Looking for an affordable way to launch a business? How about starting an online store?
Print-on-demand is a great way to get started with little capital. Most platforms are easy to use, with plug-and-play solutions, so even without prior experience, you can navigate them without problems. You also don’t have to keep stock or maintain an inventory. The fulfillment and delivery are handled by the service provider you choose when orders come in.
There are many POD providers available, so the challenge is how to choose the best one for you. In this review, let’s look at CustomCat and how you can launch your print-on-demand business with this platform.
What is CustomCat and who it is for?
CustomCat is a Detroit-based print-on-demand service provider, with a seven-acre production facility that houses around 600 employees and handles 10,000 product SKUs. It has developed a proprietary technology that allows it to offer mass customization fulfillment services using direct-to-garment, embroidery, and dye-sublimation decoration techniques.
If you’re a new business owner or want to expand your existing eCommerce business, you might want to consider CustomCat. Here’s what we’re going to talk about:
Table of Contents
- What are the main features of CustomCat?
- What products does CustomCat make?
- How much are CustomCat products?
- How is the quality of CustomCat products?
- How to design your products?
- How does CustomCat handle shipping?
- How to sign up with CustomCat?
- What extra features does it have?
- How to integrate CustomCat with Shopify
- How to integrate CustomCat with Etsy
- How to integrate CustomCat with WooCommerce
- How to integrate CustomCat with BigCommerce
- How to use CSV for Order Fulfillment
- How does API integration work?
- Does CustomCat provide seller support?
- What are the pros and cons of using CustomCat?
- What do the customers say about CustomCat?
- How does CustomCat navigate through COVID-19?
- How does it compare with Printful?
- How does it compare with Printify?
- What are other CustomCat alternatives?
- How to Make Your eCommerce Business Successful with CustomCat
What are the main features of CustomCat?
Hi-RES photographic prints – CustomCat prides itself with digital printing technology that allows 1200 dpi resolution on apparel, which means that it can print designs in full-color HD. As a seller, you’re assured of high-quality prints to ensure end-customer satisfaction with the products you sell.
Embroidery technology – CustomCat offers embroidery for on-demand bags, polos, jackets, and caps.
Fast payout – While other platforms pay once a month, CustomCat pays you within 48 hours after an item has been shipped.
Integrations – You can integrate the CustomCat app with your Shopify store, WooCommerce, and Etsy. Soon, BigCommerce integration will also be available. You can also use it on your website using its API integration, or order products for a third-party site using the CSV integration. More of these in the sections below.
Fast fulfillment – With its manufacturing capabilities, CustomCat products are ready to ship in two to three days, which is faster than most fulfillment companies out there.
What products does CustomCat make?
CustomCat offers more than 500 unique products. Men’s, women’s, kids’ apparel, accessories, and household goods. From t-shirts, hoodies, jackets, jerseys, polo shirts, and work clothes, to hats, bags, jewelry, and shoes, to blankets, drinkware, and ornaments—CustomCat has it.
CustomCat also offers authentic brand names at the best prices guaranteed. These include Dickies, Adidas Golf, Anvil, Gildan, Hanes, LAT Sportswear, Precious Cargo, and Port & Co.
How much are CustomCat products?
CustomCat products have a base cost of between $2.34 and $56. You can set your own markup, usually around 20 to 30 percent, and decide how much profit you want to make per product sold.
Here are the prices of some of its products:
- T-shirt back design - $5
- Custom Ultra Cotton T-Shirt - $7
- Gildan Youth Ultra Cotton T-Shirt - $7
- Anvil Lightweight LS T-Shirt - $14
- Adult Unisex French Terry Hoodie - $18.36
- Port & Co. Twill Cap - $11.85 11 oz.
- White Mug - $3.50
- Port Authority Team Jacket - $32.54
- Woven Blanket (60x80) - $45
- Canvas 1.5in Frame (48” x 32”) - $56
You can download the pricing list here.
When setting your retail price, you must consider the product costs, shipping costs, and taxes. Here are some tips:
- Consider the time you spent creating your designs.
Design Cost = Your rate per hour X time spent on creating designs
- Consider the shipping costs if you want to offer free shipping.
Retail Price with Free shipping = Your Retail Price + CustomCat’s Shipping Fee
Factor in the taxes. CustomCat doesn’t charge you any taxes. However, you need to pay your taxes based on where your business is located, so you may also need to collect taxes from your end customers. It’s best to consult a tax specialist for proper guidance on taxes.
