Dropshipping is big business. In 2017, the business model accounted for approximately 23 percent of online sales, amounting to about $85.1 billion, according to Forrester Research.
eCommerce is growing by about 17 percent each year, and many experts expect the popularity of dropshipping as a fulfillment model to grow alongside the industry increase.
One aspect of dropshipping is print on demand (POD) services.
POD is a business process in which merchandise is not printed until an order for the product has been received.
This allows prints of small quantities and cuts down on storage space requirements, thus lowering costs.
This business model offers a unique opportunity for artists, entrepreneurs, and other creatively minded people to make some money while keeping their overhead low.
Say, for example, you’re an artist who wants to put their art on t-shirts and sell them online.
Paying for printing, finding a place to store them, and operating the online store all takes precious time and money.
But through a dropshipping or print on demand company, you don’t have to take on a majority of those costs.
You also minimize your risk against unsold merchandise.
The first trick is in finding a POD company that can help you facilitate your business.
Redbubble has become a popular option for many companies, allowing artists, companies, and others the opportunity to create custom clothing designs.
But is the service worthy of the hype? Can Redbubble live up to the expectations and help your run a lean, functioning, and profitable business?
That’s what we aim to find out.
We’re going to look into Redbubble, see how it fares against similar companies and what specific features it brings to help you get your business started.
What Is Redbubble?
First, let’s take a closer look at the company.
Redbubble was founded in 2006 in Melbourne, Australia.
The company now has additional offices in San Francisco and Berlin.
Redbubble products include the usual t-shirts, hoodies, and prints, as well as more esoteric items like cushions, duvet covers, leggings, and much more.
The company offers free membership to artists who hold the copyrights to their creations, maintain their prices, and decide which products to display alongside which images.
As of January 2017, the company reportedly had 450,000 active artists and 10 million site visits per month.
In the last decade, nearly 7 million people have purchased products from the site.
How Does It Work?
So, Redbubble is clearly a successful business enterprise. But how does it work exactly?
Instead, Redbubble is its own platform.
That means you can’t install Redbubble on your Shopify store in order to sell your custom items, instead you have to upload your logo and design work onto the Redbubble website and sell directly from there.
Of course, there are pros and cons to that.
If you already have a Shopify store, you may resent the fact that you have to set up an additional platform.
But if you’re an artist looking to get your work online as easily as possible, this is a great option to get started.
Still, thanks to the proprietary nature of Redbubble’s platform, you’re unable to brand your store at all.
Your store will look just like everyone else’s using Redbubble.
Competitors like Printful do offer this service for Shopify.
But Redbubble’s strength comes from its simplicity.
After signing up for an account, you simply upload your custom artwork, put it on to the desired products, and begin promoting your work. (We’ll go into more detail a little further down.)
Artists are able to set the profit margin for each of their products on the site.
That means Redbubble only charges for the base price of the selected merchandise, and anything extra you decide to charge goes directly to you.
That means if an item costs $10 to make, and you sell it for $20, you make $10 in profits.
Redbubble’s Product Offerings
The list of products that Redbubble offers is vast and varied.
The company has been repeatedly praised for the high quality of their products.
The printing quality is also generally considered to be top notch compared to the competition.
The categories that Redbubble offers are the following:
- Kids & Babies
- Device Cases
- Wall Art
- Home Decor
Each of these categories offers a variety of different sub-categories and variations.
Take for example the Wall Art category.
Included therein are posters, canvas prints, photo prints, wall tapestries, and more.
Every category is like this, offering many options for you to create work and sell it.
Diversity is a powerful tool when it comes to merchandise, and having a variety of products for people to choose from is a good way to ensure that there’s something for everyone in your store.
You can choose as many categories or as many different products as you like.
Your designs get printed on each one, but it’s a good idea to choose different sized images for the different products, depending on their size and material.
What makes for a good wall tapestry won’t necessarily look right on a t-shirt. So try and keep that in mind as you’re uploading your designs.
But How Usable Is It?
Redbubble’s tools are very user friendly.
The service allows you to simply upload your original designs, pictures, and logos to the platform and print them on any of the aforementioned products.
That means you can plaster your art across stickers, posters, t-shirts, or leggings (to name a few).
To get started, all you need to do is set up a Redbubble account.
This is quick and easy, and because Redbubble makes its money by taking a cut of whatever you sell, setting up an account is free.
Once you have an account, you simply need to click on your profile icon in the top-right corner and click “Add New Work.” You’ll then be given the option to upload your artwork, design, or logo.
Click the upload button and find the design you want to add to the site.
Once it’s uploaded, you will see different product options. By clicking “Enabled,” you’ll make your print available on that specific product.
You’ll be asked to specify the name of your design, add the description, and some tags so your products are easier to find (more on that below).
Once you’re done, you simply hit the Save button and your merchandise will be added to your portfolio.
Redbubble’s pricing policy is straightforward and easy to understand. Every product that is available through the platform has a base price. From there, you can set your own markup for each item you sell.
Redbubble gives you multiple options for setting your price.
The first option is to set your price through a percentage markup, applying it to every category of product you offer.
So, for example, you can set a 15 percent markup on every product in your store.
The other option is to set up a percentage markup on a single category. So, 15 percent for Wall Art and 20 percent for phone cases.
Additionally, you can set a price-based makeup. So, you can have a $10 markup on all of your products or only a select few categories and items.
The ability to set prices really puts you in control of your store.
You can also make changes if you determine your markup is too high, ensuring that your products still make it out into the world.
The Payout Process
Once you start selling your products, you’re of course going to want to get paid.
