The ability to customise products and respond to trends quickly are among issues for clothing retailers and brands in e-commerce, according to new research linked to on-demand printing.

Surveying 66 online retailers and brands, it pointed to a range of issues such as sustainability and customisation that supported the print-on-demand model for garment decoration.

The report, titled “How to increase your product catalogue and test design ideas without inventory risk”, has been published by e-commerce research specialist Digital Commerce 360 and global print-on-demand company Printful.

It revealed that the ability to respond to trends was an important issue for 86% of respondents. The next priority was minimising inventory risk and investments, with 77% calling it “important” and 44% saying it was “very important”.

The ability to test new design ideas was cited by 74%, the need to increase product assortment by 73%, and the ability to allow product customisation by 61%.

With the Covid pandemic highlighting the risk of long supply chains, 70% of respondents said they had experienced difficulties obtaining sufficient inventory. Another 44% said it was a major challenge to ensure the reliability of their supply chain.

When asked about the challenges they faced, 53% cited difficulty in forecasting inventory needs, 36% reacting to trends with new products, and 33% the long time to market.

The report also highlights the growth in print-on-demand where products are only printed and shipped once an order comes in – the model for Printful, which is expanding in the UK after opening a fulfilment centre in Wolverhampton.

The research, carried out in late 2021, found that only 24% of the retailers surveyed had ever tried print-on-demand although another 8% planned to investigate the technology in the coming year.

The report concluded: “That relatively low adoption represents an opportunity for retailers and brands to get a jump on their competition by taking advantage of a technology that addresses many of the challenges facing companies today.”