No print on demand sales?
Or maybe you’re not seeing the income you’d like from POD, and don’t know how to increase it?
You’ve come to the right place.
As a beginner seller it can be easy to overcomplicate the process of making sales, and become overwhelmed by all the advice from more experienced sellers.
In this article I will break down fundamental principles underlying POD sales strategy, which isn’t much different from any other eCommerce business.
Then I’ll be giving you my step-by-step strategy that makes me daily sales across multiple platforms.
The ONLY 2 Reasons You’re Not Selling
Let’s think about what a customer must do to make a purchase. Bare basics.
- They see a listing.
- They decide that listing is worth spending their money on.
SEO, great design, low competition niches, trending topics, promotion etc. and all the other things you’ve heard of will help.
But don’t blame lack of sales on any of these things in isolation.
The only 2 reasons you aren’t making sales are:
- Low traffic: customers are not seeing your listing – they don’t even know your product exists.
- Low conversion: If they do see your listing, they are choosing not to buy it.
Conversion rate = (number of conversions or sales/total unique visitors) x 100
You can calculate a conversion rate for your overall store and also for individual listings.
How Much Traffic Is Realistic?
Lack of traffic is the main problem for most new sellers.
A question I’m often asked is: ‘how many designs should I upload before I start to see sales‘?.
If you’re a celebrity, one upload and a social media plug will get you sales. The real question we should be asking is: ‘how much traffic should we expect to generate sales?“
To figure this out, we can work backwards from known conversion rates.
Average eCommerce conversion rates are 1-2%.
Therefore, we should expect 1-2 sales every 100 unique visitors to our stores.
This is an accurate figure for most of my online stores, and even other ventures such as affiliate marketing sales.
This is also much lower compared to that of brick-and-mortar businesses which average 20-40% conversion! This is because there is so much competition online vs physical location stores.
But don’t expect to get a sale as soon as you hit 100 visitors.
Typically, it’s harder to make that first sale for many reasons, including the fact that POD websites don’t rank new sellers very well. General lack of experience means your conversion rate will probably be lower than expected.
Make sure to use Google Analytics to monitor your store traffic.
From experience, you should expect your first sale anywhere from 500-1000 unique visitors.
Once you start making more sales, you’ll be able to calculate your conversion rate using the formula above.
How Can You Increase Traffic In A Timely Manner?
You can sell anything if you have a million unique visitors, but that’s not realistic for most of us who don’t have a pre-existing audience.
Techniques for increasing traffic are often platform specific, so research the best way to use these for your platform e.g. using Bubble Trends for Redbubble, using Merch Informer for Merch by Amazon.
Here are some ways to increase traffic to your POD stores:
- Improving SEO (Search Engine Optimization) by including keywords people are likely to search for in your listing titles, tags and descriptions and positioning them strategically each website has its own nuances – it’s important to understand your platform’s SEO best practices).
- Designing for low competition and high demand niches. This increases your chance of getting onto the first page for keywords that people are actually searching for. You can find and validate these niches with research tools.
- Free organic social media traffic such as Instagram (creating posts with hashtags then redirecting to link in bio), Pinterest, Twitter etc.
- Paid traffic such as Facebook ads, Instagram ads
- Analysing your data to determine which keywords, listings and techniques generate you the most traffic, then repeating this. For example, in my Etsy dashboard I can see which keywords have generated me the most traffic in a given period of time.
Is Free Social Media Promotion Worth The Effort?
Compared to organic marketplace visitors, visitors from free social media traffic are usually less likely to convert because they lack pre-existing buyer intent.
Buying intent, also known as buyer and purchasing intent, is the probability, the degree of willingness and inclination of consumers to buy a product or service within a certain period of time.
People scrolling through social media aren’t even looking to buy anything in that moment of time, whereas marketplace browsers are already looking to buy.
This is why 1000 visitors from Instagram, for example, may only make you 5 sales whereas 1000 visitors who found you through search may result in 20 sales.
If you have time and the skills to create great posts, you may find benefit from promotion.
Any engagement which brings traffic to your listings is a step in the right direction, even if it’s less likely to convert.
Personally, I think my time is better spent creating more listings to increase marketplace visitors and improving SEO.
Test this out by creating and growing social media accounts for your stores, and decide if this is worth spending your time on.
Considerations Before Running Paid Ads to Your POD Store
Creating a targeted ads campaign e.g. Facebook, Instagram or Youtube ads can boost your visitors in a short period of time.
You can also lose money pretty easily if you don’t know what you’re doing.
As aforementioned, social media users lack buyer intent, so paid advertising works best with unique attention-grabbing products that typically convert well organically.