Add a profit margin. You can set how much you want to earn per product that you want to sell. You can consider pricing above the market average by adding more value to your products compared to what competitors offer. You can also stick to the same market price that your competitors offer to be in the same league as them. Or you can price below the market to make your products more appealing, but make sure it will cover all your expenses.
Add up other costs, such as eCommerce platform fees and PayPal transaction fees.
How is the quality of CustomCat products?
With its proprietary technology, CustomCat produces one of the best quality products in the industry. However, to ensure the best quality, you must follow CustomCat’s artwork guidelines and correct specifications. So far, it’s the only POD provider in the US that has a technology to print 1200 dpi resolution into apparel, producing picture-perfect HI-RES prints.
How to design your products?
Do you have a flair for arts and crafts? Now you can put your talent into a business! You can create designs for the products you want to sell following CustomCat’s artwork guidelines and upload them to the platform’s Design Library. You can also set which designs you want to add with a personalization option for your customers. End customers can add texts, change the color, and add their own clipart, images, or artwork.
How does CustomCat handle shipping?
When CustomCat has received the order details, the product will be ready for shipping within 2 to 3 days on average. That’s relatively faster than other print-on-demand vendors. Delivery time can take 1 to 8 days in the US and 1 to 4 weeks internationally. Shipping costs vary based on the shipping method, the weight category of the products, and the number of items in one order.
How to sign up with CustomCat?
Signup for an account on CustomCat and connect your store—Shopify, WooCommerce, Etsy, and BigCommerce. If you have your own website that allows you to sell products, you can integrate CustomCat using API. You can also place orders manually using the CSV function.
CustomCat costs $30 a month with Shopify integration. If you’re a beginner, you may opt for CustomCat Lite, which is free, although the products cost $2 more. Integrations with WooCommerce, Etsy, and BigCommerce have no subscription fees, but Etsy charges 20 cents per listing.
What extra features does it have?
Buyer data. CustomCat saves buyer data, such as emails, which you can use to build your list for marketing. Data about buyer demographics are also stored, which are useful for targeting specific buyer groups in future campaigns. You can send personalized marketing emails to your customers and offer them relevant product recommendations, discounts, and coupons.
Mail server integration. If you’re already using a mail service, you can integrate it with our CustomCat account. That will make it easier to build your email list and segment your audience.
Upsells. With this feature, you can offer discounts on additional products at checkout. It’s effective in increasing cart size and building your sales.
Coupon codes. CustomCat allows you to create coupon codes that you can offer to loyal customers and repeat buyers.
Sales conversion tracking. You can track ad conversion and retargeting efforts, so you’ll know which campaigns need updates and which efforts are working or not.
Sub user IDs. If you have a team, you can provide them access to your account and automate your campaigns.
Split testing. You can experiment with your campaigns by adding different designs, varying prices, colors, and items.
Customizable campaign page. You can design your campaign page or storefront using images, videos, and more.
How to integrate CustomCat with Shopify
Ready to dip your toes? You can begin with Shopify, which is one of the biggest eCommerce platforms today. Everything you need to start a new business is here. It handles hosting, web design, and payment gateways, and it has a built-in blogging platform too.
- Create a CustomCat account.
- Create a Shopify store with a 14-day free trial. Shopify’s basic plan costs $13 a month, which is good for starting a new business. Advanced plans are available for $54 and $107 a month, which are great options if you’re expanding.
- Set up your Shopify store.
- Log in to your CustomCat account and connect to your Shopify store.
- Launch CustomCat on your Shopify dashboard.
- Upload your designs in the design library. After that, you can create products and add them to your Shopify store.
- When the orders come in, CustomCat will take care of the rest.
How to integrate CustomCat with Etsy
CustomCat just recently added Etsy integration, giving sellers more options. Etsy is a global marketplace that focuses on handcrafted goods and vintage treasures.
- Create a CustomCat account.
- Create an Etsy account and set up your store.
- When your store is ready, log in to your CustomCat account and connect to Etsy.
- Upload your designs to the library.
- Create products and add them to your Etsy store.
- Order information is sent directly to CustomCat, which will take care of the fulfillment and shipping.
