If you've ever thought of printing your amazing designs on t-shirts and selling them on Amazon, then Merch by Amazon (MBA) offers a simple and highly profitable means of doing that.
Not only do you get your own Amazon storefront when you sign up for the service, but the company will source materials, print the shirts, fulfill the orders, and deal with customer complaints on your behalf.
All you have to do is come up with creative design ideas and collect your royalties.
Unfortunately, as one might expect, things aren't quite as easy as they seem. You'll need to be approved, pick designs that actually sell on the platform, and adhere to Amazon's stricter content guidelines.
In this review, we'll discuss what it takes to start selling on MBA and why so many creatives are eager to get approved on the platform. We'll also consider its downsides and offer some other print on demand platforms to consider.
How Merch By Amazon Works Step-by-Step
Merch By Amazon is a Print on Demand marketplace which means that the company hosts your storefront in addition to taking care of the inventory, printing, order fulfillment, and customer service. This service works pretty much like other print on demand marketplaces (RedBubble, Society6 etc.) but with one little exception – you need an invite to join Merch By Amazon.
To start selling on Merch By Amazon:
1. Get an Amazon Account
If you do not already have an Amazon account, now would be a good time to set one up. You need little more than your name, email, and password to sign up for an account and it's free.
You may have heard about Amazon Seller accounts, which cost $39.99 a month and let you list products on Amazon. Don't worry–Selling through Merch By Amazon doesn't require you to sign up for a seller account.
2. Get an Invitation to Merch By Amazon
Go to the Merch homepage and request your invitation by clicking the "Request Invitation" button.
3. Fill out the Application Form
You will be redirected to sign in to your Amazon account as soon as you request an invitation. You will be requested to key in your company profile (you may use your first and last name if you don't have a registered business name), banking information, tax information, and/or Social Security Number among other information.
You will also get a chance to show off your designs, previous POD experience, links to your blogs and social media following, portfolio, and artistic license so don't be afraid to sell yourself to increase your chances of getting approved for a Merch account.
Think of it as a job application.
3. Wait for Approval
Approval for Merch By Amazon can take anywhere from 3 weeks to 12 months so be patient. Even if you aren't a well-known designer, just a few high quality designs is potentially enough to get approved, so be patient.
You may want to look at some alternatives in the interim which I discuss further down this review. As long as you have provided accurate information in the previous step and made a good case for yourself, you should have no problems getting approved.
4. Pick Profitable Designs
While good designs are enough to get you get approved, you'll want to focus your efforts on profitable designs once you're approved.
Most buyers on Amazon land on MBA products through search results. They might search for keywords like 'Pug T-shirt' or 'Trump 2020'. If you're trying to make serious income off of Merch By Amazon, try and make sure each design clearly targets some keywords.
Competition and Keyword research are the name of the game in Merch By Amazon. In fact, a huge number of successful sellers aren't graphic designers themselves, and simply outsource designing using freelance platforms like Fiverr or Upwork. There are various tips and tricks you should read up on, like how to read Google Trends or see what buyers are snapping up on Amazon.
5. Upload your Designs
Once approved, you can head over to the dashboard to upload your designs. The design specs include 15 x 18 inches for the printable area and 300 dpi PNG. New accounts are initially restricted to 10 designs but you will soon have the chance to upgrade to the next tier with the possibility of adding more designs.
If you don’t already have your designs, Merch By Amazon allows you to create your own using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, and GIMP.
6. Create your Products
Still on the dashboard, you can now create your products (choose colors and product types). MBA primarily deals in apparel including t-shirts, shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops, and hoodies.
This is also the part where you set your price, fill out the product details, and basically get your products store-ready.
7. Start Selling!
You can publish your designs as soon as you are ready. Amazon automatically creates your very own storefront where customers can purchase your designs. You can't customize much in the way of page layout or design, but you can at least create a product description.
It is also worth mentioning that Amazon has to approve your designs before you can start selling. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you meet all of the company's requirements. The most important ones are to make sure there's no copyright infringement, trademark violations, or inappropriate content.
Why Signup for Merch By Amazon
With the more-than-a-dozen print on demand platforms out there, why sign up to Merch By Amazon? Well, we would have to take a few factors into consideration before we can answer this question conclusively.
Spoiler alert: It's worth it!
First off, there is no upfront cost to using MBA. Signing up for an account is free, and once approved, you don’t have to pay a dime. Unlike some POD services that charge your bank or credit card for the production and order fulfillment costs, Amazon pays for the entire process. The company then recoups its expenses from the list price and sends you your royalty fee after 30 days. You can check out the royalty structure here.
Amazon's main competitive edge has always been on pricing and you see this with the Merch service. T-shirts start at $15.99 which is on the lower end compared to other POD services. Royalties also range from 13% to 37% which is also great for graphic designers from a margin perspective.
Diversity of Products
If you are looking to put your designs on anything other than apparel, you may want to try another Print on Demand service. Merch By Amazon deals primarily in t-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, sweatshirts, pullover hoodies, tank tops, and PopSockets.
This is a very limited range considering some PODs offer over 100 varieties of products. Still, apparel is by far the best selling product in the POD space so if this is your specialty; you can hardly do better than Merch By Amazon.
Production and Printing
Amazon owns its production facilities, a move that allows the company to stay on top of quality control. Amazon recently expanded its Dallas and Pennsylvania facilities to counter the ever-increasing demand for its merch. The company also set up a printing facility in Poland to cater to the British and German markets.
The Merch production process is automated. The patented Amazon Technologies manufacturing process integrates fabric printing, cutting out garment patterns, sewing, and order fulfillment.
This automated production model results in lower overhead costs for the company compared to outsourcing, quicker production time, more consistent quality, and fulfilling smaller orders.
