A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… 🌠
I started a series on whether or not you can make money with Merch By Amazon (MBA). Well, I only ended up writing one short article, but people kept finding it somehow. So, seeing as how I’m still pursuing MBA anyway…and there is at least some level of interest in it…this is the continuation of that series.
There’s always a learning curve.
As with any new venture, you’re going to need to learn a few things. These are the most important concepts to understand from my experience so far.
What tier are you in? 📈
The way it works: if you get approved to participate in the MBA program, you start in what is known as tier 10. All that really means is that you can upload a maximum of 10 designs, and only 1 per day.
In order to get to the next tier, which is tier 25, you have to actually sell some shirts. The more shirts you sell, the more tiers you’ll climb and the more designs you can upload per day. This is known as tiering up.
For the record, I’m currently in tier 25. I sold 3 shirts to get there, one of which was canceled due to fulfillment issues. 😮
Why tiering up matters: it may be obvious, but the more shirts you have active on Amazon the more you can sell, which means potentially more money for you, quicker.
So, how much money do you make per sale? 💸
You get paid royalties for each sale. The amount you earn depends on what you set your prices at. Generally speaking you can get about 25% of the sale price for standard t-shirts, and maybe an extra dollar if you’re using the Amazon affiliate program on top of Merch By Amazon.
How do you sell your shirts? 👕
You might be wondering…just like I was…how you get people to see, and sometimes even buy, your shirts. Well, there are three ways:
You Show Them. Yes, you read that correctly. The number one way to get people to see your shirts when you’re just starting out is for you to show them your shirts! Duh. 😜
If you have an audience already built it makes this part much easier. I don’t really, but I’ve found that friends and family will happily support you if you make something they care about! (hint hint).
The bonus of this strategy is that you can sell whatever type of designs you want to these people, because they already love you. ❤️
Paid Ads. To the best of my understanding, these are utilized only by people with loads of experience in both ads and MBA. The reason why is that you’re very likely to waste a lot of money on ads chasing sales as a beginner. Ads will eat up your bank account faster than Joey Chestnut eats a hot dog. 🌭
I will not be exploring Paid Ads in this series.
Organic Traffic. This is the big selling point of MBA. You get to put your designs on Amazon! You’ve been told there’s already so much traffic on Amazon that it’s a dream come true for designers and entrepreneurs alike!
The truth is a bit more mild. Amazon does get tons of traffic, but the customers won’t see your designs unless they’re already searching for them. This absolutely dictates what type of designs you can sell there organically. Finding that out was the biggest bummer to me so far in my experience.
That being said, the best opportunity to make money with MBA is definitely through organic traffic, so that’s what we’ll be focusing on in this series.
Any MBA shirt that has sold, has an ABSR.
It stands for Amazon Best Sellers Rank. You can find it under the Product description on any shirt listing. If there isn’t one, then the shirt hasn’t sold yet! It’s important to know this when you’re doing research.
Well that’s all good, but how do you get designs?
Based on what I’ve told you, you might have noticed that you’re gonna need a ship-ton of designs. So where do you get them?
For starters, you can make your own! There are actually plenty of specific courses on Udemy for creating MBA ready shirts. There are also lots of free resources on YouTube for learning. Personally, I’ll be making my own designs since I already do freelance design and I happen to enjoy it.
The other way to get designs is to buy them. You can hire a designer from Fiverr or Upwork, and pay them as little as $5 or as much as $300 per design. It all depends on what type of quality you need and what you can afford. That being said, I’ve learned that simple often beats complicated when it comes to designs that sell on MBA.
But wait, what type of designs should you buy?
There are three types of designs.
