Digital disruption in e-commerce is no longer just for big brands

Neil Lassen

Digital disruption in e-commerce is no longer just for big brands 3

Todor Karlikov

By Neil Lassen and Todor Karlikov, Co-founders of Merchandising informant, Pound Bolt and Sale Samurai

Digital disruption is often seen as a “big boy” game, not for the small entrepreneur.

Of course, small businesses and start-up entrepreneurs could still create products and navigate their way online where they would need to find a producer, set up distribution, pay hefty marketing fees, platform and then manage shipping, customer service and returns.

More often than not, the high barriers to entry were enough to crush the dreams of these individuals and stop them in their tracks.

This has changed dramatically over the past 5 years with a strong push towards print on demand (POD) products impacting a global audience.

In fact, in 2021, the global print-on-demand market size was valued at USD 4.9 billion and is expected to increase annually by 26.1% from 2022 to 2030.

With the explosion of print-on-demand, entrepreneurs can sell high-quality products around the world without the headaches of a traditional startup.

That means no or less overhead, no shipping, no fulfillment, no customer service, and most importantly, no marketing costs thanks to distribution in the world’s largest markets.

Booming demand for e-commerce clothing

When the biggest e-commerce platform on the internet notices a trend and jumps on it, it’s time to pay attention.

We saw this firsthand when Amazon launched an all-new print-on-demand platform in 2015 called Merch by Amazon.

This was initially intended for app developers to help them sell quality clothing to their audience.

What happened quickly was that budding entrepreneurs realized the potential of this platform and decided to join, including ourselves.

Myself and Todor were one of the very first individuals to start selling on this new platform which they called Merch by Amazon. None of us were artists, none of us had ever sold print-on-demand products before, but we knew one thing… Amazon had a global following of hungry buyers in this segment.

The platform allows you to post digital files (PNG images), which they would then display to the world on different garments. Once an item was purchased from an Amazon buyer, Amazon would then print the garment, ship the item to the customer, and then deal with any customer service. What was left was a royalty paid to your company as a content creator.

With a lack of artistic skills, Todor and I were able to see great success incredibly quickly. We managed to start selling products in the 1st week to clients we’ve never known, never had to find, and never had to interact with at all.


Because print on demand allows people to test new ideas and bring them to market in hours, not days and certainly not months. It all came down to finding where customer demand already was and creating products.

That turned out to be the hard part.

Growing e-commerce communities

During this time, many creatives viewed Merch by Amazon as another outlet where they could offer their wares.

The difficult part for these sellers was that they had no way of knowing if there was demand on Amazon for what they had, and how to get those products in front of the right buyers.

This led to the formation of large communities where creatives discussed their ideas and techniques.

What most people did back then was spend hours and hours every day on Amazon creating big spreadsheets of products that already existed so they could not only find what customers wanted buy, but try to find holes in the market so that they can create new products in those niches that would meet customer demand.

We noticed this pretty quickly and decided to release a tool we were working on for our own print-on-demand business. In 2016, Merchandising informant Was launched.

We had built software that would find customer demand on Amazon, help us build a listing using the right keywords, and analyze brand data to make sure we weren’t infringing on any intellectual property. This system worked incredibly well for us, but it soon became clear that it was what the whole community needed.

Merch Informer has been inundated with feature requests, training tutorials, and graphic design tips.

It was clear that we weren’t the only ones who wanted and needed a way to grow their business quickly.

99.99% of everyone who walks through the doors of our software company are individuals, creatives and entrepreneurs. These aren’t big brands with unlimited marketing budgets and expensive overheads.

With over 200,000 entrepreneurs passing through our doors at Merch Informer, we’ve seen individual entrepreneurs compete against large corporations that were behind the times. They are able to sell thousands of products, build brands themselves, and grow their businesses in less time than before.

Meet Ken Reil

Through one of these groups, we met an individual who seized the opportunity presented to him: Ken Reil.

We met Ken about 6 years ago when the print on demand industry was just starting to take off.

He almost quit at the very beginning because his first product image was one pixel away. Fortunately, he stuck to it!

Ken has since launched thousands of products on Amazon, earned hundreds of thousands of dollars working from his home in Las Vegas, and even built a major brand specializing in the horror niche: Monsters & Martians.

All of this was done without the traditional e-commerce route, but through print-on-demand, software tools, and expansion.

Rapid expansion for e-commerce entrepreneurs

What many quickly realize when they go down this path is that success comes from a combination of great products and getting those products to the right audience.

This good audience may not only buy clothes from Amazon, or not buy from Amazon at all!

Over the years, we’ve pioneered analytics and creative software around the print-on-demand industry, helping sellers create and sell products ranging from apparel to low-content books (such as puzzle/activity books), and even expand beyond Amazon to new marketplaces such as Etsy.

We’ve seen an insane increase over the past 2-3 years as everyone has been stuck at home for print-on-demand books to fill people’s time and overcome problems.

They are not long stories, but rather notebooks, journals, puzzle books, etc.

Thanks to our Book Bolt software publisherwe have seen a huge increase in sales on the Amazon platform for these types of print-on-demand products, and all of this can be done without actually being an author.

Many creative entrepreneurs realize that if they have a digital file that they created, it can be reused in many different types of products.

Take our Ken example above. He owns a large brand of monsters and martians which he sells as print-on-demand clothing.

One of the things he’s been working on is taking those same digital files and turning them into print-on-demand coloring books through Amazon KDP. This uses the same asset in his business to expand his customer base.

Always looking for other outlets to sell his products, he also turned to Etsy, where he sells these same files as clothes, but also smaller orders such as stickers to build awareness of his product. brand (and put more money in his company’s bottom line).

Big brands are starting to take notice

You don’t have to take our word for it that print on demand is a booming industry and here to stay.

Take a look at some of the top brands that are turning to POD (print on demand) to drastically reduce overhead and increase revenue.


Dolly Parton


These are just a few of the brands that have started to take advantage of print-on-demand in the world’s largest market.

We see this primarily through Merch by Amazon and less with low content books and other marketplaces such as Etsy.

This should be a great example that not only can you compete with some of the biggest brands on the planet, you can REALLY compete with them using software, technology, and outlets like Amazon and Etsy.

Reduce costs, increase revenue and determine what customers really want. You are not too late to start.

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