How to Build a Platform Like Printful

Marina Vasilyeva

Marina Vasilyeva, Client Manager in Multi-Programming Solutions  •  9 min read

Most people learned about the print on demand service while searching for an exclusive item for special occasions or by being presented with a POD item. For 2023, customized products remain popular and can become a profitable startup for novice entrepreneurs.

If you are the owner of a printing business or a dropshipper who wants to build a platform like Printful, then this guide is just for you. Read more about how to attract the wave of success to your brand and open a metaverse of software to help manage and promote your dropshipping store.  

Table of Contents

What is Printful and how does it work?

Drophipping vs. Print on Demand vs. Warehousing

What does it take to set up a store like Printful?

Tips from Printful: 5 ways to promote your brand


Printing services are widespread, and most companies can offer vinyl heat transfer, screen, DTG, or other methods for creating customized stuff. But how to stand out among them?

On the Internet, you can find many ads just about Printful. It is a well-known company that develops products on demand and has in-house fulfillment centers in the USA, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. It also provides an opportunity to create a custom store for merchants and trade personalized goods worldwide. The platform handles printing and delivering goods and simplifies sellers’ routine workflow for more essential tasks.

How to build a platform similar to Printful? Let’s first get familiar with the principles of the service work. All on-demand companies mainly follow the essential rule - they don’t print products ahead to avoid overstocking. Here are the main steps you should make to run the POD business without inventory:

  • All starts with a desire to sell unique customized stuff. You can develop designs on your own or seek professional artists' help.
  • Next, you should integrate the Printful service with an online shop and choose the stuff for customization.
  • The website will provide you with a mockup, a blank product picture with your design, which can be used to promote your store.
  • When a customer purchases a designed item from the shop, Printful will receive a notification. 
  • Two financial transactions will take place during the selling process. First, buyers’ money will be deposited into sellers’ bank cards. Second, the platform will charge the product price from the account you’ve registered for automatic payments.
  • Further, depending on the buyers' location, the service will send an order to one of the suitable warehouses.
  • Usually, the fulfillment at Printful takes around three days. The service workers will pack and ship the parcel to the end customer after producing the product.

Now that you know how a POD company works, it’s time to define the differences between possible e-commerce business models and apply the most suitable one for your startup. Regardless of your decision, you can organize a print on demand service and streamline routine operations with the help of dedicated software. For example, solutions like Podza can automate the fulfillment of POD orders and optimize business workflows with smart shipping.

build platform like printful

Whether you make the first steps in an online business like Printful or want to change a profile, you may be interested in the pros and cons of e-commerce methods. We’ll briefly discuss each to help you find the most beneficial.


In this e-commerce model, vendors don’t produce products themselves, hold any inventory, or store goods. They aim to create and promote an online shop and grow the traffic as much as possible. 

Listings should be attractive and advantageous (price, quality, discounts, free shipping) to make visitors buy stuff from your page. When someone purchases an item from the store, you pass the order to the supplier, who packs and ships parcels to the final destination. Your income is the difference between the product price in the listing and the money you pay to the provider for production and shipping.

This business model has the following pros:

  • Doesn’t require investments in equipment, storage spaces, and materials.
  • Allows to experiment with the product range and easily add new ones.
  • Sellers don’t have to organize deliveries.
  • While most products are white-labeled, parcels will be shipped under your brand.

Talking about the disadvantages, we can distinguish the lack of control over the fulfillment process, low margin, and a highly competitive e-commerce dropshipping market.


Those who wonder how to build an app like Printful should dive deeper into the POD theme. You may buy some equipment (heating machines, printers, vinyl cutters, etc.), customize products or delegate this job to a third-party supplier. In the last case, clients will order designed stuff in your store, and the provider will produce and ship goods.

POD business has several benefits:

  • You don’t have to print items in bulk and start the production process only after the user clicks the “Buy” button.
  • The space for experiments with design, niche, and products is definitely overwhelming.
  • You don’t necessarily have to own any equipment.

Among the cons of the POD business model, one can highlight the inability to control the product's quality, the longer fulfillment process, and the return policy challenges. POD is suitable for novice entrepreneurs who search for the best niche and have no large budget.

