“The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller.” — Steve Jobs
💎 Why it Matters
Trust is hard to build. But easy to monetize.
Print-on-Demand is one of many ways that creators monetize trust.
Storing goods leads to inventory risk. To free up space, you can wait to sell items, discount or discard them. Leading to capital inefficiencies.
Print-on-Demand follows a “pull manufacturing” model. Goods are bought before they are made. Minimizing market risk and inventory risk while increasing capital efficiency.
- Indie Hackers • Shirts
- Bad Unicorn • Hoodies and shirts
- Visualize Value • Hats, mugs, shirts
- Unspun • Custom-fit, made to order jeans
- Printful • Create and sell custom items
- Printify • Make and sell custom products
- Redbubble • Make specialized gifts
- Kindle Direct Publishing • Self-publish paperbacks and eBooks
- Cotton Bureau • Merch for designers and communities
- Xometry • Network of on-demand manufacturers
- Hubs • Upload CAD files, have parts sourced and shipped to you
- Etsy • Marketplace for unique and creative goods
- Shapeways • Product development and manufacturing platform
- Local manufacturing will become more common. On-demand manufacturing is paired with automation advances. Lower labor costs leads to more locally produced goods.
- Long-tail items will become more accessible. Small production runs have high unit costs. Price and production size are no longer tradeoffs. Only one person needs to be incentivized to make a CAD file that can be produced from anywhere by anyone.
- Tailored clothing will become more accessible. See unspun.
- Build trust. Brand is a powerful moat. Operations and fulfilment can be commoditized. Trust can’t. Printful users have varying levels of success due to varying levels of trust.
- Embed yourself in a marketplace to validate ideas. See Etsy and Amazon. This leads to platform risk but mitigates market risk. Which matters more at first? You can move to Shopify later. Which carries another form of platform risk.
- Use swag to capture mindshare. MicroAcquire gave Founder Summit attendees free hats. We became walking billboards for the marketplace.
- Presell to reduce market risk. This extends to SaaS and conferences. Validate demand before building to save time and money. See our report on presales.
- Platform Risk • Etsy and Amazon own your top of funnel if you work with them. Manufacturing or shipping delays from Printful may harm your brand.
- Brand Dilution • Expanding into too many categories for quick money can lead to short-term gains and long-term losses. Audiences sense authenticity and cash grabs.
🔑 Key Lessons
- Value accrues to storytellers. Stories imbue commodities with emotion and boost perceived value.
- Competing on scale effects is a race to the bottom. Stories are non-fungible. Feature parity exists. Not brand parity.
“Mass production is cheaper than on-demand manufacturing.”
In some cases. But… You may make one million widgets that no one wants. Print-on-Demand helps you mitigate market risk. And makes it affordable to produce long-tail items.
“Print-on-Demand is not new.”
Trends.vc doesn’t focus on what’s new. We focus on what matters. As a creator, you have more options than ever to monetize. Print-on-Demand is one of many options.
“Anyone can copy my design.”
The best brands have copycats. Yet they still succeed.
- The Pros & Cons of the Print On Demand Business Model • On the pros and cons of print-on-demand businesses.
- It’s a 3D World • 3D printing beyond plastics.
- 3D Printing Is Changing the World • The future of 3D printing body parts.
📁 Related Reports
- Audience-First Products • Trust is one of the most valuable parts of value chains.
- The Creator Economy • Merch is one of many ways creators monetize.
- Personal Brands • Personal branding is core to lots of print-on-demand businesses.
- Presales • Print-on-Demand is inherently a presales model.
- Drop Culture • Scarcity leads to urgency and increased demand.
Thanks to Stewart Townsend (Podcast Hawk), Prachi Sikaria (Nutero), David Horne (Calm Capital), Michell Clark (The Creative Summer Company), Neeraj Hirani, Logan Johnson, Yarty Kim (A4E), Natwar Maheshwari (Engineering Brew), Mahek Mody (React Labs) and Andrew Swiler (Sponsor Fund). We had a great time jamming on this report.
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📈 What else?
Trends PRO #0074 — Print-on-Demand has more insights.
What you’ll get:
- 11 Brands (175% More)
- 16 Print-on-Demand Companies (220% More)
- 11 Marketplaces (175% More)
- 7 Predictions (133% More)
- 9 Opportunities (125% More)
- 4 Key Lessons (100% More)
- 10 Links (233% More)
- 16-minute audio episode with exclusive Print-on-Demand stories, insights and opportunities.
With Trends Pro you’ll learn:
- (📈 Pro) How to build a brand?
- (📈 Pro) How to validate products fast?
- (📈 Pro) Who earned $100,000+ from licensing designs?
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- (📈 Pro) How do NFTs and print-on-demand join forces?
- (📈 Pro) What are the benefits of specialization?
- (📈 Pro) How to limit inventory risk?
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- and much more…