T-shirts and coffee mugs in general just aren’t that.
That being said, a design that’s converting well may have a shot with paid ads.
I would highly suggest getting enough sales organically to determine your conversion rate before running paid ads to your POD store, as well as learning how to create ads that convert.
Tips to Increase Conversion Rate
The art of making sales is a skill you’ll improve at the more you practice. These are some tips to get you started:
- Have a strong product with aesthetic listing presentation. Compare your listing to that of your competitors in the same niche, and try to create better designs than them. Optimize your listing image as much as possible.
- Create designs which appeal to customers’ emotions. This can be done by researching your niche thoroughly and creating designs that customers can identify with. This increases the chance of an impulse buy.
- Research consumer psychology and implement this in your stores. I’m constantly learning new tips all the time, and it’s hard to tell which of these ‘hacks’ work and which are just gimmicks. Some which I think are effective are:
- Run a sale. Constantly. Customers love to be convinced they’re getting a deal. Sites like Redbubble and Teepublic are constantly running sales on your behalf. If you sell elsewhere, just increase your original price to keep your profit margins the same. You may have heard people saying this is bad business practice to run a sale year round, but this only really applies to stores with an actual brand presence (let’s face it, 99% of the time POD customers don’t give a flying frick about you or your store).
- If you can help it, price your products ending in .99 or .95 in your currency as this looks more professional.
- Create a description which gets customers excited, and also informs them of other options they may not be aware of. (E.g. Listen up dog lovers! Get it NOW, available in 5 different colors and 20+ other products. Choose your color and style, then click ‘add to cart’!)
- Improve your designs based on customer feedback and your competitors’ reviews – a feature we take for granted in eCommerce.
- Generating repeat customers – bringing customers back to your store with similar products, deals and thank you messages.
- Constantly think of ways to make your design unique and eye-catching.
Why You Shouldn’t Compare Your Store With Other Sellers
Comparisons can be useful to get an idea of the industry standards. However it can be demoralizing to see other sellers having more success, especially if your stores are similar (e.g. same number of uploads and quality of designs).
Here are some reasons why another seller may be having more success than you:
- They understand the platform and its SEO best practices better than you.
- They have a large social media following or existing audience they can promote to easily.
- They caught a trend early or listed at a time with more customers available e.g. Q4.
- They have a time advantage. For example, if you uploaded to Redbubble back in 2007 just after it was first created, anything would sell because there was hardly any competition. Since they don’t refresh their index often, you’d likely stay on the first page for those keywords for a long time.
- They are knowledge about about paid ads.
- They have more uploads in a certain niche, so are taking up more of the market which lets them be found more easily.
- They are a featured seller, or have been promoted in some way by the platform itself.
- They got lucky – a lot of sales strategy is just right place, right time, right person.
- They are doing something against the platform’s terms of service, e.g. tag spamming on Redbubble. Don’t follow their example as they have a chance of being removed from the platform.
- They know what sells from previous testing.
- They are a professional artist/graphic designer.
- They own a popular trademark/brand, so can make designs for it while others can’t.
- They know a lot of consumer psychology hacks.
- General experience and time spent selling.
Think print on demand is saturated? Watch this video:
What To Do If You’re Not Making Sales
Below is a list of suggested steps. Remember, it’s all about increasing your traffic and conversion rate, then it’s just statistics.
- Research a few high demand, low competition niches and keywords. You can use the ‘trending’ page of your platform, Google Trends or platform specific research tools (most effective) to see what customers are actually searching to buy.
- Install Google Analytics on your store. Data takes ~48hrs to update.
- Upload 100 designs in these niches to the best of your ability. Remember to include the researched keywords as well as other related keywords people are likely to search for.
- Now check your visitors using Analytics or your dashboard.
- If you haven’t reached 1000 visitors, see which designs are getting the most visits then create more of those. Keep uploading until you have collected 1000.
- If you have 1000 visitors or more, calculate your conversion rate.
- Analyze your conversion.
- <1%: Refer to tips to increase conversion rate. Keep your prices low and improve your listings and design quality.
- 1-3%: pretty standard, keep it up. Upload more and keep trying to improve your conversions.
- 3%+: doing well! Keep it up, and also consider using paid ads and selling in your own store with a custom domain if you aren’t already.
Even though I’m making daily sales, I’m constantly repeating these steps when I have time to work on my stores.
Print on demand is much more competitive now than a few years ago, so you’ll have to put in more work to see results.
That being said, it doesn’t defy the laws of eCommerce.
There’s an infinite number of popular niches, ways to generate traffic and increase conversions. Use the method in this article as a starter guide, but remember to experiment also!