Evergreen: these are your steady year-round sellers. You want to make a good amount of evergreen designs for your portfolio. 🌲
Holidays: these are shirts based around recurring events like Halloween, Christmas, or Independence Day. They sell like hotcakes right before the holiday, but don’t do diddly squat the rest of the year. 🎃
Trends: it’s a hot topic! Think fidget spinners, dabbing, Melania Trumps jacket, etc. Anything that has captivated the mainstreams attention. A lot of people try to ride trends in MBA, but it shouldn’t be your main strategy. I get it, the allure of making that one shirt that just goes babies and makes you a ton of money is tempting. The problem is that trends are hard to predict, and once they’re obvious everyone is going to flood the market. And after that, they’re gone forever and you have a dead shirt. You’re better off building a portfolio of stable evergreen designs as a beginner. ⚡️
Be a knight who says niche!
Typically shirt designs fall into two categories: niche or brand. If you have a huge following and can sell your own brand that’s great, but most people will be focusing on niches.
A niche is an interest that appeals to a small specialized section of the population. You know, like dog owners. So golden retriever owners would be a niche. If someone tells you that you need to niche down then you’d make your design even more specialized. For example, golden retriever moms. You’re narrowing your focus to moms and making shirts for very specific types of people. That’s how you win.
Okay, I gave you a lot of info, but how do you put it all together?
If you’ve been paying attention, you now know that you’re gonna wanna make evergreen designs that sell organically targeting a specific niche on Amazon to maximize your sales.
So, where do you even start to figure out what designs fit that bill? Well, I guess I’ll have show you in part 3! 😜
You know how little kids write a list to Santa of all the toys they want for Christmas? Sussing out the most profitable items to sell on Amazon FBA is kinda like that. Certain patterns emerge that point to the most popular products, and as usual, Merch By Amazon has the inside scoop on that.
1. Books – Yep, the Kind Made of Paper and Ink
Raise your hand if you’ve heard the death knell of books before. If it wasn’t Kindle, it was some variation of the iPod/iPad/iPhone. But guess what? Books are more popular than ever. It’s how Amazon got started, and how you can carve out a profitable niche on the marketplace.
Simple: a huge profit margin. If you can pick up books in bulk for a dollar or so, give or take a bit in either direction, you can turn around and sell them on Amazon 1000% of their original price. While this isn’t a sure-fire formula all the time (see: unlucky arbitrage times, like a big box clearance sale) and you probably shouldn’t base your entire business on this premise if your goal is to maximise revenue, it most definitely deserves its own solid corner in your shop.
2. The Population Keeps Growing, and That Includes Things for Babies
As long as humans are procreating, their progeny will need, for lack of a better word, stuff. And because babies don’t stay the same size for very long, this means they need a lot of stuff. The bonus of selling baby items is they’re inexpensive for you to pick up, lightweight, (fairly) durable, and always in demand.
Pro tip: market to first-borns because parents to spend more on them (if you’re a middle or youngest sibling like myself, you’ll know how true this is).
3. All That Glitters Just Maybe Gold
Gems, baubles, precious metals — what these jewellery items have in common is they’re consistently in hot demand. But…you’ve got to be super diligent in how you advertise your wares because the market is pretty saturated with jewellery.
While the profit margin can be a staggering 50%+, it’s only if you can take advantage of unique long-tail keywords. If your items can only be described in generic single-ish keywords, don’t bother. You’re competing against far too much.
4. Exercise Clothing for All Those New Resolutioners
I enjoy being active and I’ve played a ton of sports growing up. I’ve also learned the hard way that just buying the clothes doesn’t make me good or diligent at a particular activity. But shh, don’t tell the rest of the world that! Workout wear is one of the hottest sellers on Amazon, and you can easily take part in the craziness. As a bonus, most people want to buy their clothing new (can you imagine ordering a pair of used sweatpants? Eww!), so you can increase the profitability even more.
5. Electronic Items and All Their Accessories
As antithetical to the idea of books being hot sellers on Amazon as electronic items, you should really start stocking up on these yesterday. People love their techy gadgets and what’s in it for you is:
- The lower of Amazon’s commission fee (8% versus 15%)
- A plethora of choices and subsets within each category
- A variety of new devices coming out all the time
- Different ways of appealing to different audiences based on the brand name, even though they all do essentially the same stuff
- Excellent arbitrage opportunities, sometimes as often as each week (hello, Best Buy!)
