Today, there are more mobile devices than there are people in the world.
That means there’s ample opportunity for you to grab a slice of the growing market for smartphone accessories.
Phone cases, in particular, are easy to source and appeal to people who are looking to inject some individuality or extra functionality into the one device they can’t live without.
Building a business around making and selling your own phone cases comes with a variety of benefits:
- It’s easy to hold inventory and ship due to their small size.
- They’re relatively low cost to produce.
- You can sell them both online and in an offline kiosk.
- Print-on-demand to start with lower risk or buy in bulk for better margins.
- Every new phone model offers a new opportunity to cater to the 44% of smartphone owners who upgrade every 2 years.
But as with any business where the barrier to entry is low, there’s going to be competition. However, all you need to succeed is a piece of this massive market.
The following is a guide that answers common questions about starting a phone case business, such as:
- What types of phone cases are there?
- Where do I get designs for phone cases?
- How do I know what phone cases/designs will be popular?
- Where can I sell my phone cases?
If making and selling phone cases sounds like a compelling business idea, but you don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place.
How to make and sell your own phone cases
Before you get to creating your own phone cases, there are a few things you’ll need to know, namely the types of phone cases out there, how to choose which phones you want to support, and how to come up with designs.
Types of phone cases
Some phone cases are more practical, while others are more visually appealing. Some offer protection, while others are more like a second “skin” than a case.
There is a multitude of options, but here are some of the most common types to get you started.
Slim and gel cases
Slim cases are on the thinner side and let you add an eye-catching design and some additional grip to a phone, often through a flexible, rubbery silicone gel material.
These are some of the cheapest phone cases you can produce and customize with designs, especially if you want to print them on demand (more on that later).
Unlike slim phone cases, these cases usually only cover the sides/border of your phone, and are often made of a harder, shock-resistant material to protect your phone from dings and scratches.
Bumper cases can be minimalistic, only cover the edges of a phone, or they can come with an additional piece for protecting the back from scratches too.
Folio or wallet cases
Folio cases have a cover that folds over the front of your phone to protect the screen from dust and scratches, and give the phone the appearance of a small notebook.
Some even have wallet-like features, such as the ability to store cash or credit cards, while others can be turned into a stand to prop up your phone.
You’ll typically find these in a leathery material and they will likely cost more than the slim cases but also appear to more practical consumers.Tough Cases
Many people look at having a phone case less as an aesthetic choice and more as a way to protect the hundreds of dollars they invested in their phone should they ever drop it.
Tough cases are bulkier and add more weight to a phone, but afford customers greater protection.
It’s important to recognize this when you write your product descriptions for tough phone cases, as anything from drop tests to details about water resistance can help give customers peace of mind.
Battery life seems to be a problem regardless of what phone you have these days.
While they’re more expensive than most phone cases, battery cases are also very practical and offer a lot of utility for those moments when we wish we had just a bit more juice.
Since these cases not only protect your phone but provide some extra charge, battery cases are a good companion for models of phones where battery life is a constant complaint.
Choosing which devices to focus on
It’s not just a matter of deciding what kind of phone cases you want, but what kinds of phones you want to support.
However, this can also offer an opportunity to dig into specific niches based on phone models. If you can foresee a need for cases for upcoming phones or spot any underserved smartphone types, there may also be an opportunity to consider.
While the latest iPhone models are probably a safe bet, you can take a look at this research by Device Atlas to see which phones are popular in the regions of the world where you want to sell.
Alternatively, you can do some basic keyword research in Google’s Keyword Planner or KWFinder to get a look at search volume as a reflection of demand for cases for specific types of phones. If you plan on using Google Ads to sell your products, it’s definitely worth looking into this in advance.
Where to get designs for your phone cases
Design can be one of your biggest differentiators, especially if you’re selling the standard slim cases.
Design communities like Dribbble are great places to shop around for designers based on the aesthetic you’re looking for. Or, if you’re looking for cost-effective designs, you can always find them on Fiverr. Try to look specifically for designers that do custom phone cases.
Be wary that not all phone case suppliers will print on the sides of the case. Many will only print on the back alone, so make sure you pay attention to that during the design phase and when looking for a supplier.
Try to source several different designs so you’re not just betting on one idea, and get feedback as early as you can:
- Post your designs on image-oriented social media sites like Facebook, Instagram or Pinterest, and use engagement (likes, shares, comments) as an indicator of interest. You can even put some money into promoting your designs to a wider, more relevant audience and see which ones do best.
