Who am I?
My name is Hektor, I’m 19 years old and have been doing “internet stuff” since I was 15 years old. I’ve just graduated high school and I am now having the “internet stuff” as my full-time job. It’s really amazing. I’ve done a lot of hard work over the years and some of the projects have been total time-wasters. Merch by Amazon, however, has been the exact opposite.
The first time I heard about Merch by Amazon was just 2 days after it’s launch back in late September of 2015. I applied and got accepted directly since the Merch by Amazon approval time was non-existent at the time. I had been working with Amazon prior and made money through their affiliate program, but I had never tried to sell t-shirts. At first, I felt a bit overwhelmed by it – I was not a designer, nor did I know how to research best-selling t-shirts.
I started and uploaded my first shirt 13th of October 2015, I didn’t know what I was doing but I made a shirt for a website I owned that was making me a lot of money (and had a lot of traffic), unfortunately, it didn’t sell much at all(I’ve only made around $10 from that shirt). That didn’t stop me, however, I hired a designer for $10 per design and he made my initial 25 shirts (as I look through the designs right now, I realize how many copyrighted things I uploaded back then, a “Star Wars shirt” was made for example). The first month I made a whopping $0.39!
After reaching the limit of 25 shirts I spammed the Merch by Amazon support team with requests to tier me up, but they had paused all the upgrades until January 2016 – I was stuck with an account limited to 25 shirt (I had by that time sold 40 shirts). I then removed some shirts and uploaded the shirt that would become my big hit, that had have made me $10K+. As I paid $10 for it, it has resulted in an ROI of 100,000%. I’ve since October 2015 made around $60,000 with the Merch by Amazon program, and I’ve put in approximately 70 hours into it and invested a total of $6K. If we do some basic math, it is an hourly rate of $720, and a total ROI (Return on investment) of 900%. That’s a huge return on investment if you’re not familiar with business.
It was not until recently I realized this. I had stopped uploading shirts in May 2016 as I wanted to focus on other projects (turned out to be a dumb decision) and it wasn’t until February 2017 that I realized what I had been missing out on. My earnings per month went down drastically since the competition had become much higher, and you need to stay on top of the game because relying on sales on a few shirts is just dumb. I hired a full-time designer and have automated the whole process of uploading shirts and writing descriptions, at about $1300 a month.
Anyhow, now you know a bit about my Merch by Amazon journey. Now it’s time to introduce the Merch by Amazon program.
What is Merch by Amazon?
Merch by Amazon is a Print-on-Demand service originally started for game developers to design merchandise for their fans, what they probably didn’t expect was that online marketers, and people interested in designing clothes, would jump on the train and make shirts for the market rather than their fans. What Amazon Merch allows you to do is list t-shirts on the biggest online retailer in the United States, without any upfront costs or administration work. It’s really easy to get started, and if you can design yourself, there is no startup cost involved at all.
Why is this the biggest opportunity you’ll ever stumble across?
According to PowerReviews study, 38% of shoppers said their shopping journey started on Amazon, versus 35% started the journey on Google. This just goes to show the power of selling your shirts on Amazon, they are the leading online-retailer and is constantly experimenting to achieve better conversion rates and make the customer happier (with top-notch customer support and return policies). And according to SimilarWeb, receives 2.65B visitors per month, that’s 86 million visitors per day! The organic reach on a product on Amazon is great, and if you end up ranking your shirts high for the right keywords, you’ll have a shirt making you passive income while you can scale your operations by making more shirts.
The thing about online businesses is that they can often be scaled much easier than offline businesses. Let’s imagine you run an “offline store”, you can only attract so many people to that store since scaling up the number of employees won’t impact growing the number of customers. Surely, you can do some advertising, but the limit is still there. With online businesses, however, let’s take Merch by Amazon as an example, you can hire more and more people and that actually increases the number of customers (and the amount of money you’ll make).
I know that people are successfully advertising their shirts to attract customers, but since our store is located on the busiest shopping street on the web, it’s not a must. You can simply open up more stores, on that same shopping street at the cost of just the design!
How to get started with Merch by Amazon
Tl;dr version:[*]Get a Merch by Amazon account
[*]Research keywords and designs that already sell
[*]Use the idea of the selling designs, and make the design unique/better
[*]Upload it to Amazon
[*]Optimize your listing
If you don’t know how to do any of these steps or want some help in it, here’s the full version.
Step 1. Get a Merch by Amazon account
This is rather simple, but as the approval time can be up to 10 months (their application process have updated since I wrote this, now it can be within days of applying!), it’s not something you will get instantly. Apply to Merch by Amazon, and wait. Many are thinking of buying a Merch by Amazon account, I’d not recommend that since it is a high risk that you’re being scammed. If you already have an Amazon Merch account that has been approved, a huge congratulations to you – we can now move on to the next step!
