As an Amazon seller, you're aware of how competitive the marketplace has become, with millions of new sellers joining the Amazon platform every year. Advertising can get expensive quickly, as you're trying to compete with all these other brands to make an impression and gain some awareness from potential customers.
It's a little too easy to throw advertising money at the wrong things, and when you're getting started, a much better idea is to let your customers do the advertising for you through word of mouth. And an excellent way to activate that word of mouth is to make your customers a walking advertisement for your brand.
How do you do that? Through the right type of swag. And, if you're already selling on Amazon as is, there's no reason to go outside of the platform to get some branded merchandise developed. Instead, Merch by Amazon provides you all of the tools you need to print shirts on demand both for your brand and as part of your more extensive product mix.
Careful, though, using Merch by Amazon isn't for everyone. We'll get into the ins and outs of that a little later. First, let's look at how Merch by Amazon works for brand owners.
What is Merch by Amazon?
Merch by Amazon is a t-shirt printing on-demand service. The platform allows Amazon sellers to create unique t-shirt designs 100% for free, list these on Amazon, and get paid a royalty each time one of your customers purchases a shirt. The only legwork you have to do is on the design end of things. Once you have a design ready to roll and choose a few colors, you upload the design into Amazon and pick the color choices for the shirts you'd like to offer in your store, and Amazon does the rest.
First, you have to be accepted onto the Merch by Amazon service to access the platform. We'll go through the application process in a little while.
But, in general, the process is straightforward, from iterating your design to turning that over to Amazon, to them fulfilling your customer orders as they come in, on-demand:
1. You create the shirt within Amazon's specifications
2. You set the price you'd like the shirt to sell for
3. Amazon builds the product listing for you and puts it on the marketplace
4. You sell a shirt to a customer
5. Amazon ships that shirt directly to the customer, and
6. You're paid a royalty
It's a very hands-off way to build some great brand and niche extension if you want to sell shirts with your brand's logo or other shirts representing your brand with slogans, brand marks, or other creative designs. If there are already keywords for which you're ranking - or want to rank - getting creative with merchandise is a fantastic way to make an impression with the audience(s) you're looking to target. Even though it's easy to get started with Merch by Amazon, it's not for everyone.
Who Should Apply to Merch by Amazon?
First off, we'll say this: Getting accepted to Merch by Amazon is a tough process. Therefore, you need to be serious about merchandise being a part of your overall product mix to put in the time and effort to get accepted.
There's somewhat of a fallacy out there, though, that you have to be a graphic designer or artist to be successful on print-on-demand platforms like this, and that couldn't be further from the truth. It can be for anyone running a side hustle or who likes to design as a hobby and wants to monetize some of that work. You don't have to be a vast eCommerce mogul to make it work for you. In that respect, it's one of Amazon's more "democratic" platforms.
If you have an existing merchandise brand that you can leverage through the platform, that helps, but the barrier to entry is also reasonably low once you're accepted so it's not that difficult to get some momentum built.
It's more about your creativity and recognition of when the time is right to capitalize on trends or build a t-shirt brand that takes advantage of a highly searched keyword that's trending. Just think how many opportunities arise when an event happens that gets viral attention! If you have access to the platform when those events happen and can get something done quickly, you can reap some serious rewards.
Let's take a quick look at the application process so it's clear what you can expect.
How Does the Merch by Amazon Application Process Work?
The application process is straightforward and simple and only takes about 10 minutes or so to complete.
1. Gather the information you'll need. You need to get together the contact information for your business, including bank routing and account numbers and other identification to provide your identity (likely a Social Security Number if you're in the states or a passport).
2. Go to this website and request an invitation.
3. Sign in to your Amazon account to complete the application once you receive the invitation by email.
4. Complete the application - make sure to have applicable tax information ready to go because you'll have to fill out a tax survey.
5. Complete the tax questionnaire. Note: If you live outside of the United States, your profits could be taxed at a rate of up to 30%, so make sure to account for this in the way you set your prices!
6. Finish up the Invitation Request form to complete your application and get ready to wait.
It can take up to 60 days for Amazon to respond to your application, so make sure to closely monitor the inbox of the email address you used in the application to see their response. Amazon will send it to the email address you used at signup.
You don't have to be entirely passive during this time, though. You can do some things to support the strength of your application and help ensure it gets approved when it comes across Amazon's desk.
Things to Do to Support Your Application
The application process to Merch by Amazon is competitive by nature. Not everyone that applies and asks for an invitation will get those requests approved, so it's essential to take a few steps to help your application stand out from the competition.
Here are a few to think about:
1. If you already have existing traffic coming to your website, make sure to let Amazon know! If your site is seeing thousands of visitors a month, some of this traffic will be re-routed to your Merch by Amazon store to make purchases. Amazon loves traffic - it's the backbone of their business model, after all - so make sure to let them know you can send some their way.
2. Make it clear that you respect copyrights and won't be infringing on any copywritten designs. Amazon's battle against copyright violations is perpetual, and they'll be glad to know you won't be a part of the problem.
3. Make it clear that you've taken time building your designs and put thought and time into them. That the designs will be high-quality and as professional as possible. Amazon doesn't need any more amateurish designs flooding the marketplace.
4. If you already have designs ready to upload - and maybe even have some of these designs running on other platforms like Teespring, Redbubble, and the like - let Amazon know!
5. Let Amazon know that you've read their Terms of Service and you understand them fully.
6. Make sure you don't have grammatical and spelling errors in your application! Look over your writing several times. Edit and re-edit to ensure everything is clean. The better your writing in the application, the more professional you appear to Amazon.
