Replicating The Marketplace Model Of Amazon, Etsy And AirBnb In The Print Industry

The print industry is growing at a massive scale. An SGIA study reports the overall sales in the commercial print sector is expected to be valued at $87 billion and experience growth of 1.5-2.5% by the end of 2019.

The technologies prevalent in the industry are also transforming. For starters, many printing companies now offer digital storefront and online ordering facilities to their end-customers.

Also known as web-to-print technology, it helps the latter in placing orders for personalized products on the website and paying for them seamlessly. The technology has opened up many avenues for printing companies to do business. It has also given rise to the marketplace model.

Defining the term ‘marketplace.’

In simple words, it is the marketplace owner processes an eCommerce model which enables multiple businesses (which in our case would be a printing company) to sell their products or services on a single platform and transactions.

Most popular marketplace brands include Amazon, Etsy, and Airbnb. Here are a few things implemented by them:


popular marketplace brands include Amazon, Etsy, and Airbnb

The tech giant started as an online seller of books and eventually branched out to selling gadgets, home decor, baby products, clothing, stationery and more.

Today, Amazon has two different commission models for individual vendors who have less than 40 number of products to sell and pro-merchants. Each vendor selling on Amazon is commissioned to pay on each sale. It is through the commissions that Amazon earns its money.

The marketplace model does not warehouse the products but ties up with some selected logistics partners, and financial institutions for efficient delivery and payments. That’s exactly what Amazon does. Since it has a global audience, it ties up with many national and regional logistics partners to reach out to even the smallest of towns in the world.


Airbnb has a simple concept. The hosts get themselves registered on the platform and get verified. The travelers search for appropriate properties to stay in just like how they do on or

The hospitality service provider follows a similar approach when it comes to earning commissions. It charges a flat 10% commission from the host upon every booking made on the platform, and 3% of the booking amount from the traveler once the transaction is complete on every confirmed booking.


The approach followed by Etsy is a bit different than what Amazon and Airbnb follow. The concept of Etsy is niche and falls under the domain of handmade items, handicrafts, and art. The brand strives to offer value to both its buyers and sellers.

For instance: buyers have access to products from all around the world, and they can make payments online easily. Sellers enjoy easy and secure payouts. Etsy takes 3.5% of the sale revenue as commission and also takes the onus of shipping.

All three brands have found success with this model and continue to proliferate as they have found a stable base of sellers and buyers for maintaining the liquidity to trade on these eCommerce platforms.

Replicating the marketplace model for printing businesses seems like a multimillion idea

Yes, it is. But first let us check out the challenges faced by printing companies and how the model can offer a solution:

Expensive logistics

Distribution and warehousing problems exist in the print market. Small print service providers don’t have the financial bandwidth to afford global logistics support that can not only take care of their shipping but also nullify their inventory problems.

Tedious workflows

In a traditional brick-and-mortar model, the printer designs and takes a sample print, gets it approved by the customer and then processes the printing. This is a very time-taking affair for a printing company that is trying to turn around jobs faster and make quick money.

Poor marketing

Marketing a brand is a whole new ball game, and for printing companies that are just starting, it is not possible to invest so much on marketing themselves right in the beginning. Most of the business that comes in the initial stages is via word-of-mouth or personal contact.

The source of sales is limited and sometimes scarce for new businesses.

The web-to-print marketplace model is ideal for printing businesses

The model mentioned above comprises of a marketplace owner, print broker or reseller, designer and photographer, and end-users on the same platform.

web-to-print marketplace model

The marketplace owner offers a centralized online platform to other parties with logistics and marketing support and earns a commission on every sale. Resellers enjoy a continuous flow of orders without having to worry about shipping or marketing themselves.

Designers and photographers create artworks, let them get approved and earn a commission from whatever is approved by the customers. Lastly, the end-users get to shop for all their printing needs under one roof and enjoy competitive prices and timely delivery.

The parameters determining the success of a web-to-print marketplace model

Merely replicating the marketplace model of a successful business is hardly enough. You should keep the following points in mind:

Financial transparency

Wherever money is involved, emotions are involved. Therefore, there should be transparency about who’s handling the payments, how is the print resellers earning their commission, what payment modes are end-customers using, and how a marketplace owner is driving revenues from himself.


Everyone wants to scale their business rapidly. However, the same can’t always result in positive results. Marketplace owners must take account of the quality of printed personalized products being sold on their platform.

Take after-sales steps like feedback on shipment, product quality, seller ratings and more. The marketplace owner should always have control over all resellers, designers, and photographers. After all – it is business.

Logistical pricing

It is crucial for the marketplace owner to figure out the logistics well in advance because the product pricing and commissions critically depend on how much shipping will cost for each order placed. The marketplace owner can’t run into losses just because the cost of logistics got out of control.

Start your own marketplace with Design’N’Buy

The growth of web-to-print marketplace is not going to stop anytime soon and you can expect to see some really successful businesses emerging from it.

Imagine if you had a fully functional web-to-print storefront solution to leverage people, technology and processes for rapid growth of your printing company? Well, there is one and it’s called Design’N’Buy

You can configure and customize the solution to suit your business needs. It also offers many integration possibilities with third-party ERP, MIS and workflow systems. Does this sound like something you’d want?

Sign up for a free consultation here.

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