provider you’re aiming to partner is a good one or not. When looking into reviews of one provider, you need to notice the number of reviews and also the average ratings. Number of reviews can give you an assumed number of merchants who are or were partnering with provider. While the average ratings will help you in confirming partially the quality of provider.
You can look up reviews from different channels. Such as, within Shopify, provider usually has an application to connect with the platform. As consequence, on Shopify App Store, you can see all the reviews of the application and also the quality of product within the application page (See example). Besides, you can search more information on Facebook, including both Facebook page and Facebook communities of provider. You can also check their website to see if there are customer testimonials.
6. Demo product
After researching the 5 criteria above, always remember to ask for a demo product from providers. Normally, this request is a basic standard for providers to earn trust from you. So don’t hesitate to ask them for a test one. Using demo product, you can check whether those 5 criteria above are fact or false.
Now, putting yourself in customer position, your request for demo will be processed exactly like how your customer checked out an order. Provider will receive your request, produce it, then send demo product away using shipping carrier. Basically, you will be able to check the quality of product, the delivery time and to see if reviews from other merchants are true.
Since this kind of demo request has become more popular in the industry, if the provider does not support you with this type of request then I suggest you should another provider to work with. Because the reasons that they can’t even support a simple request to allow merchants to check on their product can correspond to 2 things. One, their product quality is below average, or two, they aren’t willing to support you that much. Thus, it won’t be a fair partnership in the long term because you might be damaged and won’t last long in this business industry.
7. Returns and Refund Policy
Next on, we will be checking some customer cases; begining with the returns policy.
While running your business, you might face some cases that customers want to return the products due to many reasons. It can be that they aren’t happy with the product quality, or the delivery time is delayed for too long that they want to cancel order,… Depending on your policy of resolution for customer support, you need to check whether the provider you’ll partner with has a returns policy.
Along with returns policy, you need to check if there’s a refund for customers. Because if customers are in a bad mood, it is you who will take all the responsibility and it’s your reputation that’s being risk. Now, mostly in returns and refund policy, it will have three cases:
- Refund 100% of product value: this is often offered in case it’s provider fault, that product quality is below average, or a misprint, etc.
- Refund partial product value: this is offered in many cases, but mostly in case that it’s customer wish to return it.
- No refund: this happens when customers want to return a perfectly fine product. Or, it happens when customers cancel an order after the order has been fulfilled.
No matter which case, you need to check these policies carefully because it affects not only yourself but also your customer satisfaction. Remember, customers are your highest priority when doing business. Furthermore, these policies are there to help you set your own returns policy for your store since this type of information needs to be clarified and public with your customers to avoid unfortunate misunderstandings.
8. Customer Services
When you’re doing a print-on-demand business, it means that you have a bridge channel to connect customers with your supplier. Thus, whenever your customer needs your support in product after they’ve received it, it is your supplier that you need to contact.
Regularly, once you receive a support request on product, you should instantly contact your provider to resolve the problem within 24 hours. Consequently, your provider should reply promptly to you within 24 hours as well. During the growth of e-commerce, customer service is a crucial factor to gain customer satisfaction. In fact, 50% of customer satisfaction will come from the way you resolve their problems and how quick your support is.
Since this criterion is hard to test, maybe you can just ask them a random question via support to see how quickly they get back a response to you. You can also just ask “How fast are your support services?” and see how many times that they need to respond to that question for you.
9. Industry Experience
Another factor to look at is the seniority of the provider in the industry. A provider that has high seniority tends to have proven its quality and services against other competitors long time ago. Why? Since this industry is growing more than ever, a disqualified provider won’t stand a chance to go against other competitors in the field.
Moreover, a provider with high seniority will understand and handle customers' and merchants' cases easier. Since they’ve gone through many cases in the field, they will know how to resolve and give you more advice in clearing up your issues. Also, an experienced provider tends to adapt to industry changes quickly, which is one of the main factors to survive in the industry. So, if you’re looking for a long-term partnership and consider your business as your main income, it will be better for yourself to choose a provider that has been established long before.
Last criterion is personalization, also called product personalization.
Since personalization is becoming a trend of future on-demand printing industry, you need to check if the provider support and offer personalization in creating product listing. Another way to create personalization is the provider allowing you to print on shirt sleeves, add embroidery or print a brand tag of your store on product.
But don’t worry if your provider doesn’t support product personalization, you can also look for an application or plugin to allow customers to experience the personalization preview while shopping in your store.
The list ends here at 10 criteria that you need to know before choosing a provider. If the provider can meet 8 out of 10 criteria, then congratulations you’ve successfully chosen a good provider for your business. Since the ultimate goal is to run business in the long term, a provider that meets 8 criteria will have the potential to grow further with your store.
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