Psst… even if you’re waiting for the Merch by Amazon approval, you can still continue on. If you’re prepared when you finally get approved with a lot of shirts in your backpack you’ll be ahead of the others that get approved at the same time. Use the waiting time to learn how to design shirts, or to nail down how to research shirts, and you’ll be an expert by the time you’re approved (and can make a lot of money directly).
Step 2. Research designs and keywords
What many do wrong in my opinion when they start is that they make shirts that nobody is interested in. If you want to be successful, you’ll have to do research before designing your shirt. It’s the basics; supply and demand, if you’re missing the demand, you’ve already lost. The research process is the most important part of your success.
So, how do we do it? I’m using Merch Informer personally, and it is the only keyword research tool for Merch by Amazon out there (and there is no need for another tool since it got everything you’ll ever need!). If you’ve made websites you know how important the keyword research is in the success of your site. The same goes for t-shirts. With Merch Informer you can easily insert a keyword in their tool and be shown every shirt (that was made with Merch by Amazon) that is related to that keyword.
The picture shows the results writing “Fishing” in Merch Informer Product Search tool.
In this example, I put in “fishing” and got shown the top 100 best-selling shirts related to fishing. After that you’ll be shown the best seller rank (BSR), price, title, and bulletpoints and an estimate how many sales it each shirt gets. This is something you can do yourself on Amazon, but it’ll take way more time since you need to visit 100 separate listings and analyze each of them separately. The time you save using Merch Informer is easily worth $20/month!
Once you’ve found a design that sells well you’ll have to figure out how to differentiate your listing from others. There are a few different things to do here:
Make the design better
Designing a better design is one option in which you can differentiate yourself. Let’s say that the best selling shirt is a text-only shirt, even though these often can perform very well, they are not as good looking as a design that includes some objects (such as a hook or a fish if we use the “fishing” example again). You can blow your competitors out of the water by making a bad-ass design. The problem with this is that most of us aren’t bad-ass designers, nor do we want to pay high-end to get a bad-ass design made. For us, the next alternative might be better.
Make your shirt cheaper
We can use the price-point to attract customers looking for cheap shirts. See the price your competitor’s price themselves and lower it slightly. The balance here is to find a good price point where you don’t need to sell thousands of shirts per month to make $100, but at the same time not scare away potential customers with too high of a price. It’s a fine line, and you’ll have to figure out what type of audience you want to target. If you can combine bad-ass designs, with the perfect price that drives the most buyers you’re going to blow your competitors out of the water. I’ll write a guide how I price my shirts by analyzing the profit made in this article, it’ll help you make the most profit – not necessarily the most sales. In example, I rather have 10 sales at $5 profit each ($50 total profit) than 100 shirts sold at $0.39 ($39 total profit).
After that, it’s important to find keywords that you can include in your listing. This can also be done in Merch Informer with their “Keyword Finder” (oh, this for sure must sound like a sales page for Merch Informer, doesn’t it? I promise you, it’s not). Include the keywords in your bullets and in the title as natural as possible, keyword spamming won’t work for that long since that’s forbidden on Amazon Merch. I’ll go through that in the 4th step in this guide.
Step 3. Make the design
This point is either done by you or if you want to outsource it to someone. Merch Informer has written a guide on how to outsource your work and that’s what I’ve been using personally to hire people at $5 per design. It’s important that you’re improving the design somehow, and not exactly copy what someone else has done. That is stealing. What you want to aim for is improve and offer something better. If you’re hiring a designer, make sure he/she is not copying someone by taking clip arts from Google or something like that.
I absolutely love when my designer’s work are a bit off or they’ve missed a spot or so, that means that they have made it themselves. Then you can be sure that you’ll get original work and not be hit by a takedown later on. I’ve noticed that if your design really stands out among the other shirts, you can receive a higher click-through rate and get more sales even if you rank lower than other shirts. This just goes to show that a design that truly stands out is the optimal choice, and that’s what you should aim for.
Merch by Amazon Template
The Amazon Merch team have made some template files for you to design on, so that you can see how it looks. The dimensions are 15″ width x 18″ height at 300ppi, sRGD and having a file under 25mb to upload if you want to do it yourself. Anyhow, here are the links to the respective Merch by Amazon template:[*]Illustrator (Costs)
Step 4. Upload the design
Now, the all the groundwork is done, now that you have made the all the legwork now you need to combine everything into the listing. First things first, click “Create” in the dashboard, then “Upload” and select the file you want to upload.
