How to Manufacture Custom Products for Shopify

Komaspec Products
Table of contents

Table of Contents


The Shopify ecosystem is highly competitive. Brands and businesses selling through Shopify need to work hard to provide products that grab people’s attention and make sales.

Designing and bringing custom products to the market is one good way Shopify brands can offer more value to consumers and be more noticeable. Shopify brands can manufacture custom designed products that are completely new and unique. Alternatively, they can manufacture custom products that offer a big improvement on old alternative products.

The idea of producing innovative, custom products may seem difficult. With the right approach, however, it’s possible to find a way. In this article, we’ll look at how Shopify businesses can do it.

What is a Custom Product?

Custom products are products that brands and businesses create to differentiate themselves from their competitors. New, innovative products or existing products that are given new functions, a new design, new accessories or other unique features will stand out and be noticed in the marketplace.  

Brands that stand out and grab the attention of consumers with unique, custom products earn themselves higher sales and higher revenues.

What custom implies is something not off the shelf, but this can be as minor as changing the color and packaging of a product, or as drastic as developing a product completely from scratch. . There’s also a middle path - many great custom products come by altering or iterating already existing concepts in a clever way to add new functionality or unlock new customer value.  Not all unique designs have to be truly one of a kind.

Developing a Custom Shopify Product from Scratch

The first thought that comes to mind when discussing how to create a custom product is to design one completely from scratch.

Product development of this kind can be a lengthy and complicated process. What always underpins it, however, is understanding both what consumers want from a product and what they will be willing to spend money on. Check out this video from Shopify on new product development for some great, up to date advice on how to develop unique, custom products that sell. If you don’t want to watch the video, read their article here.

Taking on the development of a completely new product has the advantage of granting unique IP, more flexibility in pricing or marketing, and a special place in the market, but it can be a very time and cost intensive process.

Komaspec: Expert Sheet Metal and Plastics Manufacturers

Leverage our experience with Shopify brands for custom product design and efficient manufacturing processes.


Modifying an Existing Brand Product

As we said, designs don’t necessarily have to be completely unique. Often, when a brand undertakes a custom product design project, they will actually end up modifying a design that already exists.

Brands can make changes to their own existing products to create new, custom products that attract attention from new customers or get old customers excited in a new way.

New functions can be added to a product to give it new capabilities. This may happen as technology advances, with new technology being incorporated to alter the way a product functions. Alternatively, a product can be altered to be used for new purposes or it may have its performance improved. New accessories can also be added to a product, it can be given a new design for aesthetic reasons, or it can be made with new materials.

Completely redesigning an existing product to be made from biodegradable or sustainable materials might attract a lot of attention, for example. 

There are many ways in which a product can be altered to develop it. Again, as with designing a product from scratch, the key is knowing what will bring value to the customer from a functionality, usage, design or other aspect.

Modifying an Existing ODM Product

Original design manufacturer (ODM) products are products that manufacturers produce for brands and businesses to sell under their own brand name. They’re also known as ‘private label’ or ‘white label’ products. ODM products can be adapted similarly to how a brand can adapt its own products.

As with existing brand products, it’s possible to make fundamental changes to the form or function of an ODM product. New features or uses can be added, new accessories can be added, new design styles can be created, or other changes can be made. As well as this, ODM products may benefit substantially just by adding new branding, changing coloration or by altering packaging.

Take coffee mugs, for example. Mugs are commonplace and completely un-innovative in themselves. But what if an in-trend outdoors company started selling branded coffee mugs with this new handle design…


Fig. 1: OEM vs ODM Comparison

Why Create Custom Products for Shopify?

The most important benefit that custom products bring is differentiation in the marketplace. This leads to increased consumer interest, and when customers see value as well, an increase in sales.

  • Differentiation: Unique products allow a brand to distinguish itself from its competitors. Products that do new things, do things better, look better or do anything better than their rival’s attract attention on social media, on marketplaces like Amazon and elsewhere. Being able to compete on product performance means a brand can avoid competing on price, on customer service or in other more difficult areas.

There are other benefits as well…  

  • Intellectual Property: As well as getting ahead with a custom product in the first place, if a brand can protect the rights to their new design, they can corner a piece of their market for themselves. This can have substantial long-term benefits.
  • Fill Market Gaps: New, custom products can do more than just compete well with rival products. Shopify sellers that create custom products that solve new issues or address unmet needs will fill a gap in the market, taking revenue in the process.
  • Enter New Markets: Developing new custom products may allow an established Shopify brand to enter a new market, making themselves known to new customers. Sales of old products may increase as well as sales of new products.
  • Reduce Environmental Impact: Many new innovations focus on sustainability and the environmental impact products have. New products that reduce the environmental impact of production give producers the satisfaction that their business is more sustainable. Consumers look positively on this as well. Check out these really interesting sustainable products from 2021.

Please note that differentiation through custom product design is part of a wider strategy of product differentiation. Have a look at this article on HubSpot to find out about other strategies in product differentiation.

