Print on Demand, Print Fulfillment, Dropshipping or ….?

What are the advantages of outsourcing to a digital printing specialist?

We think: Every company should focus on what it does best, because focusing on the core business frees up valuable resources. What do you do best?

We are best at digital printing, preferably personalized from print run 1 with high quality print finishing. And we are also happy to take on downstream and rather unpopular activities such as packaging, picking and shipping. Therefore it is not necessary for fast-growing start-ups, aspiring online shops, creative design artists or established medium-sized companies to hold large stocks of printing supplies, to print yourself, to do the print finish, pick or even ship. All this can be done by experienced digital printing specialists like us.

What is the right approach for your business: Print on Demand, Print Fulfillment or …?

Is only high-quality digital printing using the PRINT ON DEMAND (POD) method required? POD is something special, because printing only takes place when needed, starting with “print run 1”, i.e. from a single piece. These can be completely personalized, e.g. with name, data or color.  

Or should PRINT FULFILLMENT be used to outsource all steps related to your own marketing documents or products?

The technical term “Print Fulfillment” stands for the complete takeover of the processing: from the confirmation of the online order to warehousing (e.g. paper), printing and finishing up to final steps like picking, packaging and dispatch.

Or are no products of your own planned, at least for the time being, and instead DROPSHIPPING (the sale of third-party products, e.g. white label products) is the preferred business model?  
In this article, we take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of methods such as Print on Demand, Print Fulfillment and Dropshipping – and also look at some practical application examples.

Diverse, personalized options: from product to advertising material

Modern digital printing with intelligent automation allows fast printing and dispatch, short runs (from 1) and the highest possible degree of personalization.  

This is of great importance, for example, for advertising, because the targeted personalization of advertising materials can score measurably and demonstrably in marketing. Progress in digital printing is also opening up new opportunities in e-commerce, especially for smaller online shops that initially cannot or do not want to maintain their own stocks (e.g. paper, textiles) or machines (e.g. for printing or finishing) in order to minimize risk. Print on Demand and Print Fulfillment also open up exciting opportunities for artists and designers who want to successfully sell physical products with individual designs, which require little or no initial investment.

Print Fulfillment: the advantages and disadvantages

In Print Fulfillment, in addition to order management, digital printing and finishing, tedious downstream activities such as packaging, picking and dispatch are also taken on.
In Print Fulfillment, in addition to order management, digital printing and finishing, tedious downstream activities such as packaging, picking and dispatch are also taken on.

+ Strengths +

– Possible weaknesses –

High time savings because numerous time-consuming work steps are outsourced to an appropriately qualified partner.

The costs for the takeover of work steps and the investments made in the run-up are passed on by the provider to the prices for the service – it is therefore worth calculating in advance whether Print Fulfillment really pays off.

Noticeable space saving because neither products (e.g. calendars) nor raw materials (e.g. paper, cardboard) need to be stored.

Low postage costs, because Print Fulfillment providers receive attractive discounts thanks to the processing of numerous orders with Swiss Post and other logistics providers.

A manageable set-up fee is due, but these can usually also shoulder start-ups with little volume.

Medium- and long-term cost savings by dispensing with one’s own production and warehousing costs.

Permanent contact person for technical support (e.g. check of print data and questions of color management).

Limited control over details, as the fulfillment partner takes over many steps completely. The better and more experienced the partner is, the less weight this point has.

As a rule, the management of returns is also taken over.

Recommendations for the selection of a partner for Print Fulfillment

Outsourcing via Print Fulfillment is only for companies and entrepreneurs who want to outsource larger sales or volumes – otherwise it simply doesn’t pay off. Since cooperation with a fulfillment service provider is a long-term affair, important questions should be clarified in advance. These include, for example:

  1. How are order and customer data transmitted?
  2. How long does it take to process an order?
  3. Will the management of returns also be handled by the fulfillment provider?
  4. Will the conversion phase from internal production to external Print Fulfillment, which is known to be a demanding one, be managed without errors?