Psst: Save the designs in a cloud-based storage such as Drive or Dropbox so that you easily can access them later on, from anywhere. Also, name them in numbers, or by title, to make it easy to search for them later on).
Upload the image
Once you’ve uploaded the image, an awesomely good looking black box in my example, you can decide if you want the design on the front or the back (or both), and then simply click “Save selection and continue”.
Color, type and price selection
Here you can select T-Shirt type, the colors you want on the shirt (max 5 colors, choose them wisely), for whom you want to offer the shirt to (don’t exclude any if you don’t sell women-only clothes like “I’m having a baby” shirts or inappropriate clothes for kids). After that we have to decide what price point we want to choose for our shirt – as I think my black box is outstanding good, I want to price my shirt at $49,99. Some like to price their shirts at $11,99 to make sure they get sales on it (as Amazon removes a shirt if you haven’t gotten a sale in 90 days), while some price their shirts relatively high in the beginning. Make sure you follow the market rather than your own feelings about your baby (your design). You can always raise/lower the price later on and experiment to find the “best” price point.
Optimizing your listing (adding keywords)
Now, after we’ve selected the price, colors, and type of shirt, it is time to make sure people find our awesome black box design. The way we do that is by including the keywords you found doing the keyword research phase in the title, bullets and brand name. I like to start by putting what the shirt says/is in the title, then the general keyword i.e. “Black Box T-Shirt – Funny Box Shirt”. Here are the bullets, or as Amazon calls them “Key product features”, I’ve written for my awesome shirt:[*]This black box shirt is a perfect shirt for your black box meeting with your other black box homies. Celebrate black box day with this awesome black box t-shirt!
[*]This black box tee is designed to be fitted. For a looser fit, please order a size up.
That last description is a good one to include if you run out of ideas, but also to avoid negative reviews based on the sizing. This is what the most negative reviews are based on, and therefore it can be good to make people aware of this prior to their purchase. The brand name can be related to your main keywords such, I like to make the brand name plural. Let’s say “Black Box Shirts” or “Funny Soccer Shirts” as an example. Remember to include the word t-shirt, shirt and tee somewhere as that are some terms people are searching for. Usually, you don’t need to write out the exact match keyword to rank high for another keyword, so even mentioning “With this tee, you can show how much you love black boxes” can help you rank for “Black box tee”. Personally, I leave the product descriptions empty as there seems to be zero impact on the rankings based on what you write there.
Now that we’ve optimized our shirt properly so that the potential buyers easily can find it no matter what they are searching for, it’s time to publish this masterpiece! You do that by selecting “Sell – public on Amazon” and click “Publish”.
Step 6. Profit
And that’s really it! Now you’ve published your first shirt on Amazon and is ready to rock n’ roll! Wait and see the profit roll in. If it doesn’t sell within 1-2 months, try lowering the price. I usually just move on if the price change doesn’t make a difference. Your goal is to have a lot of shirts that sell, and if one doesn’t even sell at $11,99, it is not worthy of a spot in your account in my opinion.
Merch by Amazon FAQs:
How do I see if a phrase is copyrighted?
You can easily do that by visiting the United States Patent and Trademark Office website or Trademarkia.com which is a bit more user-friendly in my opinion.Insert the saying you’ll put on the shirt. Never use brand names. It’s that easy. Make sure to do this before you design the shirt since it’ll suck if you already have designed a shirt and need to scrap it because of this. <
How does the current tier structure work?
The first tier you get placed in is Tier 10, that means that you have 10 design spots in your account. Once you’ve sold 10 shirts you get tiered up to Tier 25. And it goes on like that. I’m in Tier 8000, which means I can upload 8000 designs on my account. Once I’ve sold 16 000 shirts, and I am closer to hitting the limit of the current tier I’ll be tiered up. This doesn’t always happen directly, so don’t worry. Some people claim that they tier up on Mondays and Fridays, but I am not sure about that since I haven’t been tiered up in a year or so. But that’s what people usually say in Facebook groups.
Are there any Merch by Amazon forums?
Amazon has their own forum here where some Merch by Amazon users are writing. But the most used ones are Facebook groups such as Chris Green’s Merch Life with almost 60,000 members! It’s also much easier to be active on Facebook since people are more used to writing on Facebook than Amazon developers forum. Even though there are a lot of “Whatchu think of my design?” posts in the Facebook group you can find some pretty valuable information there every now and then.
I hope that guide to Merch by Amazon have shred some light on what Merch by Amazon is, how to get started using it and a few frequently asked questions I get quite often. The FAQs section is dynamic and you can therefore submit your own questions and I’ll make sure to answer them.
I hope you will have an awesome day!