One of the most lucrative strategies in dropshipping is when you dropship personalized products. Product personalization has taken off in recent years with print on demand providers like CustomCat and Printful with many more catching on.
Personalized products are part of a bigger trend that we are seeing with online apparel and accessories. The rise of Etsy has led to a massive surge in handmade and unique products.
With mass produced products from China continually decreasing in quality and originality, many people are seeking something unique and special.
This is particularly true for two categories of products. Gifting products and luxury items had a big surge in demand for something more unique and special.
Print on demand is a form of dropshipping that fits really well into this trend and as dropshippers there is a massive opportunity to tap into this trend.
People have always used cards in combination with gifts in an attempt to personalize the gift. Some people use special wrappings while others make or write really thoughtful cards.
In many ways, the card is what makes the gift really special. Getting a gift that is really thoughtful and comes with a personal touch makes it really special – regardless of the monetary value.
It is this psychology that makes personalized products work. It almost removes the need for a card since the product itself is the “personal touch”.
The Lure of Personalized Products
Personalized products have one major advantage and that is uniqueness. Commercial products that you buy in retail stores are generic, mass produced and devoid of any personality.
When a product is personalized it takes on a whole new “life”. Personalized products are unique, different and have a high perceived value.
These 3 elements make personalized products the ideal gift. Gift giving and gift buying are mostly responsible for driving sales of personalized products.
When you give a gift you want it to be special. You can go to a shop and buy something special for $100+ because a $20 gift will rarely be special.
When it comes to personalized products, you can buy a personalized coffee mug for $15 and it can be unique, special and very thoughtful.
Personalization can turn generic and often cheap products into something special with a high perceived value.
If you dropship personalized products it gives you a huge advantage in that you can sell something that can not be bought elsewhere.
A product with a name on, a personal message or even a photograph has sentimental value. This sentimental value often makes the monetary value of the gift irrelevant.
If you get a generic mug from a store as a christmas gift you will think of it as a cheap $15 gift but if you get a personalized mug with a personal message you often disregard the monetary value of the mug.
It’s important to keep this in mind if you sell personalized products because you are not selling the actual product. You are selling the sentimental value that comes from personalizing the product.
This allows you to charge a premium for that product because the value you add to the product goes beyond just the value of the product.
Why Dropship Personalized Products
There are essentially two ways to sell personalized products online. The first is to buy generic products and invest in a printer or laser engraver and do the personalization yourself.
This option requires a significant investment upfront but comes with much higher profit margins.
The second option is to dropship personalized products. Thanks to Shopify and print on demand apps this has become easier than ever before.
The advantages of print on demand is that you do not have to invest in any inventory and thanks to some Shopify apps, your customers can personalize products and it is all automated or at least semi-automated.
With print on demand you do not have to handle any products and not having to invest in a lot of inventory frees up your resources to focus on marketing and product development.
There are dozens of products available through print on demand partners which you can customize. The variety of products combined with commercial print facilities makes it a no-brainer to use print on demand when selling personalizing products online.
Another huge plus is that most of the mainstream print on demand suppliers do not charge more for personalization. Whether you print a generic design on a product or whether you print a personalized design, the cost is the same.
Selling personalized products however allows you to charge more because the perceived value of the product is higher.
Personalized Products and Print on Demand
With print on demand you simply supply a graphic or design to a print on demand partner/service like Printful who will then print that design on to whatever product you like once you receive an order.
These print on demand apps manage most of the process for you. When an order comes in, it gets posted to the print on demand partner who will then print it and ship it to your customer.
The customer pays you the retail price. You pay the print on demand service the cost price and you net the profit.
This is a pretty simple model and one that you probably already understand.
It is a form of dropshipping where products are only created “on demand” since nothing gets produced upfront or stocked anywhere (except for the blank products).
Because everything is printed on demand, it lends itself perfectly to personalization. Whether the design that is printed on the product is generic or personalized, it makes no real difference to the process.
It is merely a technical interjection of what graphic gets printed. Some print on demand partners adopted this idea quickly and now offer personalization as part of their Shopify app.
With these apps, personalization is completely automated.
Some print on demand partners do not have personalization native to their Shopify app and need some hacking and third party apps.
There is also a third option for personalizing dropshipping products.
This is a more “secret method” where you personalize generic products from Aliexpress by engraving the product or printing a design on products that are not usually available through the mainstream print on demand apps.
Let’s briefly look at the three options for personalizing dropshipping products
1. Apps That Have Native Personalization
The four most popular Shopify print on demand apps that offer native personalization are Printful, Customcat, Teelaunch and ShineOn.
