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Merch by Amazon, also known as Merch or MBA, is a frequent topic in the make money online arena and is one of many ways to make money on Amazon. I had come across several articles of untold fortunes, so I wanted to give it a shot. If people were making “$150,000” from selling shirts, I didn’t want to miss out.
Merch by Amazon is Amazon’s print-on-demand (POD) apparel division. Individuals can sell their designs on the world’s largest marketplace with no upfront investment or costs. Product formats include:
- T-shirts – front and back
- Women’s v-neck t-shirt – front and back
- Baseball t-shirts – front and back
- Tank tops – front and back
- Long sleeve t-shirts – front and back
- Crewneck sweatshirt – front and back
- Pullover & Zip Hoodie – back only
How does it work?
You upload your artwork, choose a product type and color, set your price, and add a product description. (Get design templates here.) Amazon will create a product page, and when customers buy your product, it will handle production, shipping, and customer service at no cost to you. Merch applies to U.S., U.K., and German markets. Your artwork must abide by Amazon’s content policies or it will be rejected.
Can anyone join Merch by Amazon?
Merch by Amazon receives thousands of requests to join its program. To handle the influx of requests, it uses an invitation-only system to add content creators. Amazon hasn’t announced plans to remove its invite system but notifies applicants when spaces become available.
A few people I know are still waiting for invites or have been declined, and there’s no rhyme or reason for Amazon’s decisions. I’ve been on Amazon for years selling books, so perhaps a little marketplace equity helped me to get approved.
How much can you earn?
MBA’s cost structure changes frequently, which makes it difficult to estimate royalties six to twelve months out. You can expect royalties of roughly 10 to 40 percent per sale, depending on your list price. If you promote your products as an Amazon Associate, you may earn up to ten percent more in affiliate commissions. Due to the rising cost of processing returns, Merch deducts royalties for returned products.
Is there a limit to the number of designs you can submit?
Yes. Amazon allows ten submissions to begin. You will need to sell at least ten products from those you’ve created to move up to the next tier. The next tier is 25 items followed by 100, 500, and Pro (by invitation)
MBA limits the number of new products that can be submitted for publishing each day, for example, mine is one. Publishing limits are based on tiers.
What else should you know?
MBA has a comprehensive resources and FAQs page that addresses best practices, royalties, content policy, tools, templates, and more. It’s worth exploring if you’re serious about succeeding.
Step One: Create
Upon the approval of my account, I created ten designs. I searched for a graphic designer on Fiverr (I don’t have photoshop experience and wanted help). Alternatively, I could have searched for a freelancer on another site. I hired a designer who charged five dollars per shirt. I sent him my designs, and he produced them.
Step Two: Publish
I uploaded my designs to Merch (and Redbubble since Merch doesn’t require exclusivity). I created more designs because three got rejected by Amazon’s review team. The reasons for rejection included, “Promotion of Hate or Intolerance,” “Objectionable Content,” and “Copyright.” Amazon’s review team is very strict because it wants to avoid legal issues and make its customers happy.
Step Three: Promote
My ten shirts went live by the end of August. I priced them at $11.99 to be competitive and volume-focused. I created a Twitter profile and a Facebook page for my brand and promoted my shirts regularly through those channels.
Step Four: Review
Aside from not generating a single sale, I lost interest in Merch for a few reasons:
- Search engine optimization features are lacking. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical to product ranking and visibility. When self-publishing books on Kindle Direct Publishing, I can influence SEO significantly. On Merch, I’m limited to product titles, for example, “Funny Beer T-Shirt.” I don’t have the ability to influence meta descriptions or add keywords.
- If a product has had at least one sale in the previous 180 days, it won’t be removed. However, Amazon will remove products that haven’t sold within the first 180 days of being published. I hate that policy because it’s counterproductive and discouraging. Content creators can relist their products, but instead of making it easy, for example, being able to select “relist” from a drop-down menu, Amazon forces creators to go through the approval process again.
- Generating enough income would be challenging. Suppose you, I, and eight other creators sell enough products to reach and publish 500 listings (hundreds to thousands of creators are on Merch). If all of us publish our maximums at roughly the same time, there will be 5,000 listings. Every now and again customers will purchase our goods, but not enough for all of us to make thousands of dollars monthly.
- MBA could shut down because the POD market is highly competitive, saturated, and Amazon doesn’t need it. Also, POD ecommerce sites compete with millions of regular online and offline stores. You might think that Merch isn’t at risk of being phased out, but Amazon occasionally fails and pivots. For instance, the Amazon Fire phone was a mega flop, and Amazon has shut down its online wine store to move distribution. If Merch doesn’t deliver, Jeff Bezos will terminate it and refocus on more profitable divisions and new experiments.
A foray into any Amazon division is exciting. However, POD marketplaces have been around for years, for example, Zazzle, Cafepress, Redbubble, and Teespring. Amazon’s entry into the market was a tad late. Secondly, some POD sites have many products that content creators can sell, including pillows, blankets, mugs, key racks, phone cases, and wall decals. Thus, Merch is quite limited in its formats.
Whether you sell on one site or many, there are tools to help you.
Printful provides on-demand order fulfillment and warehousing services for products such as clothing, accessories, home, and living items for online businesses. t’s free to set up and doesn’t come with monthly fees or minimum order requirements. It integrates with Amazon, eBay, Shopify, WooCommerce, and many others.
Printify is a print-on-demand platform that makes it dead simple to work with multiple print providers all around the world to fulfill and send your products to your customers. It integrates with Shopify, WooCommerce, and eBay.
Multisite Selling Strategy
To improve your sales prospects, Merch should be one of the many platforms you use to sell POD products. (Merch is non-exclusive.) You can sell on leading online marketplaces such as eBay, Etsy, and Amazon (as a professional seller). You can sell on POD websites like Redbubble, Society6, Teespring, and countless others. Additionally, you can create a store with software from Shopify, 3dcart, or WooCommerce. Some creators even sell offline, which is another option. Combining Merch with other platforms could produce excellent results and profits.
Merch + Online Marketplaces + POD Marketplaces + Online Store = $$$$$
Merch can work if you have a significant following to sell to, influencers and marketers to promote your goods, or your designs become bestsellers. Without any of those components, you might get lucky and make a few dollars to hundreds monthly. Secondly, making five-figures per month is highly unlikely on Merch alone. Creators who claim they make or made large amounts probably benefited from first-mover advantages and low competition. They could also be lying or trying to exploit you with online courses and tools that will supposedly help to generate sales. Therefore, be careful of who says what and buyer beware.
Many people flock to Merch and similar platforms because they’re easy to join, low-risk, and low-cost. Moreover, everyone thinks they have excellent designs. On the one hand, POD attracts so many people that a few individuals do well while most don’t, which is common in any industry via the 80/20 Rule. Also, the low barrier to entry reduces income prospects for all and creates a race to the bottom. On the other hand, a multisite selling strategy can be lucrative. By being present on multiple sites, more people will see your products, which can lead to more sales. Case in point, I did generate a sale on Redbubble. Learn more about starting an online t-shirt business.