How Print-on-Demand Drinkware Changed E-Commerce

Customized print-on-demand drinkware is a huge opportunity for e-commerce

One of the few industries to experience significant growth from the COVID-19 pandemic is e-commerce. As virtually everything has become digitized, people spend more and more time on their computers, whether for work, doctor appointments, family gatherings, or content streaming. As reported by many outlets, the increase in screen time has directly increased consumer spending on e-commerce sites. In fact, according to estimates from Digital Commerce 360, e-commerce sales went up an incredible 44% in 2020, with consumers spending $861 billion online.

Many companies have had to reinvent themselves and get their online houses in order, with many people turning to online shopping. For example, e-commerce titans such as Amazon and Flipkart (Walmart) gained a new competitor last year when Facebook launched its own online marketplace with Facebook Shops. Others, however, have been thriving from the very beginning of the pandemic. That includes online retail powerhouse Shopify, which reported a 46.65% YOY growth in revenue in March 2020, highlighting the exponential future of online shopping.

So, you may be wondering, what are consumers buying online? Although grocery products during a pandemic come to mind first, custom print-on-demand products have also maintained popularity. Not surprisingly, according to Cimpress, new personalized products such as face masks accounted for 9% of sales in 2020.

Beyond pandemic-driven purchases, decorated drinkware is the number one hot product of the decade in the promotional product marketplace. Second, only to T-shirts, drinkware is the most popular promotional product, accounting for 9% of all distributor sales in the $25.8 billion industry. This means that customized print-on-demand drinkware is a huge opportunity for e-commerce.

A fit for all

Drinkware appeals to every demographic. Nine in 10 people have some sort of promotional or custom drinkware item in their homes. From baby boomers to Gen Xers to millennials, each age group will use a unique drinkware piece in their lifetime to spread awareness of their favorite brands and trends. This popularity extends to the e-commerce world as well. On average, a single drinkware item receives 1,400 impressions online. Marketing exposure of that magnitude can increase brand recognition and turn into sales without ever spending a dollar on content.

The possibilities are endless

Since there is truly only one mouth size, there are few operational roadblocks for processing and printing different drinkware SKUs. With T-shirts, the different sizes, cuts, and fits add layers of complexity to order management. Drinkware avoids extra sizing steps associated with the more complex T-shirt selection process. Once a drinkware vessel style has been chosen, it is only a matter of ordering the SKU and replenishing inventory, saving time and money for online businesses.

Sustainability is key

Another benefit that makes reusable drinkware so attractive is the resources it saves. A single paper cup per day for 10 years is the equivalent of six trees. The resource efficiency of reusable products helps to reduce waste created by their single-use counterparts.

Additionally, the print-on-demand methods used for drinkware are more sustainable since they only print to fulfill orders when placed and in a more environmentally friendly way. With digital inkjet printing, there is no plastic, paper, water, and/or electricity wasted during the printing process, as is the case with dye-sublimation. An image can be printed directly onto the product right in the moment and shipped for delivery.

The solution

As the custom drinkware market increases in size, so does competition. For businesses to stay ahead of their competitors, personalized drinkware products must be produced sustainably, fast, and at the highest quality while remaining exceptionally customizable. To fulfill these needs, companies need high-precision on-demand manufacturing. Taking an on-demand approach to production enables operations to keep up with rapidly changing trends, increase inventory rotation, and decrease inventory waste. For example, digital UV cylindrical printers make a great option for producing full-color graphics on drinkware. In addition, UV printers can handle a variety of materials like stainless steel, glass, coated metals, and plastics. With such a range of options, brands and consumers can create beautiful 360-degree personalized gifts that people will value and use.

With personalized gifting expected to grow by 55% to become a $31 billion market in 2021, according to HP, now is the time to increase your margins and set up new purchase occasions with drinkware. The market’s acceleration to e-commerce has consumers looking for new products to buy and give to family and friends. Drinkware makes an excellent and well-appreciated gift. And remember, one size fits all!

Ben Adner Inkcups

Ben Adner


Ben Adner is the founder and CEO of global printing industry leader Inkcups.

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