All four of these Shopify apps make it incredibly easy to offer personalized products.
All you need to do is install their apps from the Shopify app store and your product pages will automatically update with the personalization options to allow your customers to personalize the products.
I’ve had some issues with CustomCat and Teelauch which required a bit of manual tweaking to make it blend smoothly with my Shopify theme but you can get most issues resolved with their respective support teams.
Printful is probably the best print on demand provider and the quality of their prints and their service is second to none.
Their apps are completely free and they offer personalization on all their DTG products and their jewellery products.
On DTG, you can add custom text fields on any design which allows your customers to print their own names and/or personal messages on any of Printful’s DTG products.
Printful is quite expensive though and they have a limited product catalog.
I have a love-hate relationship with CustomCat. They have a nice product catalogue, great prices but the worst app in the world (I might be exaggerating) and some of the worst mockups in the world.
Their personalization apps work really great though and what I really like about it is that it gives customers a preview of the final product once they personalize the product on your Shopify store.
The CustomCat app now has a new fee structure. It used to be a paid-only app but they now also have a free ‘light’ version.
Teelaunch is a print on demand service very similar to Printful and Customcat and they are definitely one of my favourites to work with. They have great products at really good prices and they offer some unique personalization features.
Most of their personalization products focus on allowing your customers to create personal products by uploading their own photographs.
Allowing customers to upload their own photos and images onto products is quite unique and Teelaunch offers anything from mugs to wall canvases and even phone cases.
Jewellery has traditionally been a very personal product already. Engraving a necklace or having a photograph in a pendant is not a new idea at all.
ShineOn offers a very unique take on personalized jewellery and their app allows your customers to upload photos, engrave products or create personalized cards with their jewellery products.
Jewellery and personalization goes hand in hand and ShineOn has some of the best quality products in the print on demand space.
Their app is also very unique as it gives you a lot of control in how you integrate it with your Shopify store.
Engravings can be offered as upsells and they have a nice selection of products.
2. Third Party Apps For Shopify
For the majority of generic products like Mugs, T Shirts and Canvases I prefer to use CustomCat just because their app takes care of everything and allows me to (almost) automate the entire process.
I quickly ran into some issues when I wanted to offer personalization on some of my best selling products from Printify and Gooten.
Neither of them offer personalization as part of their app. It would be very hard for them to do that since they both are aggregators that use a variety of print providers.
The solution to offering personalization with Printify and Gooten is not easy but it works.
Essentially you need to use a third party app like XXX which allows you to capture the customer’s information (to be personalized).
Once the sale is completed in Shopify, you will ten use the information that XXX captured to customize the graphic in photoshop.
In printify and Gooten you will disable automatic order fulfillment. This allows you to provide a custom graphic for each order and after uploading the custom graphic you manually submit the order for printing.
This is by no means an easy process and takes a bit of tech setup and a lot more manual work.
It is totally worth it though because it essentially allows you to offer personalization on almost any product there is in print on demand.
Some of my most successful products come from doing exactly this with Printify and Gooten products that are not available through Customcat or Printful.
With Printify and Gooten my margins are also much better since they have much lower base costs than Printful.
3. Dedicated Dropshippers
There is a third way to dropship personalized products and not too many people are talking about it, but it works insanely well.
There are basically two ways to do this but the strategy is that you buy Aliexpress products (blank and generic) and use a Chinese dropshipper to personalize the products and dropship it for you.
Some Aliexpress sellers specialize in laser engraving for example. You can work with them to source blank products and do the personalized printing and dropshipping for you.
This can be risky through Aliexpress as it is prone to mistakes. There are some GREAt Aliexpress sellers who do this very well.
The personalized ‘pimp’ pacifiers is one example that has sold hundreds of thousands over the last few years.
One of the best kept secrets in print on demand is CJ Dropshipping. They are a dedicated dropshipper that centralizes dropshipping through their own warehouses.
You could dropship anything that you can find on Aliexpress through them but the big difference is that they do quality control and they offer fast shipping.
Their main warehouse has a big print facility which allows them to offer both printing and engraving of personalized products.
You can find some truly unique products that you can personalize – stuff you simply will not find on mainstream print on demand sites.
While the prices are great, the setup is not all that smooth. You will need to follow a similar setup as with printify and Gooten and use a third party app like XXX.
Most of their personalization orders shipin around 3 to 5 days and the average shipping time with CJ Packet is about 10 to 12 days.
This is still quite slow but given that some of the personalized products are quite labor intensive, customers are more patient. If you start doing bigger volume, CJ starts treating you better as well and you can get orders out faster.