Fortunately, Redbubble makes it easy to get your money.
Sellers receive their money within each payment cycle that begins on the 15th of the month and goes until the 15th of the following month.
You can receive your money either through direct deposit into a bank account (though, this option is only available in certain countries) or through PayPal.
Thanks to Redbubble’s network of global shipping services, the company sends products from just about everywhere in the world.
This can be good and bad, depending on where your customer lives and where the printed product is being shipped from.
Some reviewers have complained about products taking too long to arrive but there are a few standard rules that seem to apply to every order the company processes.
Thanks to the fact that the products are made to order, most of them take three business days to process before being shipped out.
Redbubble does not include the processing time when it makes its shipping estimates.
Still, customers can find estimated shipping times in a variety of ways. By adding an item to their cart and selecting their destination country, they can see the expected delivery dates for standard and express shipping and the prices for each service.
One area where Redbubble has consistently received praise is with its customer support team.
The company guarantees that its team of highly responsive professionals will respond to any inquiry within 4 hours. Users simply need to submit a request through the Redbubble “Contact Us” page and the support team will contact you to help you out.
The company also offers a live chat feature on its site, meaning if you have an issue that needs an urgent response, the live chat can help you get it cleared up quickly.
Refunds, Replacements, and Returns
After customers receive their item, they have 90 days to send it back. Many online reviewers have said that, though they may have initially received faulty products, they were quickly given a refund or replacement without much hassle.
Promoting Your Products
Making it as an artist or entrepreneur is difficult work.
Getting eyes on your products is no easy feat. But fortunately, Redbubble offers a number of services to help you promote your work.
This artist wrote about their experience selling through Redbubble and was particularly fond of the community of supportive and like-minded artists.
“Immediately upon joining, I began receiving supportive comments from other members, since Redbubble has a great “play nice” policy, and maintains an encouraging environment for its artists,” wrote Niki Hilsabeck.
“There are a few forums where critique is appropriate, but in general, the goal of the community is for artists to cheer each other on as they work.”
Hilsabeck went on to say that, while Redbubble doesn’t do much of its own promotion of artists, she still came out of the experience with a number of benefits, namely, an online presence and useful contacts.
Their blog began receiving increased attention after they signed up with Redbubble, and they were also able to meet new, supportive artists.
Redbubble itself offers tips on how to self-promote your products online.
As the company says, marketing your work is an essential part of being a successful artist.
And while the company tries to feature as many artists as possible on its site, through promotions, its blog, and elsewhere, it can be difficult with a community of more than 600,000 artists.
The company recommends using social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram to get the word out about your merchandise.
There are also link options for various sites like Flickr, Behance, Dribble, and more.
Redbubble also gives visitors the option to share your work to their Pinterest board, further promoting what you have to sell, though retailers can opt out of this process if they prefer.
Another option Redbubble recommends is to use Tags to promote your work.
By including tag words in your description, you can increase the likelihood that potential customers will find what you’ve got for sale.
Redbubble even offers a number of helpful hints to help you generate effective tags and keywords.
Selling products through Redbubble isn’t just about making a buck though, there are a number of added bonuses to the marketplace.
For one, you can start generating a passive income.
Getting set up with Redbubble doesn’t take much more work than uploading an image to the service and writing a few lines of descriptive text.
While royalties of 10-to-20 percent may not be much, for the amount of work you put in, that’s a pretty good deal.
You’ll also learn new skills.
Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, is a growing field and an important tool for online retailers.
In order for customers to see your designs, you have to then rank highly on various search engines like Google. (That also goes for Redbubble’s internal search engines.)
With things like effective titles, descriptions, and the above mentioned tags, you can improve the marketability of your products and ensure more people see them.
This is an important and valuable skill to have in the modern internet age.
This knowledge is helpful for other print on demand services and other online retail sites.
Redbubble ran into a little controversy a few years ago when some people became offended by some of the merchandise being offered through the site.
The company eventually decided to remove the offending brands and appears to have weathered the controversy and come out stronger for it.
Given that the company now has nearly half a million active artists plying their wares through the site, it’s obvious that people are buying.
That’s because Redbubble fills a unique niche in the global eCommerce marketplace.
Artists, who aren’t exactly known for having a lot of capital to invest in the retail aspect of their business, have been freed up to start selling their products to a global market.
This was nearly unthinkable in the age before companies like Redbubble.
Whether it was the up-front cost of printing your products, the cost to store things, and the possibility of unsold merchandise taking up space, selling merchandise was an expensive prospect.
Now, a company like Redbubble offers artists and entrepreneurs the ability to keep up-front costs low, while also giving them the ability to create a veritable smorgasbord of different options for their customers.
This allows those retailers to see what people are buying and adjust their stores accordingly, cutting down on many of the risk factors of starting an online eCommerce business in the first place.
With that, it’s no wonder that so many people are turning to Redbubble to get their creations out into the market.
To review: Redbubble’s platform is easy to use, it offers a huge selection of products, it empowers retailers to sell their merchandise online, it offers good customer service, and provides the ability to grow as a business person.
Redbubble is a powerful tool for the modern internet marketing age.
If you’re thinking you might want to start selling your artwork online, want to begin generating a passive income, or just want to try your hand at online retailing in general, Redbubble is a great place to start.THIS POST MAY CONTAIN AFFILIATE LINKS. PLEASE READ DISCLOSURE FOR MORE INFO.
Sam Zaman loves to write on technology & related stuff. Ecommerce, mobile and internet marketing equally drive her interest. Likes gardening and experimenting with new recipes. An avid reader and absolutely mad @bout donuts 🙂