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Design, Sell, and Profit With Amazon Merch on Demand

Geri Mileva
February 22, 2024
February 22, 2024
Design, Sell, and Profit With Amazon Merch on Demand

From selling books to clothes, Amazon's dynamic landscape provides many opportunities for aspiring business owners. If you’re a content creator, a designer, or an entrepreneur looking for supplementary income, Amazon Merch on Demand is for you. This platform lets you sell customized merchandise without upfront inventory or fulfillment costs.

But before diving in, it's important to determine if Amazon Merch on Demand aligns with your business goals. 

What is Amazon Merch on Demand?

Amazon Merch on Demand is a one-stop platform to design, sell, and profit from your branded merchandise. Your design is printed on demand, so you don't need to pay for printing or retain pre-stocked items. All you need to do is submit your original design, pick your product, and set your price. From there, Amazon handles the rest, from printing and production to packaging and shipping. This framework eliminates financial burdens and logistical challenges commonly associated with traditional merchandise businesses.

Amazon Merch allows you to design and sell various products, which include:

  • Apparel: T-shirts, long-sleeve shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, tank tops, and various clothing items
  • Phone accessories: Cases and sockets
  • Fashion accessories: Tote bags, backpacks, hats, and more
  • Home decor: Pillows, posters, canvases, and assorted decor items

Amazon continuously broadens its product selection, so check for updates regularly. 

Navigating Account Set-Up, Approval, and Content Policies

Setting up an Amazon Merch account has two main steps: applying for approval and awaiting confirmation. To apply, enter your business information, complete a tax interview form, input your bank details, and briefly explain your intent to sell on Amazon. Afterwards, submit your application for evaluation.

Setting up an Amazon Merch account

While Amazon promptly evaluates applications upon submission, processing typically takes days. Expect an email notification when a decision is reached, or check your account status anytime through the Merch portal. You may also contact Merch Seller Support if you haven't heard back within this timeframe. 

Only one Amazon Merch account is allowed per user, and any attempt to create another one will be rejected. You also become ineligible if you previously had an account terminated for violating the Terms of Use.

Content Policies

Creators must adhere to Amazon's Content Policies to avoid removal, suspension, or account termination. Here are key rules to follow:

  • Illegal or Infringing Content: Don't submit content that violates federal or state laws or infringes on trademarks or copyrights.
  • Offensive or Controversial Content: Avoid materials that incite hatred, violence, or exploitation. Similarly, avoid sexually explicit content or imagery that showcases tragic events.
  • Others: Don't solicit reviews or imply charity donations in your listings.

Outsourcing design work to other designers is permitted. However, you may encounter designers who adhere to different intellectual property guidelines or sell the same designs to multiple clients. Even if you have acquired rights to use another artist's work, it may not comply with Amazon Merch's policies. 

Calculating Earnings with Royalties and Taxes

You earn a royalty for each piece of merchandise sold equal to the purchase price minus Amazon's expenses and applicable taxes. These expenses include:

  • Materials
  • Production
  • Fulfillment
  • Customer Service
  • Returns and Exchanges
  • Fraud Prevention

For example, if you price a standard US T-shirt at $15.99, your royalty would be $1.93. Amazon provides a more detailed breakdown of merch royalties here.

Amazon’s detailed breakdown of Merch royalties

All content creators must provide tax information to comply with IRS regulations regardless of location. Amazon's Tax Interview gathers details to complete IRS Forms W-9 (US residents) or W-8 (non-US residents) to determine tax reporting and withholding rates. Until your information is validated, you may face a 30% withholding rate.

In terms of payment, Amazon Merch sends your earnings via electronic fund transfer or direct bank deposit. There is a minimum income threshold of around $100, and payments are issued 30 days after the conclusion of each calendar month.

Identifying Merch Limitations and Tiers

Amazon Merch operates on a tiered system that determines your design upload limit and royalty rates. For example, you are only allowed ten designs at Tier 1. The limit applies only to the number of designs, not the number of products you can apply. For instance, if you offer two designs on three products (phone cases, hoodies, tote bags), you still count only two designs toward the cap of your current tier.

By consistently hitting sales milestones, you unlock higher tiers with enhanced benefits:

  • Increased Design Upload Limit: As you ascend the tiers, you can upload more designs, broadening your product range and reaching a larger audience. Amazon's merch tiers include 10, 25, 100, 500, 1,000, and so on.
  • Higher Royalty Rates: Each tier advancement increases your royalty percentage.

Aside from sales targets, tier progression will also depend on other factors that Amazon has not disclosed. 