The Top 10 Personalized Products To Dropship
Selling personalized products is more than just letting customers print their names on to a product. With print on demand, the design is everything and if you can combine a great design with a creative way to customize that design then you have a winner.
Customization allows you to be truly unique and even if you use popular print on demand designs and design ideas you can give it a unique spin and a new lease of life.
Some products lend themselves perfectly to personalization since they make great gifts anyway. Adding the personalization element makes it even better.
Always keep in mind that the vast majority of your sales will be driven by gift giving. This makes traditional gifting occasions like Valentines Day, Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Birthdays and Christmas really easy targets.
Combining these occasions with specific niches or hobbies is a match made in heaven. Selling a personalized golf shirt for dads on Father’s day is like selling candy to babies.
With a little bit of creativity, the options are endless. Here are 10 of the most popular dropship personalized products with a few ideas to get your creative juices flowing.
Jewellery goes without saying and is certainly one of the most popular products to personalize. People have been engraving jewelry and carrying pendants with photographs for decades.
The personal nature of jewellery makes this a natural product to offer personalization with. ShineOn is a great option for print on demand with many options to personalize a variety of products.
T-shirts are still one of the most popular print on demand products and is a staple for many print on demand stores.
You will need to think a little outside the box to come up with great designs and simply printing someone’s name on a shirt means nothing.
Generally t-shirt sales are driven by something funny and quirky. If you can combine that with personalization then you could see great success.
You should also think about t-shirts and gift giving. Baby and toddler shirts is a great option since these are often driven by gift giving and offering personalization gives it that extra touch.
Mugs are cheap and make for a great gift. Mugs tend to be more personal than t-shirts which makes it a great product to have a personal photograph or a more personal message printed on.
As a low-priced gift it is also suitable for everyday gift giving where something small and thoughtful is needed.
Underwear is an interesting one and I’ve previously written up a more detailed look at print on demand underwear.
The so-called “face on boxers” phenomena has made personalized underwear a massive hit. Putting your face on underwear makes for a funny gift and this trend is still doing well.
Underwear is both intimate and personal and with a little bit of creativity you can come up with some great designs. You can even get away with a good design that only needs a name to make the personalization work great.
5. Water Bottles & Tumblers
With a global war on plastic, the need for non-disposable drink containers skyrocketed. Metal drink bottles have become one of the most popular print on demand products.
On a practical level, peoplelose drink bottles all the time which makes just printing names on drink bottles and tumblers a high demand product.
There are so many creative ways that you can allow customers to print their name or combine their name with a niche or hobby they love.
Kids drink bottles in particular is a great product to go after since most parents are sick of lost bottles with no name on it.
Socks have become a thing. Socks with quirky designs are not that uncommon in boardrooms these days. There’s also the long standing tradition of giving socks as birthday and christmas gifts.
Similar to the ‘face on boxers’ trends is the ‘face on socks’ trend and many people find it funny to print their face on socks and give it as a gift.
Printing your dog’s face or your child’s face on socks are also popular ideas that are proven to work well for dropshipping personalized products.
The ‘back to school’ market is huge and every parent knows this. At the end of each term, parents will stock and restock school supplies for the coming term.
One important element is the school bag and or a backpack. Personalized backpacks with a name (or even a phone number) fits very well into this back to school niche and many parents buy multiple bags every year.
Combining the personalization with gender specific designs and niches also works really well.
8. Wall Art
Canvases, posters and framed prints present a massive opportunity for print on demand products. If you walk into anyone’s home you will most likely find at least a few family photos on the wall.
By offering personalized print on dem,and wall art you can take advantage of this market. Just offering photo upload in itself can work but by adding a design element to it you can make it even more unique.
There are so many creative ways you can target this idea. Wedding photos, pregnancy announcements, newborn photos, family reunions etc.
Blankets is a fairly new print on demand product that worked better than I initially thought it would. CustomCat started offering personalized blankets back in 2018 and it opened the door to some very creative new products.
Print on demand blankets could have many uses and for every use you can really drill down to create personalized products.
As a baby blanket it can be a great gift with a subtle design and a name and even a date of birth. So-called milestone blankets are also really popular with many parents.
As pet blankets there are a lot of creative ideas around names and graphics while for throw blankets it can be a great decorative element.
10. Dog Bowls and Dog Beds
The pet market is huge and people spend lots of money on their pets. The family pet is as much a part of the family as any other family member.
Two print on demand products stand out for personalization which are dog bowls and dog beds. A breed specific design along with a dog name will always be popular.
There’s also dog collars which are a natural fit for personalization. There are some nice colours available through CJ Dropshipping and some print on demand providers offer custom name tags.