Warehousing and Fulfillment (W&F)

Along with print-on-demand dropshipping, services, like Printful, offer W&F. That means you can send your goods for storing to the company. Once someone purchases an item from your online store, the warehouse workers will pack it and send them to the addressee. Such third-party logistics (3PL) can save the time and money required for renting and maintaining personal storage. 

The only disadvantage is you don’t see the conditions where your products are kept. So there is no 100% it wouldn’t be spoiled or damaged. Moreover, transferring your goods to the 3PL can be costly if you own a small company.

While owning a warehouse, you can provide W&F services for sellers in the most time and cost-consuming way with the Podza app. This integrated system will adjust the smoothest workflow process, allowing you to automate inventory management, order fulfillment, and product tracking. You’ll achieve better performance and generate more sales.

With a business model in mind, you may create a store at the existing printing service or build an e-commerce platform like Printful to gain extra profit from vendors’ sales.

Let’s describe how to develop a personalized app like Printful if you own equipment. First and foremost, you should think of how you can earn money. You may charge fees for every sale, add a subscription plan, or develop a store with another business model. Second, you need to plan the technical part of your future platform. Here’s the primary set of tools your e-commerce “child” will require:

  • API to integrate marketplaces (eBay, Amazon, Etsy) and sales platforms (Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix, etc.).
  • API for creating a payment system, which includes bank cards or Paypal.
  • Mockups that sellers will use to create a customized product image.

The admin panel of your future site, like Printful, should include the dashboard, inventory, and orders sections. You can build the platform in-house, having technical specialists within your staff. In other cases, you may buy a ready-made software solution like Podza, connect it with your online store, and benefit from useful app features:

  • Integrate with e-commerce platforms and marketplaces, including Shopify, Etsy, eBay, Woocommerce, and others.
  • Create custom product collections.
  • Set up prices competitive in the market.
  • Design pictures, create templates, descriptions, and add them to the store (you may also use the warehouse app for a better customer experience).
  • Add shipping costs or incorporate them into product prices.
  • Set up payment processors like Paypal.
  • Monitor business statistics and much more.

Vendors can benefit from integrating the Podza application with their Shopify store. An e-commerce platform will help to quickly set up a custom online shop and manage products and payments, while with a Podza subscription, sellers would create designs, automate order fulfillment and sell stuff under their brand.

podza print on demand

If you build a POD dropshipping company like Printful, the PodZa team has several tips on how to make your brand recognizable. These suggestions are an additional way to promote customized products along with the online marketing strategy:

  • Analyze the pain points of your target audience and become relatable and appealing with your promotions.  
  • Provide SEO optimization to top up your platform according to the most frequent customers’ internet requests.
  • Develop an engaging marketing campaign using panoramic photos of your products, and run them on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media resources.
  • Stay focused on your products and do your work with love and passion so customers can feel the same and become confident in your brand.
  • Leverage offline marketing and showcase your service in the real world, attending trade shows and POD conferences.
  • Use software tools, like Google Trends, to stay connected with your audience and learn how to beat competitors with unique offerings.

How to Promote Your POD Products with Influencers?

POD business is suitable for any initial budget. If entrepreneurs are ready to invest in the equipment and customize products on their own, they may consider developing a platform like Printful that said, using its improved version - PodZa. It will help printers find business partners and gain extra profit from customers’ fees. APIs for e-commerce storefront integrations, payment processors, and mockup generators are the main requirements developers should consider for such projects.

If the business owner plans to dropship products from other suppliers, building an online store with PodZa integration can become an excellent decision for their startups. So, the sellers can connect their Shopify or WooCommerce profiles into a single network, create designs, and automatically delegate production to printing services. In turn, the letter will organize the fulfillment and shipping to the buyer’s door.

POD dropshipping can also be beneficial for company marketing. Suppliers can stick your logos on parcels, create branded labels on cloth or send your business cards with every package promoting your store. At the same time, you don’t have to worry about product, warehouse, and delivery management because PodZa will greatly simplify your daily routine.

E-commerce PlatformJune 7, 2023
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