We all know that Amazon is great for buying and selling finished products including clothing – and now, Merch by Amazon offers increased creativity and flexibility by allowing users to design and manufacture their own clothing ranges. We’ve put together our guide to getting started with Merch by Amazon in order to start selling your own design T-Shirts, hoodies and more.
What is Merch by Amazon?
Launched in 2015, Merch by Amazon is a print on demand (POD) platform similar to Amazon’s KDP and App Developer programs. After opening an account Merch by Amazon, customers can upload their own designs for T-Shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies to the site.
Once approved by Amazon, the product will be available on Amazon and searchable by buyers. When a buyer chooses to purchase a product, it will be produced to order – i.e, on demand. Then, Amazon pays the designer a royalty on every product sold.
How does Merch by Amazon work?
Signing up for Mercy by Amazon is relatively straight-forward and should take less than 15 minutes. Before you get started, make sure that you have the following to hand:
- Your Amazon account sign-in details
- Your contact information
- Your bank account and routing numbers
- Your social security or tax ID number
Opening your Merch by Amazon account
Log onto merch.amazon.com/landing. On the screen, you’ll see an orange button marked ‘Request Invitation’.
Click onto the ‘Request Invitation’ button and you’ll be presented with an application form. This form will ask for a number of different pieces of information including your company profile and your banking information (good thing you had these handy before you started).
If you don’t yet have a company profile, you can simply use your full name but, you will need to include an industry such as ‘T-Shirt business’.
You’ll also be required to fill in a tax questionnaire (for non-USA users, Amazon might withhold around 30% of profits for tax withholding. It’s important that all of the information entered is accurate and honest in order to avoid your application being rejected.
Once you’ve submitted your application, it will be sent to Amazon for review – Amazon states that a decision will be made within 60 days but it’s usually a lot quicker. You can improve your chances of being accepted by stating your previous experience, linking to your personal website and including original designs with your application.
Once your account has been opened, you will have 10 design slots which means that you can upload 10 different designs. Once you have sold 10 or more items and have used most of your design slots, you’ll be put onto the tier system which allows you to upload more designs as follows:
- Tier 1 10 Designs
- Tier 2 25 Designs
- Tier 3 100 Designs
- Tier 4 500 Designs
- Tier 5 1000 Designs
- Tier 6 2000 Designs
- Tier 7 4000 Designs
- Tier 8 8000 Designs
Creating your first masterpiece
From your Merch by Amazon dashboard, access the ‘Upload Finished Artwork’ button.
Your design will need to comply with Merch by Amazon’s guidelines which include:
- 15”W x 18”H with a transparent background
- 300 ppi (example, 4500 x 5400 pixels)
- Export artboard as an sRGB
- Your file size must be less than 25MB
If you’re just starting out with design, you can use one of Amazon’s templates which include Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop and GIMP.
Staying within the law
When selling clothing which contains an artistic design or slogan, you must always make sure that the design belongs to you and not to anybody else. Using other people’s work on your designs is a breach of copyright and could see you banned from a selling platform or even prosecuted.
If you have a unique design which you intend to use a lot, it may be worth trademarking it to make sure that nobody else can use your design. You can trademark design or slogan by registering it with USPTO.
Once you’ve uploaded your artwork, you’ll be presented with a drop-down menu from which you can choose the kind of design you wish to upload – for example, T-Shirt, sweatshirt or hoodie.
After submitting your new product, you’ll see that it appears on your dashboard as ‘Under Review’. This will change to ‘Processing’ before finally going live. Once live, you’ll be able to copy the product link for use in your marketing.
Is it Worth Joining the Merch by Amazon?
Merch by Amazon – The Pros and Cons
Although Merch by Amazon is a great tool, it may not be for everyone. We take a look at the great bits – and the not so great bits of Merch by Amazon.The great bits
- Creativity – Merch by Amazon allows new and budding designers to get their work out there in order to build up a profile. Users can create unique pieces of clothing rather than just buying and selling existing items.
- Cost – Merch by Amazon is free to use and means that designers can create unique items of clothing without the cost of materials, storage or shipping.