- Ask friends and family for their input.
- Reddit is great for feedback if you're selling to a specific niche. Post your designs in a relevant subreddit (r/pugs if you're selling cases for pug owners) and the anonymity of Reddit will help you solicit good input. You can even follow up with another post when your cases are finally available for purchase.
Speaking to a niche, a group of people who feel passionately about a specific interest, through your designs will give you an edge in terms of garnering interest. After all, accessories like phone cases for many people are simply a way to show off to the world who they are.
How to get your phone cases made
Once you’ve got some designs you feel good about, it’s time to bring them to life. Unless you're willing to invest thousands in your own printing equipment, you have three main options when it comes to getting your phone cases made.
Use a print-on-demand service
Printful and Printify are just some of the many services that let you print phone cases on demand. While selling on-demand will eat into your margins a bit more, it also takes shipping and fulfillment off your plate so you don’t need to keep any phone cases on hand or even order them in bulk.
If you’re selling these phone cases on your own Shopify store, these print-on-demand services can integrate with your online storefront, taking care of fulfilling orders and customer support so all you need to worry about is making sales.
Whether it’s a t-shirt, an enamel pin, jewelry, or phone case, validating which designs people like can be tricky. These print-on-demand services offer a low-risk way to test design ideas, especially for slim phone cases.
Find a manufacturer to work with
Finding a manufacturer to work with is the route you’ll likely want to go in order to maximize your profits.
Alibaba offers a directory of manufacturers in China who make a variety of phone case types from slim to folio to battery
While you will have to buy in bulk with a minimum order quantity that’s anywhere from 10 to over 200, you’ll have the potential to offer better prices and make more off of each sale when each case can potentially cost you as little as $1.
You can also choose to partner with a local manufacturer to appeal to consumers who are interested in supporting businesses in their own country. Either way, be sure to order a sample first before you go in on a bulk order.
It’s worth noting that you don’t necessarily need inventory on hand in order to make sales. Sales can be used to decide which phone cases you actually order so you’re not stuck with hundreds of cases that just aren’t selling.
Since inventory won't take up much room, if you're confident about your phone cases, you can invest in an offline presence to sell by setting up a kart or kiosk in a high traffic area like a mall.
Dropshipping existing phone cases
Instead of making your own phone cases, you can use a dropshipping model so all you really need to worry about is building a website and making sales.
The only major downsides are that you'll have far less control over the product and lower margins, but in exchange, the product, shipping and fulfillment are taken care of for you.
It's as easy as using an app like Oberlo to import phone cases from Aliexpress into your Shopify store. Learn more about dropshipping with Aliexpress in The Definitive Guide to Dropshipping With Aliexpress.
Selling your phone cases online
Now that you’ve figured out your market, your product, and your supply chain, it’s time to figure out how and where to sell your phone cases.
While marketplaces like Etsy and Amazon are good places to list your phone cases, you can also open an online store to own your brand, expand your marketing efforts, and build a long-term business. And, if you want, you can even sell them offline in a kiosk using a POS system.
Open your own Shopify store—free for 14 days.
As far as marketing goes, the following are recommended channels and tactics you should try, as well as resources for how to execute them:
- Search engine marketing: Search engine marketing help you reach people who are searching for phone cases for particular smartphones. The buying intention behind these searches means you’ll get the most relevant clicks through to your products and the phones you support. You can achieve this organically through SEO or paying to promote through Google Ads.
- Facebook advertising: If you’re targeting a specific interest group with your designs, Facebook ads can help you market to people who fit a certain profile.
- Instagram marketing: Instagram is a highly visual platform, perfect for showing off your designs with the option for paid advertising as well.
- Influencer marketing: Partnering with micro-celebrities, YouTubers, Instagrammers, etc. lets you harness their influence and established audiences to get your phone cases in front of more people.
When you're writing product descriptions for your phones, be as specific as possible in your messaging and consider the biggest selling points for your phone cases.
Anything from the material to water resistance to a video of your phone case passing a drop test can make your cases more appealing to customers beyond just the design.
Ready to start your own phone case business?
Don't get bogged down by the competition for phone cases. Like any other competitive market, what you need to focus on is appealing to the right niche and getting your products in front of these people.
Over time, you can figure out winning designs and phone cases, as well as ways to source them to increase your margins, so that you can double down on selling them.