2021 predictions for print on demand industry

At the end of 2020, everyone breathed a sigh of relief. This year was very different, and most of us were not ready for it. A storm of events in the global health care, politics, and business have provoked irreversible changes. They touched upon the manufacturing industry, including the print on demand business. 

The past year has crowned with a change in marketing. Now it's more authentic and focused on the individual needs of consumers. Thanks to the rise of Tik Tok, generation Z has become a leading fashion reference. Now print on demand companies have an increase in sales of themed products - its ideas originated in a carousel of events, such as Covid-19 or elections. 

Table of contents 

The impact of COVID-19

POD market guidelines

What to expect in 2021?


The trends of 2020 have become a real test for the global printing industry. According to Smithers's research, its total value fell from $814.7 billion to a projected $743.4 billion in 2020. Of course, many entrepreneurs faced the risk of failure because of the restrictions. The quarantine measures also had an impact on the printed materials purchases. Some of them retreated. Those, who turned out to be more flexible, managed to adapt to the market. They sell goods and services on the Internet. 

The pandemic has increased the number of people working remotely, which has revolutionized their daily habits. Traditional retail sales are declining. That caused the economic collapse. Such a controversial period has been marked by a 44.5% rise in e-commerce, the fastest growth in over two decades! The ease of shopping and fast delivery attract the customers. For example, revenue on the Amazon platform has become a record high already in the first quarter of 2020. Five years ago, it was only 14.4% of the total. 

The corporate culture has also changed. Most people now work from home, and all sorts of company-branded products have become obsolete. The rather specific POD business had to be declined as well, but the statistics suggest otherwise. In 2020, the global T-shirt printing market grew to $1,790.74 million. Its expected growth is to $1996.68 million in 2021. Personal face masks blew up the market. By 2025, the predicted growth is more than $20 billion. If a T-shirt is a common thing, then face masks fall into the personalized goods category. Both print on demand products have a wide range of implementations and adapt to 2020 trends. Such flexibility is key to satisfy demand and conversions.

Of course, the print on demand market size is increasing. The low overhead costs, minimal investments, and good margin potential are the advantages that make the POD model ideal for entrepreneurs. 

Due to the powerful pricing pressures, mergers, and partnerships of many companies, the print on demand market is competitive. Besides, this didn't stop millions of entrepreneurs from opening their online stores and conducting successful trade. For example, on the eBay platform, the number of new buyers increased by 11 million in 2020. Likewise, Shopify has strengthened its position. The revenue from subscription solutions increased by 48%, and total - by 96% compared to 2019.

Consumers who shop from home are demanding in goods. Personalization is now a trend in the printing industry. As for the product range, it must be expanded and updated. Effective sellers should expect the volatility of buyers' moods and tastes. For example, natural and organic clothing, new unique designs, and, of course, face masks! It's possible to track the market using Google Trends. Check the brand's online reputation, collect feedback from the customers, and optimize an online store as much as possible. 

Some of the most effective sellers are those who think about their target audience. Before developing new designs, they think about distribution channels, margins, and so on. If you go beyond platforms like Etsy, eBay, and Shopify, you’ll increase the conversions.

In 2021, the leaders among print on demand websites will be those, who follow trends, have a targeted, profitable and personalized approach to their audience, and offer differentiated products that belong to a specific niche. Data from The Deloitte Consumer Review shows that more than 50% of shoppers choose personalized shopping. That is due to the ease of finding services that allow the creation of a special product. For example, decorate an item, or create a unique design with digital printing. This trend is a logical evolution of today's instant reward economy. It transforms shoppers into brand ambassadors.

Today, graphics are one of the most demanded design solutions. The expected artwork growth seeks to dominate by 2025. What to expect in the POD business and what trends are today - read on! 


Of course, in 2021, the home is still the focus of consumer attention. That means that lifestyle products will be in demand. From soft blankets and pillows to comfortable clothes and accessories - people will need such things to create a cozy and safe place in this unstable world for themselves and their families.

Environmental friendliness

One of the latest trends in printing technology is environmentally friendly printing. Cartridge recycling has become consumers' need, as caring for the environment ensures a clean future for humanity. 

Social networks

Today, Generation Z is the customer base of the future. Thanks to social networks, it has become easy to track their habits, tastes, and lifestyles, which form the demand for certain goods. Now the POD business model must include strategies for promoting and following product trends in social networks.

Mergers and acquisitions of startups

This approach to doing business reinforces the digital printing products' capabilities, thereby allowing trends to be the main reference points for development. It's possible to increase the product personalization due to the assortment if you expand the company and start new partnerships with your competitors.

pod business trends

Design risks

Graphic design trends in 2021 provide discreet solutions but in a rather daring shell. For example, use muted colors that feel safe and reliable. What else is trending:

  • color gradients;
  • abstract illustrations;
  • volumetric fonts;
  • smooth lines and shapes;
  • minimalistic design.

Soon there will be demand from corporate companies or non-governmental organizations which use printed T-shirts as a promotional tool. 

Also, increased consumer awareness of fashion will be leveraged to a personalization approach. As for the sales increase in a specific region, the e-commerce growth will definitely determin it. 

The print on demand market is quite fragmented, with a large number of players located all over the world. Due to the presence of a large number of suppliers, it became competitive. By occupying your niche and producing specific goods, you’ll be able to reduce the number of competitors. The unstable state of affairs in world politics and the health sector affects the print on demand business model's lability. So to survive, the company must establish partnerships with competitors or accept the terms of integration.  

The restless start of 2020 marked the emergence of new principles of the global economy. The retail decline and e-commerce rise have given a powerful boost to the print on demand business. Only personalized products will remain at the top, with unique designs, minimalistic solutions, and an ecological approach.

Marketing & SalesMarch 21, 2021
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