How to integrate CustomCat with WooCommerce
With WooCommerce, you need to create a website first with WordPress and choose a hosting plan. WordPress is a publishing platform, blog tool, and content management system, and WooCommerce is an eCommerce plugin designed for merchants using WordPress. The cheapest plan costs $25 a month, billed annually for $300.
- Create a CustomCat account.
- Create and set up your WordPress website.
- Install and activate the WooCommerce plugin.
- Set up your store, add the locale for it, the shipping options, and how you want to accept payments.
- Once your store is ready, go to CustomCat integrations and connect WooCommerce. You need to modify the settings for the WooCommerce API, and CustomCat has provided the details here.
- When the settings are finished, you can start uploading your designs and adding products. Like the others, CustomCat will take care of the fulfillment of the orders and shipping to the customers.
How to integrate CustomCat with BigCommerce
BigCommerce is the latest addition to CustomCat’s integration options. Like the other platforms, you need an account with CustomCat and BigCommerce. BigCommerce’s standard plan is $29.95 per month.
- Create an account with CustomCat.
- Create a store with BigCommerce and set it up.
- Go to your CustomCat account and connect to your BigCommerce store.
- Add your designs to the library and export products to your store.
- Orders are automatically sent to CustomCat for fulfillment.
How to use CSV for Order Fulfillment
CustomCat’s CSV for order fulfillment is a manual order process that allows you to utilize its fulfillment facility no matter what cart or platform you use.
- Create a CustomCat account.
- Connect your store.
- Add designs to the library.
- Import your CSV file. The CSV must contain the required column headers the CustomCat needs to map your orders.
- CustomCat will map the SKUs, then you can select the order in which you want the products to be processed.
- CustomCat will take care of the rest.
How does API integration work?
The last integration option is through API. API means Application Programming Interface, and it requires programming knowledge, so you’d need a software developer for this one.
API integration is applicable to you if you have your own mockups and want CustomCat to fulfill the orders. You can also use CustomCat’s mockups on your website and have CustomCat fulfill them for you. With API, you can automatically send orders to CustomCat for fulfillment even when you’re using your own website for selling products. However, as a beginner, it’s better to use Shopify, WooCommerce, Etsy, and BigCommerce.
Does CustomCat provide seller support?
Sellers can reach out to the CustomCat support team by filling out the contact form on the site and a representative will get in touch with you. The support response is much faster if you use the envelope icon next to the order info on your dashboard. You can also contact its hotline during business hours, which is a good option if you want to speak with a customer representative. Other vendors don’t have a customer service hotline.
Meanwhile, as a seller, you have to take care of end customer support. If there are problems with the print quality and it’s CustomCat’s fault, it will take responsibility and replace the product. If the problem is with the customer’s order (e.g. incorrect details) or with your designs (e.g., low quality of file), CustomCat can still process a replacement, but you will have to shoulder the expenses.
What are the pros and cons of using CustomCat?
- Low priced POD service
- 24/7 production
- High-profit margins
- Integration with some of the biggest eCommerce platforms
- Hundreds of product choices
- Warehouse available only in the US
- Longer deliveries outside the US
What do the customers say about CustomCat?
CustomCat has an average rating of 4.2 stars on the Shopify app store. Customers commend CustomCat’s fast fulfillment and shipment of products, as well as the high-quality prints and great customer support. Customers also like how easy it is to use the app to upload their designs and create mockups.
Here are some of the recent positive comments:
“Amazing Customer Service, Fast turn around and most of all great prints. I would recommend them to anyone!” - 400years (5 stars)
“CustomCat has always delivered my product to my customers in a timely manner. The product quality is very good. Very helpful when I have issues. Not sure if I have his name right but Mike was extremely easy to deal with and handled my issue promptly. Thank you” - AR BRAND MERCH (5 stars)
“We have been using customcat for several years. Support Team is super helpful and turnaround time for print and shipping is great! Good example…ordered some new samples for our new design yesterday. They’ve already printed and shipped TODAY!” - FITVIDA (5 stars)
Still, there are a few who aren’t satisfied with CustomCat’s service. Some were disappointed about the quality of prints, wrong placement of the artwork, long queue in the customer support, and late deliveries.