- Useability – Merch by Amazon is super-simple to use as you follow the straight-forward guidelines. Users can quickly and easily create items which will be ready for sale on Amazon in a matter of hours.
- Quantity – Merch by Amazon rewards users by increasing the number of designs that can be uploaded, via its tier system. This means that serious and prolific designers can upload up to a staggering 8000 designs in order to increase sales.
The not so great bits
- Pricing – Sellers have very little flexibility when it comes to the pricing of items as this is set by Amazon – for example, a standard T-Shirt will generally be priced between $15.99 and $25.99 and sellers are not able to price lower than Amazon’s minimum.
- Royalties – New designers signing up for Merch by Amazon shouldn’t expect to become a millionaire through the site. Royalties paid to sellers are low – for example, for the sale of a T-Shirt priced at $15.99, the seller will receive just $2.36. For more details of how Amazon calculate the royalties for seller, you can check the Royalty Calculation page.
- Range – Merch by Amazons range is not too wide and, currently, only includes T-Shirts, Long Sleeved T-Shirts, Sweatshirts and Hoodies.
- Quality – Due to the limited range available, sellers don’t get to choose the quality of the actual garments in terms of fabric or craftsmanship. Plus, items are created, packed and shipped by Amazon which means that the seller has no quality control.
How to Beat Competition on Amazon Merch
Needless to say, there are a huge number of people selling their designs through Merch by Amazon so, how do you make yours stand out?
Design – Make sure that your design is distinctive and completely unique in order to attract your customers. If adding a slogan, try something trendy or topical to get your product noticed.
Marketing – Make the most of social media in order to get your designs out there. Create engaging posts and paid ads and start collecting those likes and shares.
Research – Before going ahead with your product, do a little research to see what’s already out there. Take a look at products which are similar to yours to see who the competition is and how well their products are selling. Try using Merch Informer to help you see who’s selling what.
Branding – When selling your own branded items through Merch by Amazon, you can improve your chances of success by making sure that your branding is really strong. With your company name, product name and blurb, always think SEO – and make sure that the words that you use are memorable, relatable and relevant to your niche or brand. Always, of course, make sure that you’re not using a slogan or phrase that belongs to somebody else.
Price – You don’t, unfortunately, have too many price options with Merch by Amazon and, many sellers will tend to opt for the cheapest price in order to encourage more sales. In reality, it’s better to go with an average price rather than the lowest as, when comparing similar products, buyers will often question the quality of the lowest-priced items.
Merch by Amazon provides a great channel for those looking to begin a career as a clothing designer. The on-demand services mean that this is a risk-free way of showcasing designs and slogans.
The only downside to Merch by Amazon is concerned with cold hard cash – sellers are unable to control the pricing of items and earn a relatively small amount per sale. Although this means that it may not be the best option for sellers looking to make a lot of money, it’s certainly a great tool for those just looking to show off their design skills.
Merch by Amazon is an on-demand t-shirt printing service. It allows sellers to create and list t-shirt designs on Amazon for free. There are no upfront costs and you get paid royalties when a customer buys your shirt. Simply, upload your design, choose colours and set a price — then let Amazon will take care of the rest.
Many experienced sellers are predicting Merch by Amazon will become huge and now is the time to get involved if you haven’t already.
How can l join?
Here’s the landing page where you can apply.
You fill out a short form then wait to be approved. This can take somewhere between three weeks and three months so if you’re interested, it’s best to get your application in soon. Once you’re approved, Amazon will ask for some basic information, then you can get started.
The Merch dashboard is where you can upload designs, promote your t-shirt and analyse sales. To begin with, you’re limited to 25 designs, but once you sell 25 shirts, you’ll be upgraded to Tier 2 where you can have up to 100 designs.
The more designs you have, the more opportunity there is to make money. The tiered system helps reward those who create quality designs and prevents spammers from flooding the program with loads of designs.
Here’s a popular Merch by Amazon t-shirt from the Animal Lover Collection.
