How to Run an Apparel Business with Amazon’s Print on Demand Service

Typically, running an ecommerce apparel business requires a lot of overhead, inventory and specialized knowledge. Merch by Amazon, a print on demand service, has changed all that by making it possible to run a t-shirt design business without the need for inventory, overhead or even design experience. Amazon’s print-on-demand platform allows for anyone to upload designs to sell on their marketplace, where they are available for purchase by millions of customers, and are even eligible for Prime shipping benefits. Best of all, you don’t have to do a thing to fulfill the order or ever deal with customer service.

What is Merch by Amazon

Merch by Amazon is a print on demand service “that makes it easy for you to create, promote and sell your branded merchandise with no risk and no up-front costs.” Just upload your artwork, choose your t-shirt type and color and Amazon takes care of the rest by producing, selling and shipping your product. Saving you from the inventory and overhead costs that can sometimes swallow a fledgling business.

Launched in the fall of 2015, the print on demand service allows sellers to sign up for a free account and upload (using a super simple user interface) 10 designs suitable for printing on t-shirts. When a customer purchases a t-shirt design, Amazon prints it and ships it to the customer. For every shirt that sells, you earn a royalty based on the list price of your t-shirt minus Amazon’s cost (materials, production, fulfillment and shipping) and a 15 percent listing fee.

Merch by Amazon has been touted as one of the best ways for content and graphic creators to benefit financially from their ideas and art by creating, printing and selling their own t-shirts. But the great thing about Merch by Amazon is that even if you aren’t a talented graphic designer, have no e-commerce experience, and have no clue what “search engine optimization” means, you can still be successful by using the right tools and outsourcing what you don’t know.

Tools for Success on Merch by Amazon

The keys to success on Merch by Amazon are great designs, finding underserved niches, and getting your listings found by customers through excellent product listings. Luckily, there are services and tools to help with all of these aspects. You can certainly be successful on Merch without any tools, but when used correctly, they’ll save you a lot of time and headaches.

Run by one of the most successful Merch by Amazon sellers, MerchInformer is a web app that helps identify great niches and opportunities. Additionally, the app shows you what top Merch sellers are doing, tracks product keywords, notifies of trademark infringement and checks if your listings are fully optimized.

There are many options for creating designs to use on Merch by Amazon, including teaching yourself, hiring freelancers or using a professional design service. There are pros and cons to each solution but for a new seller, a service with experience creating designs to the required specifications will provide the most straightforward option. (Disclosure: MerchReadyDesigns is one such professional design service).

Similarly, there are a multiple options for writing copy for your product listing. You can teach yourself how to do so using a few guides to help. A tool like MerchantWords would be helpful to identify the best keywords to use in your title, bullet points and description. Alternatively, you could hire a freelancer or professional writing service to create your product copy.  

Once your designs and copywriting are ready, it’s an easy upload process that can be done by just about anyone in a few minutes. Just login to your account, add a new design and follow the prompts to upload your file, choose your colors and insert your brand name, product title, two bullet points and a description. You can set any priced you’d like, though lower prices will likely be more successful in the beginning. Once everything looks good, just submit to Amazon for approval. Typically, within a couple hours, your listing will be live on Amazon, ready to be ordered – and even eligible for Amazon Prime.

Do Merch by Amazon Users Actually Make Money?

Are you skeptical? Don’t be. There are plenty of success stories to be found.

In a July 2017 article on HuffingtonPost.com, a woman named Elaine Heney shared a story of her success with Merch by Amazon. Her first week live selling product on the site was at the end of February 2016 and her profit for that time was $49.84.This was from 100% organic traffic without any ads or promotion of the t-shirt designs in any way. After changing her product offerings with “a mixture of lower prices and more designs” she rose from earning approximately $2,000 per month to nearly $4,000 per month. In December 2016, she achieved her biggest month to date selling over $39,508 worth of product for a profit of $17,629. All of this to say, Elaine Heney, a former corporate office cubicle worker, started at zero and grew her Merch by Amazon business, reaching sales of $128,295.78 and a profit of $53,000 in just 10 active months.

Two other guys, Neil Lassen and Todor Karlikov (who just happen to be the founders of the MerchInformer.com site mentioned above) were featured in a CNBC.com article on October 2016.They signed up for Merch by Amazon, did a little research about what t-shirt designs were already selling (using Amazon’s super helpful best seller rating) and created their own designs along that same niche. The MerchInformer.com founders’ businesses were making about $3,000 per month when they decided to try to sell one of the Merch Accounts. They sold it for more than $73,000. At the time of publishing the article cited here, they were on track to make nearly $8,000 a month in profit. In total, their two print on demand t-shirt companies made $150,000.

Is Merch by Amazon for You?

If you’re looking to get into ecommerce, and take advantage of the huge Amazon customer-base without spending money upfront for physical products, Merch by Amazon may be the right solution for you. It’s certainly not an easy, guaranteed path to success, but with some persistence and the right tools to help, you can make Amazon’s print on demand service work for you.

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