Here are some of the recent low-rating comments:
“I used this app to upload and manage my designs. The application was very easy to use and very user friendly. The issue that I ran into was the long delivery time and the quality of the graphic print on fabric. None of the print that was placed on my t-shirts and hoodies looked crisp, even when I made sure that the resolution and dpi was correct and that the image was of high quality with basic colors. At first, I thought it was a one time issue, but it continued with every order. The quality of the print just seemed to be sub par. In addition, the customer service seemed to be lacking. Many of the customer service reps seemed to be irritated by my discontent of their poor printing standards. Because of all of this, I do not recommend using this company for t-shirts, hoodies, and any other apparel.” - A Hustler’s Spirit (1 star)
“Do not recommend. The jobs are inconsistent and customer service is trash. If you do reach out to customer service, be prepared to be sat in the queue. They DO NOT respond in a timely manner. Jobs will come back with graphics in the wrong spot, too small or the ink colors already faded or not consistent with your actual design.” - ConfidentLeeMe (1 star)
It’s good that representatives from CustomCat made sure to respond to negative comments. They validate the concerns and offer further help to address the issues. They assure them that they have quite a low return rate of around 1.2% only and that they stand behind the quality of their business 100%.
How does CustomCat navigate through COVID-19?
CustomCat continues to operate and fulfill orders for the sellers and their customers amid the coronavirus pandemic. It’s operating normally and has even scaled its production due to increased demands for products as more customers turn to online shopping.
CustomCat assures that it has placed essential measures in its warehouse and office to keep its staff safe from the virus. Those who can work from home were allowed to do so, and distances between workstations in its fulfillment facility have been increased to promote social distancing.
Fulfillment time still averages 2 to 4 days, but CustomCat says it can take longer for some products, such as face masks, blankets, and canvas, due to high demand and supply chain and logistics issues. There could also be some delays due to the challenges faced by the shipping industry, and CustomCat has no control over that. In the meantime, sellers are encouraged to inform their customers of a possible delay in deliveries due to the impact of the coronavirus.
Additionally, CustomCat has been releasing weekly updates to keep sellers informed about its production.
How does it compare with Printful?
Printful is a printing and fulfillment service operating in North America and Europe. It’s one of the most popular print-on-demand companies.
No subscription fees. It’s free to sign up, and there’s no monthly fee to pay when you create an account on Printful.
Set your own profit margins. Like CustomCat, you can set your own retail price, and Printful will charge you for the fulfillment. What’s left then is your profit. Prices vary depending on where the order will be fulfilled, along with taxes and shipping costs. In general, Printful recommends setting a 30% profit margin to start. CustomCat’s base prices are lower than Printful.
Simple shipping rates. For the shipping, Printful has fixed rates and live rates, which are relatively simpler compared to other CustomCat’s shipping fees. It’s best to set your default shipping costs to live rates, which are the best shipping rates for the customer at the time of their checkout. That is if your eCommerce platform allows live rates. Otherwise, you have to set a fixed shipping rate for your customers.
Don’t worry, though—if the actual shipping cost is less than the fixed-rate, Printful will refund you the difference, but it won’t charge you extra if shipping fees are more than that. It’s great, right? We think so, too.
Thousands of facilities. While CustomCat’s facility is located in the US only, Printful has a couple of fulfillment facilities in North America and Europe, which makes it a better option for sellers and stores located outside the US.
Average fulfillment speed. When it comes to fulfillment, CustomCat is faster. It takes 2 to 5 days for Printful to prepare an order for shipping. Two days is pretty fast, and 3 to 5 days are the average in the industry.
Similar customer service support. As with CustomCat, as a seller, you’re responsible for handling the end customer service. Printful provides free templates of store policies that you can use to ensure the best possible service to your customers, and guidelines on how to address your customers’ concerns.
Live chat support for sellers. Printful has live chat support (although it’s having a bit of difficulty with this feature amid the pandemic) and emails support for your concerns as a seller. It also has a comprehensive Help Center, where you can find almost everything that you need about running your Printful store, including video tutorials.
Similar refund policy. Like with CustomCat, Printful only provides a refund for damaged or mislabeled products. It doesn’t issue a refund due to customer remorse, but you can do it by yourself if you want, just shoulder the fulfillment and shipping costs.
Plenty of eCommerce platforms to integrate. While CustomCat has limited eCommerce platforms for integrations, Printful has 22 platforms to choose from, depending on the best one that can provide you the storefront that you need. While Printful’s account is free, you’ll have to spend on the eCommerce platform that you’ll use.
