When talking about print-on-demand, we have to talk about the elephant in the room. The elephant, in this case, is the largest eCommerce company in the world - Amazon. One beautiful fall day back in 2015, Amazon announced the release of Merch by Amazon (MBA). As stated in the press release, it is:
a new self-service program designed to help you increase revenue through the sale of branded t-shirts designed by you and produced, sold and shipped by Amazon. With the print on demand service, you sell only the t-shirts your customers want to buy. You never have to worry about inventory or out-of-pocket costs. For every t-shirt sold, you earn a royalty. The more t-shirts sold, the higher the royalty is.
At that point, Amazon had already been successfully running its self-publishing platform - Amazon KDP for over 6 years, so the POD platform was much anticipated.
In this article, we will discuss Merch by Amazon in full detail. We will go over its key features, talk about its pros and cons, and share a brief guide with you on how to use it.
Table of Contents
- What is Merch by Amazon?
- How Does Merch by Amazon work?
- How to Get Merch by Amazon Invitation and Approval
- Everything You Need to Know About Merch by Amazon Tiers
- How to Get Started With Merch by Amazon
- How to Promote Your Merch by Amazon Store
- What Functions and Features Are Available to Sellers?
- What Products Does Merch by Amazon Sell?
- How Much Does Merch by Amazon Cost?
- How is the Merch by Amazon’s User Experience?
- Does Merch by Amazon Have Customer Service?
- The Pros and Cons of Merch by Amazon
- Merch by Amazon or Other PODs That Can Be Integrated with Amazon?
- Merch by Amazon FAQs
- Merch by Amazon Review Conclusion
What is Merch by Amazon?
In simple terms, Merch by Amazon is Amazon’s print-on-demand platform that allows its users to custom design certain products that are produced, sold, and shipped by Amazon. The users receive royalties from each sale. Merch by Amazon was intended to be a helpful hand for app developers to promote their products. It’s safe to say that the user base has since grown and diversified. When it was first launched, Merch by Amazon only printed and sold t-shirts. The selection has expanded over the years and now includes other clothing items such as
- tank tops
- women’s v-necks
- zip hoodies
- premium tees
- long sleeve shirts
- sweatshirts and hoodies
Not long after its release, Merch by Amazon grew in popularity as a passive income generator. A lot of people began using Merch by Amazon as a side hustle. The feedback wasn’t, and to this day is not, unequivocally positive, but if we were to put it in “survey terms,” it’s more positive rather than negative.
Merch by Amazon doesn’t use any innovative techniques. Similar to other POD platforms, Amazon only produces and ships products when there is a sale. There are no upfront or hidden costs, as a seller, you get paid royalties when your design is sold.
So, what is Merch by Amazon? Yet another print-on-demand platform, but this time it is powered by Amazon.
How Does Merch by Amazon Work?
There was a time when Merch by Amazon was available to everyone but as its demand and popularity grew, the program changed its approach. Now, to use Merch by Amazon, you need to apply and receive a special invitation to run your Merch by Amazon account. The underlying reason for this is that the more users it has, the more facilities Amazon needs to print and disseminate the designs. Plus, these facilities have to work 24/7, which is an added cost for Amazon.
Applying for an invitation is a fairly easy and straightforward process, which we will discuss in detail later. Just keep in mind that it takes from a few days up to a week to review and confirm your application. So, if your POD business is time-sensitive, Merch by Amazon may not be the best option.
If and when your invite is accepted, you can move to the more fun part, which is design:
- Once you’re registered, upload your design onto the platform.
- Choose the product you want to sell.
- Insert your design onto the product type, pick which colors and sizes.
- Set the price and add a title.
- Publish it on Amazon.
After these simple steps comes arguably the most challenging part - promotion, and yes, we will talk about it too.
How to Get Merch by Amazon Invitation and Approval
As promised, let’s see how you can get Merch by Amazon invitation and approval. Starting from the very beginning, when you’re on the Merch by Amazon landing page, click the blue Sign up button.
You’ll be asked to log into your existing Amazon account and accept the Terms and Conditions. Before you move forward, Amazon will ask you to collect the following information:
- Business contact information
- Bank account and routing numbers
- Social security number or other tax identification number
The screenshot below shows what the application looks like. Fill out all the questions and complete the request form. A note on the tax questionnaire - if you’re not from the U.S., Merch by Amazon might take up to 30% of profits for tax withholding.