The New Product Development Journey

The Crucial stages in the product development journey are:

  • Research
  • Design
  • Finding a manufacturer
  • Product manufacturing

Whether you decide to design a product from scratch, modify your own existing product or modify an ODM product will have a big influence on how long product development takes.

NPI Journey

Fig. 2: NPI Journey


Researching your market and your customers is essential for developing good new custom products that will sell when they go live. Good research will make sure you understand:

  • Market needs
  • Competitor products
  • Your potential customer base

The first thing is to look at the market in which you’ll sell your product and evaluate what problems you are aiming to solve with it. Good products always solve a problem for people, and knowing what those problems are is the first step in the process. You can find out what consumers need by carrying out interviews, giving out questionnaires and online surveys or in any other way that allows you to find out what consumers want.

Another vital step is to look at what your competitors already provide. You need to create a product that addresses the needs of consumers in a new and improved way.

Understanding your customer base is all about finding out what they will and will not pay for when they see products on the market. You need to make sure you design a product that consumers will really want to buy when they see it. Another thing to note is that as well as helping you understand whether or not a design is commercially viable, this stage will help you start to plan how to market your products.

Design and Specifications

Design ideas should emerge during the research stage. You can also brainstorm ideas after you’ve finished research and discuss ideas with other people in your business. Remember that new design ideas should target specific uses your product intends to provide.

The actual process of drawing up designs and specifications will depend on whether you create designs yourself or work with a designer or manufacturer to create them.

Komaspec can help you with your designs – Get in Touch.

Existing Product Modification

Where it’s possible to innovate by modifying an existing product, this is a helpful shortcut in the design process. You don’t need to design a product completely from scratch. You can adapt an existing design by changing it or introducing new elements.

If you are adapting your own product, you can talk to your OEM manufacturer about how best to introduce your new design ideas. For ODM products, ODM manufacturers will often be able to work alongside you to alter their existing designs according to what you need as the changes will often be mostly cosmetic, which has the added benefit of keeping product modification or tooling costs low.

Custom Design for Novel Products

For completely new concepts, you may be able to create your own designs in-house. Normally, this is appropriate where products are simple or where a Shopify brand already has experience of design. Otherwise, you’ll need to work with design professionals to create product blueprints.

Finding a Manufacturer

You need to find a manufacturer that is the right fit in terms of cost, quality, reliability and time to market.

The basic things to consider are:

  • Manufacturer type - Do you need an ODM or an OEM manufacturer?
  • Design collaboration skills – You may need to collaborate with a manufacturer that can provide input on designs. You may need help with the design process or input on ways in which designs can be improved to speed up, reduce the cost of or otherwise improve manufacturing.
  • Product type – You need a manufacturer that is experienced in manufacturing the type of products you need and has the equipment and expertise to do so.
  • Production capacity – Does the manufacturer have the capacity to produce the volume you need in the time you need it?


One point to stress here is that it’s important to draw up clear, detailed contracts that protect both parties from misunderstandings that may happen during manufacturing.

The Custom Product Manufacturing Process

Once you’ve chosen a manufacturer, consulted with them about your custom product design ideas and decided to pursue production, you need to follow certain steps during manufacturing.

  1. Tooling and Prototyping - This initial stage involves creating molds and tools to be used in production as well as prototypes for concept testing. This is the basic first stage where you begin to look at your custom product design in reality.
  2. Pilot Production - In the pilot production phase, small batches are produced to test the manufacturing process and product market fit. This is the crucial final stage before production begins in earnest. Designs can be verified for sale on the market, and final design changes can be made to optimize production.
  3. Mass Production - Once you give your manufacturer the go-ahead, full-scale production will begin.
  4. Quality Control - Once production begins, quality control becomes important. If mass production goes ahead without good quality control procedures in place, there can be problems. Quality control checks need to happen at various stages of production, and it’s better to catch problems at the earliest possible opportunity.


Designing and manufacturing a custom product for your Shopify brand could help you get ahead of your competitors, boost your reputation and corner a niche in your market.  

To get your product out, you need a manufacturer who will help you with everything you need to go from idea to market-ready product. Komaspec are experienced with custom Shopify product manufacturing, and we can help you right from design up to mass production.


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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between OEM and ODM manufacturing?

Original design manufacturing (ODM) is when a manufacturer has its own designs for products and manufactures them for other companies to sell under their own brand name. This is often otherwise referred to as ‘private label’ or ‘white label’ manufacturing.

Original equipment manufacturing (OEM) is when a manufacturer manufactures products according to designs and specifications provided to them by a client.

We have a whole article on the difference between ODM and OEM manufacturing here.

What kind of tools can I use to help me with product design?

Nowadays, CAD tools are available to help with product design. Modern CAD tools are advanced. They can produce highly sophisticated designs, evaluate how easy it will be to manufacture designs and integrate with other software as well.

How do I find a good custom Shopify product manufacturer?

When it comes to finding a manufacturer, it’s a question of finding one that fits your needs. It’s not just a case of finding a good manufacturer. You need the manufacturer that is the best fit in terms of cost, production quality, capacity and reliability.