Merch uses Direct to Garment printing and water-based inks for its printing process.
High Conversion Rates
A lot of online shops and marketplaces attract a decent amount of traffic, but fail to 'convert' visits into sales. The biggest reasons for this are lack of consumer trust, poor user experience and unacceptable shipping times and rates.
Amazon have poured billions of dollars into sculpting the ultimate conversion machine it is. Customers will happily add a product they aren't even that excited about, just because they want to look forward to a bigger Prime delivery.
Basically, when it comes to locking down sales and making money, you won't find a better partner.
By creating a listing with Merch By Amazon, you essentially have access to hundreds of millions of potential customers. There is not a POD service on the face of the planet that can get you this kind of market reach.
According to a Searchengineland.com report, Amazon now gets more initial product searches (38%) than Google (35%). The amount of organic traffic that goes to Amazon is mind-blowing and you can get away with minimal advertising to sell your products. In fact, most designers don't put much effort into marketing, at least not initially.
Amazon also tracks click-through rates (CTR), conversion rates, and keyword optimization to determine how products rank on the Amazon page. This essentially means that your hard work in these areas can pay off, allowing you to compete favorably with established brands.
Shipping for Merch By Amazon works the same as other Amazon sales. Amazon Prime customers will get their purchase in three days while the others get the standard ground shipping with the option to pay a little extra for faster shipping. Additionally, buyers who spend more than $25 get free two-day shipping.
This is very quick shipping for a print on demand service. Many other services out there take up to 14 days for US orders and up to 30 days for international orders.
Merch By Amazon also ships to more than 100 countries so you have a massive international market that you could exploit.
Understanding Merch By Amazon Tier System
I touched on the tier system a little bit earlier in this review but this point is worth exploring further. Every seller on MBA is assigned a tier that essentially dictates how many live designs you can have up.
You are moved up to the next tier in the hierarchy every time you meet the sales threshold for your tier. So, for example, new sellers are assigned the first tier with a limit of 10 live designs. Once you sell 10 products, you are moved to the next tier with a new limit of 25 design slots.
The tier system is as follows. The 'T' stands for tier while the number corresponds with how many designs slots you get at the said tier.
- Tier 10
- Tier 25
- Tier 100
- Tier 500
- Tier 1,000
- Tier 2,000
- Tier 4,000
- Tier 8,000
MBA sellers on online forums often use T100 to refer to tier 100, and so on.
It is also worth mentioning that there have been numerous reports of sellers getting bumped up to the higher tiers without actually completing all the sales of their previous tier. This tends to happen to sellers who fill most of their design slots in their tier and/or are making consistent sales within a short time.
Are There Any Downsides to Using Merch By Amazon?
MBA is a great print on demand service and some might even argue that it is the best in the space. However, there are still some downsides to using this service.
The first and most obvious is the waiting time. Merch By Amazon used to be open to pretty much anyone with a design when it first started but the service has since become an invite-only club. This restriction has to do with the massive demand for the service. You could easily end up waiting for up to 12 months for approval so you might want to look into alternatives in the meantime.
Secondly, Amazon's generous return policy also means that you could easily end up with a negative royalty balance. The full cost of returns is taken out of your balance. The company won't charge your card or bank account but the money will be taken out of your upcoming sales until you have settled the balance.
Remember that you don’t really have any control over the quality, printing, materials, or any number of issues that might cause a customer to return their item. This can be frustrating if you happen to strike an unlucky streak of returns. This is also why you need to be as honest as possible in your listing details to avoid any potential misunderstanding.
Are There Any Good Alternatives to Merch By Amazon
Print On Demand Marketplaces
There are many great print on demand marketplace alternatives to MBA. Like Merch By Amazon, buyers browse the website for designs they like and any orders will be printed on demand and delivered to them.
RedBubble is no doubt the first name that will come recommended by most. They have an extensive product range that stretches well beyond apparel, and the site brings in millions of visitors a month. Their huge popularity does mean there's stiff competition among sellers, but there's no reason not to throw your designs up on the platform.
Threadless is one of the oldest on-demand t-shirt printing services and has enjoyed a great reputation over the years. The brand recently launched a POD marketplace and is a great place to carve out a niche. You can check out our full Threadless review here.
Teespring is an equally good alternative with over 50 product options if you are looking to sell more than just t-shirts and apparel.
Etsy or Shopify + Printful/Printify
While uploading designs on sites like Amazon or RedBubble and waiting for orders to roll in is easy and hassle-free, many sellers prefer to go their own way and set up their own online t-shirt business. This is normally achieved using a shop builder like Etsy or Shopify and sourcing products using a dedicated print on demand supplier like Printful.
Going down this route is a lot more hands-on, but offers more flexibility. For example, you can set the price point for each product, use a brandable custom domain and completely customize the layout and design of your store. You can then market your shop, either through paid ads on Google and Facebook, or social media marketing efforts on Instagram, Youtube and Twitter.
Read our Printful review if you're wondering how you can sell merch with your unique designs in your very own online shop.
Verdict – Is Merch By Amazon Worth It?
If you are looking to get into the on-demand t-shirt printing business, you can hardly do better than Merch By Amazon. The sheer market share that the brand enjoys, the automated printing process, and the amount of organic traffic that could be directed your way are more than enough reasons to sign up.
It's common for graphic designers and wordsmiths to sell on multiple platforms, and Merch By Amazon is often their number one source of revenue.
The only thing is that there is no guarantee that your application will be accepted. It is better if you sign up for one or two other POD services and start selling before applying to Merch By Amazon.
Amazon tends to favor applicants with past success so this is a great way to improve your chances of getting approved. In any case, you will need something to do while you wait for your application to go through!