After this general information, you’ll be asked to fill out the following 3 sections:
- Industry Type - select from the drop-down menu.
- Organization Name - if you have a business name, add it and if not, add your first and last names.
- Additional Information - this is your space to provide Merch by Amazon with any information that might help you promote your cause.
The formal procedure is this. The key is to provide correct information so that Merch by Amazon knows you’re reliable.
If you want to increase your chances of getting accepted into Merch by Amazon, you can include any of these details in the Additional Information section:
- Demonstrated print on demand experience, links to your stores on other websites.
- Link to your personal website.
- Promotion strategy.
- Sample designs.
- Include any trademarks or licenses to art you may own.
These are additional details that are not required but will paint you in a good light in the eyes of Amazon.
Everything You Need to Know About Merch by Amazon Tiers
Another one of Merch by Amazon’s unique features is its tiers. When your account is approved and you can start using Merch by Amazon, you will see that you have 10 design slots available. This means that you can design and sell only 10 items. Once all 10 are sold, you get “tiered up,” which is Merch by Amazon’s way of saying “alright, you look like a good seller, I am gonna allow you to sell more.”
When you tier up, you’re allowed to upload more designs per day and eventually increase the total number of designs available for sale on Amazon.
Merch by Amazon’s Tier levels are the following:
- Tier 1 = 10 Designs
- Tier 2 = 25 Designs
- Tier 3 = 100 Designs
- Tier 4 = 500 Designs
- Tier 5 = 1,000 Designs
- Tier 6 = 2,000 Designs
- Tier 7 = 4,000 Designs
- Tier 8 = 8,000 Designs
Merch by Amazon does this for its efficiency. This model allows them to; a. Make sure that their facilities are not overwhelmed and b. It motivates the sellers to promote the products as much as possible to tier up. If you think about it, it’s Merch by Amazon’s way of gamifying POD.
How to Get Started With Merch by Amazon
Here comes the brief guide that we’ve promised. Once you receive your official confirmation from Merch by Amazon, log in to your account from this page (top left corner). You’ll be redirected to a page that looks like this:
Merch by Amazon has a very simple user interface, so you will easily figure out which section is dedicated to what. The default one is your dashboard where you can track your current sales. Next, you have Create, which is the page where all the magic happens.
Before you can create the actual custom product, you should have your design ready - meaning the print that you want on the piece of clothing. The Resources page from the Merch by Amazon homepage will help you with templates, so if you’re lost on that end, make sure you visit the page.
On the Create page, you’ll be presented with a list of products available on Merch by Amazon that can be edited. Click the Select Products button from the upper right corner to select which products you want to customize and also which marketplace you want to sell in - U.S., U.K. or Germany. Click Continue to move forward with the process.
The next step is uploading the designs and to do that you just have to click Upload Artwork and choose the relevant files from your computer. Then you simply choose the fit type, color, and pricing.
The last thing you do before your products go live is filling out the details such as brand, title, key product features, and product description.
Make sure to select Searchable and you’re all set to go. Click Continue and confirm that the products are ready to go live for sale. That’s it - this is all you need to know to get started with Merch by Amazon.
How to Promote Your Merch by Amazon Store
Your real work starts when the products go live. Yes, Amazon is the biggest and most popular eCommerce shop but it doesn’t mean that you’re guaranteed sales. In order to succeed with Merch by Amazon, you need a promotion strategy.
Promoting your Merch by Amazon stores or products is no different from the promotion of other businesses. You need a good social media presence and given that you can only sell clothing via Merch by Amazon, we recommend focusing on Instagram and TikTok.
The primary specificity of promoting your MBA store is Merch by Amazon advertising, which is basically Amazon advertising. The latter works with the same principle as Google’s pay-per-click ads - sellers only pay when shoppers click on ads. So, once you have your Merch by Amazon store up and running, consider using Amazon advertising, which will allow your products to stand out in search results. It’ll drive traffic to your store and generate sales.
Besides Merch by Amazon advertising, you can also use the following tactics to promote your store:
- Join Facebook groups where you might find your target audience and post about your Merch by Amazon store.