Managing Your Amazon Merch Inventory

The Manage tab serves as your central hub for tracking all your merchandise listed on Amazon. It displays which products are currently "Live" and lists the uploaded designs. Here, you'll find information such as the upload date, attached price, status, and available actions like editing or deleting a product.

Here are the common statuses you need to familiarize yourself with:

  • Draft: Designs that haven't been submitted for review or products you've edited but haven't submitted for review yet.
  • Under Review: Amazon reviews your design to ensure compliance with its policies. You'll receive an email if a product is rejected.
  • Rejected: Your design is not compliant with the rules.
  • Removed: Your design is deleted due to policy violations.
  • Failed: Your design encountered an error during publishing. It can be edited and resubmitted.

Once your design passes review and moves from "Under Review" to "Started Processing" and then "Processing," it gets pushed onto the Amazon marketplace. When it becomes "Live," you can click on it to view the product listing available for your customers. Make sure to check the product description for errors, like misspellings, that you might have missed.

Tips on Creating Your Merch Design

Start strong and increase your chances of success with the following tips.

Conduct Thorough Market Research

Before playing with designs, do comprehensive market research to understand buyer preferences. Use tools like Google Trends and Threecolts resources to see which products are on-demand and which untapped market you can explore.

  • Identify your target audience. Check their demographics, interests, hobbies, online behavior, and purchasing habits.
  • Do a competitor analysis, but don’t get stuck on Amazon. Check Shopify, Etsy, eBay, and other eCommerce platforms. 
  • Develop buyer personas to better understand your target audience's needs and pain points.  
  • Use social media listening tools and online communities to gather valuable insights. 

Stay informed about trends, competitor activities, and customer feedback to adapt your strategies accordingly.

Prioritize Themes Over Trends

As trends evolve, certain themes consistently shine on Amazon Merch:

  • Niche Targeting: This is about speaking a specific demographic's language and becoming part of their world. This is where you can create designs that only "true fans" would understand. A good example is merch for poodle lovers. If you just focus on general dog merchandise, that’s a market with thousands of competitors. But if you laser focus on a specific breed, you can target a specific audience. Specificity fosters emotional connections that drive interest and, potentially, repeat purchases. 
  • Pop Culture: Leverage popular music, movies, TV shows, games, sports, or books. They spark instant recognition, creating a shared experience and sense of belonging. Regardless of the genre, this landscape has a dedicated audience, meaning instant demographics you can market to. Just be mindful of the legal aspects to avoid copyright problems. 
  • Seasonal and Event-Based Designs: Think of Valentine’s couple tees or limited-edition Superbowl hoodies. These occasions build natural surges in consumer interest. By designing for the season, you tap into their pre-existing excitement and urge to commemorate the moment. 

Polish and Test Your Design

Amazon provides free downloadable templates for each product type in various formats, which is useful for avoiding scale and fit problems. But if you have the skills and the time, create your designs from scratch using Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, or GIMP. Ensure your designs adhere to fundamental design principles: 

  • Maintain a cohesive color scheme for harmony.
  • Limit fonts to three per design.
  • Balance your design visually.
  • Use the highest resolution and size when uploading to Amazon.

Amazon recommends uploading designs in PNG format and utilizing the RGB color format for accurate printing results.

Check Design-Merch Compatibility

Ensuring compatibility is crucial in minimizing rejections, producing high-quality products, and exceeding customer expectations.

  • Each product type has specific printing areas, color limitations, and resolution requirements. Design with these specifications in mind.
  • Research how different design elements interact with and against each other. For instance, if you’re designing a hoodie, consider the placement of the design in terms of the customer’s anatomy.
  • Check for color nuances and understand how colors translate during printing, including potential variations in vibrancy and shade.

Test your design using mockup tools or printed samples, and visualize your design on different product types and colors to identify potential issues before submission.

Optimize Products for SEO

Buyers often use keywords when they search for something online. Improve your merch standing by creating keyword-optimized titles and product descriptions to increase its chances of appearing at the top of search results.

  • Place your primary keyword at the beginning of your product title for maximum impact.
  • Aim for a character count within Amazon's limits (typically 80 characters) while conveying the core product information.
  • Weave in relevant keywords organically throughout the description, ensuring it reads naturally and avoids keyword stuffing.
  • Break down critical information into easy-to-read bullet points.
  • Describe your product accurately in the alt text attribute of each image, using relevant keywords naturally.

By implementing these optimization strategies, you can increase organic traffic and boost product visibility.

Tips on Promoting Your Merch Design

Amazon provides extensive support, but you are responsible for promoting your product.