Photo credit: Amazon/Animal Lover Collection
You can identify Merch by Amazon t-shirts by the plain white label and the listing will also include a sizing chart similar to the one shown below.
Photo credit: Amazon
You can use the Amazon Best Sellers Rank to see what designs are popular. Remember, you can use these for inspiration but you should never copy a design.
And, if there are multiple listings already using the same quote, you may want to go with a different design with less competition.
Creating your first t-shirt design
Download the Merch by Amazon t-shirt templates
You create a high-quality image in the space provided. Your design shouldn’t be stretched or pixelated and it’s worth checking the Merch by Amazon best practices for further tips on designs.
Another option if you don’t want to design something yourself is to buy ready-made designs from companies like MerchReadyDesigns. You can download these and upload them to your Merch account straight away.
Photo credit: MerchReadyDesigns
Print on Demand process
The Merch on Amazon process can be simplified into five easy steps.
- Upload your design as per Amazon’s design specifications.
- Set a price.
- Amazon will create a product listing for you.
- People see the listing and buy your shirt.
- Amazon will print it, pack it and ship it for you.
Amazon Merch Tips
- Research is the key to success. Use the free MerchResearch tool to search your phrase with the Amazon Merch category.
- Avoid copyright infringement. Check relevant websites if you’re unsure. If you use a copywritten term/image/quote then you risk having your entire account being shut down without warning.
- Use bullet points and well-written descriptions in your listings. This resulted in a 40% increase in sales for FBA seller Jason Wilkey.
- Find a niche market and come up with new ideas.
- Partner up with a local business.
- Use Google Trends to see what keywords are trending on the web. Plus, keep an eye on any major events happening.
- Promote your t-shirt designs by creating Facebook and Twitter posts in the portal promotions section within Merch by Amazon.
- Analyse your sales.
- Look into the Teespring T2 program.
As Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson once sang, the best things in life are free. This is especially true when it comes to Amazon FBA tools that can help you take your game to the next level. MerchByAmazon has the ten best ones you can start using today.
This is an FBA tool you should be using every day, several times a day. It alerts you to price drops, as well as gives you updates on a product’s sales rank and price history — all useful information for Amazon sellers.
Keepa is fairly similar to CamelCamelCamel, with the main difference being the timeframes you can select to look at a product’s history. This one tends to give you a more immediate view over CCC’s more long-term look.
3. Keyword Tool
Just how it sounds, Keyword Tool lets you test out different keywords in various search engines, then filter by country, so you know which terms to apply and where.
4. FBA Calculator for Amazon
Knowing keywords and prices are only part of the equation — another is being able to calculate an item’s profit margin once you factor in fees and charges. Install it and have it work right there on the product page.
5. Google Trends
Did you know that keywords have historical trends and patterns? With Google Trends, you will! And not only will you know what happens, but you’ll also be able to see what that data is so you can plug in different keywords at different times of the year.
6. Google Keyword Planner
Type in a bunch of search terms, and see right away what their monthly hits are, and the level of competition is for each. Better yet, Google Keyword Planner will also show you related keywords with the same amount of information, just in case you missed anything. Oh yeah, they also offer live support.
7. AMZ Base
Stop looking for products the wrong way. Seriously, it’s time to give up bad habits. Start using AMZ Base so you can find ASINs and descriptions quickly and efficiently, saving yourself oodles of time in the process.
8. URL Shorteners
The best two URL shorteners in the business are Google Short URL and Bitly. Because they’re so similar, ultimately it comes down to which interface you like better. Make sure to take advantage of all the extra resources both offer, too.
9. Unicorn Smasher
Be warned: you’ll encounter a lot of colour and graphics when you first click onto it. Once you explore past the colours, you’ll find a tool with tons of awesome features, like revenue estimates, monthly estimates, data analysis, and a lot more.
Last but certainly not least, this free FBA tool aggregates product data into a handy database. It’s very useful for collecting information to research which products are worth selling for you so you can make an informed choice. If you’re not at the narrowly-focus research stage, then use it as an idea generator to help shape which direction to go in.