Print on Demand: the advantages and disadvantages

Print on Demand enables personalized digital printing from the first piece (from print run 1).
Print on Demand enables personalized digital printing from the first piece (from print run 1).

+ Strengths +

– Possible weaknesses –

No stock keeping (e.g. products, but also paper, cardboard) required

Low minimum order quantity from 1 piece with transparent printing costs

The management of returns requires more coordination between the contractual partners

No risk, because printing always takes place only after receipt of an order

Slightly longer processing time for jobs, as printing is always on demand

Adaptations (e.g. product variants) and experiments (e.g. fast testing of new products) are possible

No purchase of printing and/or finishing machines

Dependence on reliability and delivery reliability of the printing partner

No maintenance and operation of complex printing presses required

Permanent contact person for technical support (e.g. check of print data and questions of color management)

Low control options for order processing and product quality

Recommendations for selecting a partner for Print on Demand

Print on Demand is also well suited for small businesses and creative “lone warriors” – and even allows quick experiments with new product lines and product variants. But for Print on Demand to really work optimally, smoothly functioning interfaces (APIs) and efficient, modern automation software (e.g. OneFlow) are the most important factors for print service providers. This is what entrepreneurs should pay particular attention to before placing an order. It is also important to have a fast partner for printing so that the order is processed as quickly as possible.

Dropshipping: the advantages and disadvantages

An interesting option in e-commerce is always Dropshipping, which does not require any products of your own.
An interesting option in e-commerce is always Dropshipping, which does not require any products of your own.

+ Strengths +

– Possible weaknesses –

Virtually no investments required, as both production and processing are handled by external companies

No control possibilities over products and workflow, since the complete order processing is taken over by the Dropshipping service provider

It is possible to react very quickly to new product trends, also a very rapid scaling of the product range in the shop is possible

Lower profit margin as no owned products are sold

The high number of Dropshipping providers ensures that a large selection of suitable products is available

More competition, as of course other companies can also sell identical products by Dropshipping.

No time and coordination effort for obligatory tasks such as packaging, shipping, dialogue with suppliers and stock management

Usually no permanent contact person, unless you are working with large volumes that are lucrative for the Dropshipping provider

Very low postage costs, because many Dropshipping providers (e.g. Amazon) are very large and get correspondingly high discounts on mail and parcel services

Recommendations for selecting a Dropshipping Partner

The criteria for selecting the appropriate Dropshipping provider are in principle composed of the selection criteria for Print on Demand and Print Fulfillment. Both hardware and software are important. In addition, of course, there is the quality of the products themselves, because this method does not involve the use of your own products. For these reasons, the “Dropshipping” model is very attractive for beginners but is accompanied by comparatively low profit margins and a low degree of product differentiation, because several companies sell identical products. Additionally, it is difficult to develop one’s own unique selling points, as both the products and the processing are taken over by external companies. In our opinion, Print on Demand with your own personalized products is more worthwhile, at the minimum in the medium term.

Summary for urgent readers, tl; dr / too long, did not read

Small print runs, the personalization of products and advertising materials are becoming simpler, faster and cheaper, thanks to digital printing. Particularly creatively designed products (e.g. calendars, T-shirts) are an excellent way to generate sales, as a single successful design can be sold umpteen times over.  

The risks of stocking, inventory and shipping can, however, be significant.

Methods such as Print on Demand, Dropshipping or Print Fulfillment minimize these risks. Additionally, they eliminate the otherwise necessary investments in machines.

Because it is always better for each company to focus on what it does best, it makes sense to outsource operations such as printing and shipping to experienced professionals like Schätzl print emotion, saving time, costs, staff and capital. This is why we are receiving more and more inquiries in these areas. Depending on your wishes, individual processes (such as Printing on Demand) are taken over by a partnership in Print on Demand. Or entire process chains are outsourced: from incoming orders through production (printing, finishing, processing, binding) to dispatch, as with Print Fulfillment.

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