- Stream and promote your products on Twitch. If you don’t know what Twitch is then your target market is definitely not there.
- Influencer marketing for the win! Just get yourself in one of those “Amazon haul” videos or posts.
Once your products are live, have creative brainstorm sessions and you’ll definitely come up with a winning strategy on how to promote your Merch by Amazon store.
Now that you have general information on Merch by Amazon and how it works, let’s dig a bit deeper.
What Functions and Features Are Available to Sellers?
To be very blunt upfront, the key feature of Merch by Amazon is that it’s owned by Amazon. The platform doesn’t have or offer any special functions to the sellers. Its number one benefit is that you get to sell your product on Amazon with nearly 0 effort (not counting the design).
Similar to other print-on-demand platforms, Merch by Amazon is a great source of passive income because it doesn’t require any storage, plus, it takes care of fulfillment, shipping, and customer service. It’s a business that you can start with $0.
Probably the biggest key feature that Amazon offers its sellers is prime eligibility. Amazon lists all MBA printed products as prime eligible, which is a huge advantage over regular listings (e.g. better search) and will ultimately lead to more sales over time. People are getting more and more impatient, and they might ignore products that are not listed as prime.
What Products Does Merch by Amazon Sell?
Compared to other print-on-demand companies, Merch by Amazon doesn’t have a large variety of products. It actually started off as a dedicated platform for printing custom t-shirts. During the past six years of its existence, Merch by Amazon has added other products to its collections but they were all exclusively clothing items.
But last year, MBA added more products. Here are the products that you can currently customize and sell with Merch by Amazon:
- Women’s v-neck t-shirt
- Baseball t-shirts
- Tank tops
- Long sleeve t-shirts
- Crewneck sweatshirt
- Pullover & Zip Hoodie
- iPhone case
- Samsung case
- Tote bag
- Throw pillow
Even though Merch by Amazon has diversified its catalog a bit, it’s still not very large, but now it at least covers the basics. The quality of their products is pretty good and so is the print quality, but you have to make sure that the design you upload has a good resolution.
Will Merch by Amazon add new products soon? Who knows, there isn’t a special announcement yet but last year they added the tote bags and throw pillows, so maybe they’ll expand their collection more during 2021.
How Much Does Merch by Amazon Cost?
The most important question of all - you might have even jumped to this one before reading the rest article. If it costs skyrocketing numbers then what’s the point of reading a whole article, right? Well, you might have to stick around and read all of it because Merch by Amazon doesn’t require any upfront costs. It’s free to sign up, upload designs, and publish them for sale on Amazon.
How does Amazon make money then? They certainly aren’t running Merch by Amazon out of the goodness of their heart. Merch by Amazon makes money when you do. When you start selling a product that you’ve created via MBA, Amazon essentially takes over it, becomes its “owner” and when there is a sale, it pays you royalties. This is how they explain the payment procedure:
In the chart below, you can find examples of purchase prices and royalties that Amazon will pay you.
The rates are different for each product, so make sure you study them thoroughly. The full list can be found here.
Keep in mind that because of Amazon’s royalty structure, you actually earn less per sale when compared to other POD services. Let’s say you want to sell a Star Wars-themed shirt using Merch by Amazon. You do market research and figure out that the best pricing for your product is $15.99, so you sell it for that price. Going back to the MBA purchase price/royalty chart, you’ll see that you’ll make $2.21 per t-shirt.
Unlike MBA, other PODs use a charging-the-base-price model, which means every product has a fixed price and you pay only that. So if you were to sell the same shirt using let’s say Gearbubble, you’d make $7.04 because the base price of a unisex short sleeve classic tee is $8.95.
How is the Merch by Amazon’s User Experience?
Merch by Amazon undoubtedly gets 10/10 for user experience. If we consider the signing up aspect as a part of the user experience, then it adds some complications. The whole application and invitation process is time-consuming and there are no guarantees that you’ll get in. But once you do, you’ll see how user-friendly and initiative Merch by Amazon’s interface is.
The dashboard where you see how many products you sold and how much money you made is very easy to understand - no additional buttons or misleading sections. The Create page is designed to be as simple as possible. All you need to do is upload the design and Merch by Amazon gives you guidance and resources on creating those designs as well.