How does it compare with Printify?
Printify connects merchants to multiple print-on-demand providers worldwide, making it easier to fulfill and send your products to customers wherever you are located.
Similar availability of mockup generator. Like CustomCat, Printify also has a mockup generator, which makes it easier to design a product.
No subscription fees. Signing up on Printify is free, which is good for beginners. What you have to pay, though, is the eCommerce store you’ll need to sell the products.
Set your own profit margin. As with CustomCat, you’re free to determine how much profit you want for each product you want to sell.
More complex shipping fees. Printify’s shipping fees are more complicated than CustomCat. That’s because Printify’s fulfillment partners are located in various places, so the shipping fees depend on where they are.
Similar customer service support. Like CustomCat, Printify doesn’t handle end customer support except when you signed up for an Enterprise plan. However, it provides 24/7 seller support and a self-serve help center.
Similar refund policy. Printify doesn’t issue a refund due to customer remorse or incorrect details once the order has been placed. But if the issue is with the printing quality and mistakes on Printify’s side, it will replace the product.
More integration options. Printify has more integration options: Shopify, Etsy, WooCommerce, eBay, PrestaShop, BigCommerce, and Wix Stores. Similar to CustomCat, it also has API integration and manual order submissions.
What are other CustomCat alternatives?
Redbubble – a print-on-demand marketplace that allows artists and designers to make money from their creations. Creating a Redbubble store is free, and you only have to pay for the base costs of products that your customers ordered. It has a wide range of products that you can sell.
Teespring – a free end-to-end print-on-demand platform that you can integrate with your social media accounts, such as YouTube, Twitch, Streamlabs, Instagram, and Discord. It offers 50+ products you can customize. What’s more, it handles end customer service for you, in addition to the fulfillment and delivery of products to the customers.
Zazzle – an online marketplace for designers and customers who want to create their own customized products. It has also partnered with over 550 brands, including Disney, Harry Potter, and Marvel. You can sell your creations through its platform. It doesn’t integrate other eCommerce platforms.
SPOD – Spotify’s print-on-demand service with the fastest turnaround time in the industry. Your orders are ready for shipping within 48 hours. You can use over 50,000 designs on the platform to decorate products you want to sell, or you can upload your own designs.
Bonfire – a free site to create and sell your customized apparel. It specializes in t-shirts, but other apparel are also available—sweatshirts, tank tops, mugs, caps, and tote bags. You can upload your designs on the platform, set your selling goals, and run campaigns in between one and three weeks.
How to Make Your eCommerce Business Successful with CustomCat?
Now you have everything you need to create products, from designing to fulfilling to delivering them to your customers. Will money keep coming in once you start publishing your products? We sure hope so! However, the solutions from your POD provider is only half of the story. You have other work to do to make sure your eCommerce business succeeds!
Here are some tips:
Figure out the niche you want. What market do you want to focus on? While it’s tempting to sell a little bit of everything, it’s better to narrow down your options and start with a small market.
Identify your target audience. What groups of customers do you want to attract? Do you want to target young adults? Gamers? Mothers? Identifying your ideal customer will make it easier for you to design products that will address their needs or preferences. With that, your marketing efforts will more likely convert than campaigns that target almost everyone.
Promote your store and products. You need to market your eCommerce store outside the platform to drive traffic to your page. If you can set a budget for paid ads, go ahead. But you can also take advantage of social media and search engine optimization.
Prioritize customer satisfaction. Engage with your customers and make sure that you provide them with an excellent shopping experience. That way, you’ll earn loyal and returning customers, not to mention that they can become brand ambassadors for you. There’s nothing more effective than word-of-mouth marketing!
While the pandemic has caught many businesses off guard, which resulted in many closures, it doesn’t mean you can’t start a business today. It’s a matter of finding an opportunity to address customer demands that have emerged amid the crisis. Consumer behaviors have shifted, and many prefer shopping online, which is why eCommerce has been growing exponentially.
CustomCat makes for a great option if you want to join the growing eCommerce industry today. It stands out among the competition because of low base prices for its products, a variety of product options, and high-quality prints. In particular, you must consider CustomCat if you’re based in the US. If you’re located elsewhere, other POD providers with facilities near you are better options for a faster turnaround.