Use Social Media

Social media marketing is an essential strategy to increase sales and organic traffic. Amazon initially designed Merch on Demand to help creators leverage their existing audience. This is beneficial if you have a substantial following on your channels. 

  • Look for brand-specific communities related to your niche on platforms like Facebook, Reddit, or Discord. Share your designs, engage in discussions, and offer valuable insights to build trust and establish yourself as a creator.
  • Show your designs in action. In addition to product photos, include lifestyle shots showcasing your designs in real-world scenarios. This will help you connect with potential customers on a deeper level. Also, offer glimpses into your design process.
  • Use relevant hashtags to increase your reach within your niche and attract customers actively searching for specific products. 

Consistency is key. Regularly post engaging content and maintain a consistent brand presence across all platforms.

Drive Web Traffic

Whether you have a loyal readership or a dedicated brand following, marketing your products to your existing website audience can effectively boost sales and enhance organic traffic.

  • Integrate your Amazon Merch listings directly onto relevant pages of your website, such as blog posts, product reviews, or niche-specific articles. This seamless integration lets viewers transition from consuming your content to exploring your designs.
  • Use strategic pop-ups or website banners to showcase your Merch offerings, tailoring them to match relevant content or user behavior.
  • Provide website visitors with exclusive discounts or coupons to encourage purchases. Organize contests or giveaways featuring your Merch items to foster engagement and potentially convert website visitors into customers.

Ensure your website has clear navigation, intuitive design, and a seamless checkout process.

Leverage Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing offers a powerful boost if you don't have a large following on social media. While it requires investment, it can be a strategic alternative to other limited promotion options.

  • Identify influencers whose audience matches your niche and design style, aligning with your brand values and genuinely engaging with their followers. 
  • Prioritize high engagement rates and authentic interactions, valuing quality over quantity. Micro-influencers with dedicated communities can outperform macro-influencers with higher follower counts but lower engagement.
  • Explore diverse formats like product reviews, sponsored posts, giveaway campaigns, or co-designed merchandise to resonate with your audience.

Always disclose sponsored collaborations clearly to maintain audience trust and comply with FTC regulations.

Consider Paid Advertising

When eligible, use Amazon Advertising to target relevant audiences directly on the platform. You can also use other platforms like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and Instagram Ads to capture interest beyond the eCommerce bubble.

  • Target niche communities like forums and online communities where your target audience frequents. Check for advertising opportunities there.
  • Experiment with different ad tactics. Use different formats based on the platform and its audience reach. 

The key to this method is incorporating paid ads with organic marketing efforts to create a holistic approach.

Best Practices for Selling Amazon Merch

To ensure the success of products, here are some best practices to follow:

Regularly update your designs.

Keeping your designs fresh and current is vital to maintaining relevance and appeal to your audience. Introduce new designs or refresh old ones to stimulate demand for your products.

Monitor your sales.

Stay alert about your sales performance and closely observe trends and shifts in demand. Analyzing this data enables you to spot opportunities for enhancement and guide decisions on pricing, product selection, and marketing strategies.

Continuously refine your marketing tactics.

Embrace experimentation and innovation. Use tools like FeedbackWhiz to check customer reviews and, if there are any, design criticisms. Consistently refining your marketing campaigns helps you stay competitive and maximize profitability.

Is Amazon Merch on Demand Worth It In 2024?

For content creators or businesses seeking expansion, here are compelling reasons to consider Amazon Merch on Demand:

  • Start branded merchandise sales without upfront costs. This is particularly beneficial for new entrepreneurs who want a passive income or people, like students, with limited resources.
  • Eliminate storage fees and the risk of unsold stock. Products are printed upon customer orders, ensuring efficient resource allocation. This means you don’t have to deal with lost goods, mislabeled items, and inventory concerns.
  • Access Amazon's vast customer base and established reputation. You can also reach a global audience primed for purchases.
  • Start with a modest approach and seamlessly expand your product range as your business grows. Introduce new designs and adapt to evolving customer preferences without substantial investment.

Now, determining the value of Amazon Merch is linked to your specific objectives. If you're passionate about design and prepared to dedicate time and energy, it can be a viable avenue to turn your creativity into a side hustle. However, be realistic about the potential challenges and understand that success doesn’t happen overnight.

Final Thoughts

Amazon Merch on Demand is an excellent platform for creators to showcase their creativity and venture into eCommerce. It provides a relatively hands-off approach to selling on Amazon, giving you the time to delve into market research, design ideation, and product promotion across various channels.

Using a platform with products and solutions geared toward Amazon can help you in this venture. For instance, integrating sales data from Amazon and Threecolts can offer a comprehensive overview of your Amazon business, including Merch sales. Contact us to learn more.