7. Don't beg! Don't nag Amazon about where your application stands or if they're going to accept you. Instead, keep a mindset that you're going to provide value to them by welcoming you, and they'll be more likely to do so.
So there it is. Take the time to add these elements to support your application to give yourself the best possible chance at being accepted. Don't be afraid to take action, but also be patient. As we all know, Amazon works on their timetable, so don't press them to move any faster, or it could come at the expense of your application being ignored or denied.
What to Do Once You've Been Accepted to Merch by Amazon
Unless you already have some designs on deck to use, the first thing you need to do is create your first t-shirt design to upload on the site. Even if you have limited graphic design skills, there are plenty of free (or virtually free) tools out there to help. We'd recommend using something like Canva, Figma, or Pixlr to create some simple designs to help you get your feet wet with the process.
Once you've finished up with your designs to kick things off, the next important thing to think about is setting your price. It's important to know the profit margin you want to protect when you think about the price point. Make sure to add some cushion to your price to take care of the fees Amazon will take at purchase and any taxes you'll be responsible for, depending on your geographic location.
Your home away from home on Merch by Amazon is the Dashboard.
How to Navigate the Merch by Amazon Dashboard
The dashboard provides you with several powerful ways to keep things organized, track the success of your business to date, and identify opportunities that are available to reach some new markets that are waiting for your merchandise.
You'll typically use your regular Amazon buyer or seller account to log in to the dashboard to make things easy. You can create a new account specifically for Merch by Amazon, but that's overkill if you already have an existing buyer or seller account.
Once you're logged in, the dashboard provides you a Recent Activity overview showing how many ad impressions you've received in the past week, how many products you've sold, what that equates to in total product sales, and your cut of the royalties from those sales.
There are four primary sections of the dashboard other than this overview:
3. Manage, and
Under Create, you build the shirts you’re going to sell on Amazon. It’s a straightforward process to upload the art you want to use onto one of the pre-existing templates to build a mockup. Within Promote, you can promote your shirts to fans on social networks and via email using the unique Amazon URLs for each variation of the shirts you create.
The Manage tab is a snapshot of the products you have created and the available actions on the shirts you have for sale. You can see the list price for each shirt, whether or not it is active, and options to edit the shirt and start promotions for it should you so choose.
The Analyze section allows you to check out a birds-eye view of your sales to see which products are hot and aren’t drawing enough interest from your fans. It takes the summary from your dashboard and breaks that down into greater detail. Before you can see the breakdown, you first have to select a date range you’d like to analyze so Amazon can pull that back for each of the shirts that you have available.
The Resources section of the dashboard is perhaps the most underrated. In this section, you can check out seller best practices, see how royalty payments are calculated, and check out Amazon’s Content and Promotions policies. When you’re first starting, you’re only allowed to add ten shirts to the platform. When you sell at least ten inventory items, you move on to the next tier, which provides 50 listings. The same holds as you move from 50-100, from 100-500, and then on to the Pro tier.
Now that you’re comfortable with the ins and outs of Merch by Amazon let’s look at some best practices and examine how much you reasonably expect to make selling on the platform.
Merch by Amazon Best Practices
There are five things to consider to set yourself up for successful selling on Merch by Amazon:
- Laser-target a niche - Find a niche that has relatively low competition and moderate interest among fans. Don’t try to compete with the more prominent brands in established niches immediately. Much like you wouldn’t with other product types.
- Build a following - Move your existing customers over to your merch from other products, or take the time to build a social audience that’s unique to the t-shirts you’re selling and that lives within the niche you’ve identified.
- Capitalize on trends - Being a successful seller isn’t just about targeting a niche and keeping your focus there. You also need to have an ear to the ground to capitalize on trends quickly and take advantage.
- Advertise your listing - If you want to. Be careful here not to spend so much on advertising that it eats into your bottom line. But if you have some budget set aside for it, go ahead!
- Get rid of your slow sellers - If a product isn’t selling, don’t be afraid to kick it to the curb. There’s no reason to keep products in your inventory that isn’t selling well and taking attention away from the products that are selling well.
If you put these best practices into place, and your marketing methods are solid in general, you can make a little money selling shirts via Merch on Amazon. You likely won’t get rich, but it could be a good foundation as a side project that supports other areas of your Amazon business.
How Much Can You Earn Selling on Merch by Amazon?
Simply put, selling on Merch by Amazon is a long game and not a get-rich-quick scheme. You need to have a solid baseline understanding of how to pick the right niche, establish a social media following and know the right trends to follow to have success.
Like any other print-on-demand, there’s a great deal of competition because the barrier to entry is relatively low - even with Merch by Amazon’s difficult application process.
If you’re willing to play the long game and stay committed to building a presence on the platform and keeping a product mix live that has a chance to be successful, you could end up making a few thousand dollars a month when it’s all said and done.
Remember, t-shirt sales are the definition of a volume game, especially when your earnings come from royalties. You’ll need to be selling at a high rate, constantly, to develop any type of predictable cash flow from Merch on Amazon, and like anything else which requires this cash flow, that’s going to take some time and consistent effort.
Merch by Amazon is a great way to extend your brand’s presence and make a few dollars in the process. Print-on-demand can be a very tough business, so make sure to enter in with reasonable expectations of what you can earn. Also, do extensive homework to ensure that the niche you enter has some solid upside and a relatively low level of competition.
As long as you do these things, building a store on Merch by Amazon could be a fun experience and an excellent way to add some value to your existing Amazon or eCommerce brands.
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