So, if you’re looking for a print-on-demand partner that is very easy to use, and you’re not in a rush to launch your store, then Merch by Amazon has to be on your list of candidates.
Does Merch by Amazon Have Customer Service?
When talking about customer support services of POD platforms, it’s important to make the distinction between customer service for sellers and customer service for buyers. They are handled differently but are equally important.
Customer service for sellers Merch by Amazon does have customer support for sellers. They don’t have a phone number to call, which usually solves issues much faster, but there is an option to email them or submit the questions online using the special form. Merch by Amazon also has a very exhaustive FAQ section, where you can find the answers to your questions. Additionally, there are dedicated communities and a forum where you can pose your questions.
Customer service for buyers The customer service for your buyers is handled by Amazon itself. Since they’re the ones taking care of the fulfillment, production and shipping, they have all the necessary information to respond to clients’ queries. Keep in mind that for the buyer there is no difference whether the shirt is printed and sold by Merch by Amazon or sold by H&M on Amazon. If they have questions, they contact Amazon just like with any other order.
The Pros and Cons of Merch by Amazon
As our Merch by Amazon review is coming to an end, so let’s go over some of the key pros and cons of the platform.
- Direct linkage to an eCommerce giant so no additional steps are required to sell your custom products on Amazon. A very user-friendly and easy-to-use backend. A lot of research and resources to use for promoting an Amazon listing.
- Prime eligibility.
- As a POD, it spares you the hassle and expenses of storage and shipping.
- You can sell only using Amazon as MBA doesn’t offer any integrations with other marketplaces such as Shopify or eBay.
- Low royalties - if you sell a t-shirt for $16, Merch by Amazon will give you $3 for it.
- Limited variety of products - only clothing, tote bags, phone cases and throw pillows while other PODs offer a diversity of items such as mugs, jewelry, keychains, posters, etc.
These are the main advantages and disadvantages of Merch by Amazon that apply to everyone. As you go along, you might discover some more that are unique to your case.
Merch by Amazon or Other PODs that Can be Integrated with Amazon?
Merch by Amazon is not the only POD platform that allows you to sell on Amazon. The three main options that are currently available are GearBubble, Teespring and Teelaunch. All of these PODs can be integrated with Amazon as well as other third-party marketplaces, so they serve as alternatives to Merch by Amazon.
The choice is up to you but in the scope of this Merch by Amazon review, we can give you some pointers:
- If you’re planning to sell your custom designs on other platforms, it makes sense to go with a POD partner that allows you to sell on all or more of those platforms.
- Pay attention to costs and the margin that you can receive on your products. Compared to Merch by Amazon, GearBubble, Teespring and Teelaunch are more profitable.
- Integrations can be time-consuming, so if you just want a stream of passive income and can’t or don’t want to dedicate a lot of time to then Merch by Amazon makes more sense.
- What kind of products do you want to design and sell? Are they available on Merch by Amazon?
Think over these questions and pointers, and you’ll certainly make an informed decision.
Merch by Amazon FAQs
And finally, to sum this Merch by Amazon review up, let’s go over the most frequently asked questions:
Is Merch by Amazon free?
Yes, there are no fees involved or hidden costs involved. When your product or products are sold, Amazon will pay you royalties. However, to actually sell your products you might have to invest in advertising, which is not free.
Can you make money with Amazon merch?
Yes, you can. While it might be challenging at the beginning, once you figure out the best promotion channels and strategies for your products, you can generate substantial income. Blogger Ryan Hogue, for instance, mentioned having $700 worth of sales in a day using Merch by Amazon.
How do I succeed in Merch by Amazon?
This is a topic for a separate article but generally speaking, here are some tips to succeed in Merch by Amazon:
- Study the platform carefully.
- Do keyword research for product descriptions.
- Choose and stick to a niche.
- Advertise and promote your products across different platforms.
Merch by Amazon Review Conclusion
So, Merch by Amazon - yay or nay? We’ll answer that question with an annoying response - it depends and it truly does. Merch by Amazon is a great tool for generating passive income and the keyword here is passive. It’ll take some time to get the invite and if you do, it’ll take some more time for your Merch by Amazon store to take off and succeed.
We hope this Merch by Amazon review helped you understand which way you’re leaning and if you’re still hesitating, go back to the pros and cons section and read it once more.