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Merch By Amazon. You know Amazon, now get ready for their venture into the world of POD.
But like most things Bezos gets involved with, there's a process. It's not a matter of signing up and selling instantly. Selling on MBA is a little different to using other POD suppliers as you're also getting access to sell on the Amazon marketplace.
But, the fact that Amazon has a stake in the POD world should say something to you: It's an effective business model that can be the basis of an entire brand.
This article will cover everything you need to know about Merch By Amazon.
Keep reading to see:
- What is Merch By Amazon?
- How does it work and what's different?
- Is it actually worth using?
Before we start:
Before you dive deep into the world of Merch By Amazon, it's important to note that 99.99% of your success as an MBA seller will be determined by your skill as an Amazon seller.
Selling fridge motors, power banks or MBA products on Amazon- it's all the same as you're selling on the Amazon marketplace.
Finding a niche on Amazon, Amazon keyword research, Best Seller Ratings, prices, descriptions and titles – it doesn't really matter what you're selling, your MBA success will be determined by your skills as an Amazon seller.
Therefore, this article will focus mostly on using MBA as a way to generate POD income, rather than ‘selling on Amazon' in general.
What is Merch by Amazon?
Merch By Amazon was launched in 2015 as a service to help designers and creators monetise their designs through selling t-shirts, clothing and other accessories. Originally, it was available only in the US but as of 2018, it had launched to the British and German populations.
How does it work?
It's important to note this:
Using Merch By Amazon, you can only sell your products on Amazon.
This may be seen as a bit of a downer for some POD entrepreneurs, but remember that Amazon is the 13th biggest website in the world. So with a little Amazon SEO and niche research, there's every chance that you can make a decent number of sales.
To explain the process as quickly and as easily as possible, MBA works like this:
- Create an Amazon account & apply to sell on MBA
- Once approved, upload your artwork
- Pick which types of products you want your artwork to be printed on
- Pick variables, like t-shirt colours and sizes
- Give your product a title, description and price
- Publish it for sale on Amazon
Merch By Amazon approval
Just like selling anything on Amazon, you need to go through an approval process to selling using MBA.
You'll need to supply them with:
- Business contact details
- Bank account numbers
- Social security or other tax ID information
Just like signing up for a standard sellers account on Amazon, you'll need to fill out a brief tax questionnaire, or else Amazon will hold up to 30% of your profits.
Once you've done all this, you'll need to fill out a ‘request invitation' form. It's the information that you supply in these sections that will be used to assess whether you'll be approved to sell on the platform or not.
To improve your chances of being approved, it's best to give Amazon more than they're asking when they're assessing your application.
Here are some handy, non-essential things to include:
- Give Amazon as much information as possible.
- Stay consistent with the information you give them. If you're a business, use your business information. If you're an individual, use your individual information.
- If you've already got a Shopify POD store, link to it and any other stores or marketplaces you're selling on. Amazon wants sellers with an existing audience.
- How are you going to market your Amazon listings? Tell Amazon how you'll drive more traffic to their site (read: your products)
- Create a few ‘Amazon exclusive' designs
- Don't forget licenses and trademarks for any art or designs you might have.
Merch By Amazon Tier levels
MBA works in an unusual ‘tiered' system as a way to keep their inventory as clean as possible. In other words, they won't sell designs that don't sell. If your design isn't sold within 10 days, I'll be removed. This is not unlike their Amazon Affiliate program.
When your account is first set up, you'll be able to sell a maximum of 10 designs.
Once you've made 10 sales, you'll upgrade to tier 2, which will allow you to sell 25 designs.
Simply put, tiering up means you can upload more designs. Sell more units to upgrade to higher tiers and upload more designs.
The products available to sell on MBA are mostly tops in the form of:
- Women's t-shirts
- Tank tops
- Baseball shirts
Other accessories include PopSockets, phone cases, tote bags and pillows.
It's obvious that compared to other POD suppliers, Merch By Amazon doesn't have the range of products to compete.
But what it lacks in range of products, one can argue that it makes up for in customer reach. This may very well be why they're not offering hundreds of types of products – their data tells them what products are popular, and they stick to that.
Merch By Amazon Fees & Costs
It goes without saying that Amazon will take a fee for every product you sell.
Well, they take so much of a fee, that they actually call the profit you make a royalty. In other words, you sell your design and you take a percentage of the profit.
Compared to other POD companies, this may seem like a bit of a joke.
However, remember that Amazon has done a lot of the groundwork, and you've only really supplied the design. And, like selling on Etsy, you're actually paying to get your product in front of their audience.
When looking at the royalty rates, it's not exactly easy to comprehend.
If you're a POD entrepreneur, it's safe to say that for t-shirts being sold in the US or Europe, you're going to pocket approximately a 20% royalty of the final sale price.
Amazon's explains that your royalty fee is calculated on the purchase price, less tax and Amazon's costs.
The 80% that Amazon takes goes to:
- Materials & production
- Fulfilment & shipping
- Customer service
- Returns & Exchanges
- Fraud detection and prevention
On their intellectual property page, Amazon states:
In accordance with our Content Policy, Amazon cannot make, sell, distribute, or promote items that infringe the intellectual property rights (including copyright, trademark and publicity rights) of a third party. This means that you should either have obtained a license or otherwise received permission from any third party whose intellectual property you wish to use with Merch by Amazon.
Looking through the legal talk, this basically means that you can't sell stuff that's already been licensed, or ‘copy' the designs of others.
In reality, this is questionable.
There are many Facebook groups and Reddit threads dedicated to those that have had their designs stolen by other sellers. That's not to say that Amazon isn't doing anything about it, but it's safe to say that Amazon isn't actively enforcing its intellectual property rules as much as it could (or should) be.
Restrictions for Merch By Amazon are similar to those like most other POD companies and marketplaces in general.
Some sellers have complained that Amazon is getting too ‘woke', as it's taking down t-shirt designs with ‘Male lives matter‘, ‘At least Trump Persisted‘ and instances of the f-bomb.
We'll let you make up your own mind on such moves.
Interestingly, some sellers have complained that their designs with the word ‘itch' were taken down because Amazon's profanity bot sees it as having a ‘b' at the start.
Difference between MBA and…
Merch By Amazon connects a POD service with a marketplace – the biggest online marketplace in the world.
And arguably, that's what makes it so attractive. When you're setting up a stand-alone POD store, you need to, well, do that. Set up an entire store. Return policies, page designs, branding, and then marketing, emails – you're responsible for it all.
MBA mixes the ease of POD with the ease of selling on a marketplace. Granted, you only take 20% of the sale price, but you've done about 20% of the work that you'll have to do compared to other business models.
So, it is worth it?
Well, it depends.
It depends on what you want.
Do you want to establish a stand-alone brand that has loyal customers and own each and every transaction?
Then no, Merch By Amazon isn't for you.
Are you a designer, or have access to skilled designers and want to monetise that talent?
Then yeah, MBA might be a good option for you.
Remember though, the ‘POD' part of Merch By Amazon is the easy part. As you're only able to sell your MBA products on the Amazon marketplace, the work will come in the form of cutting through all the other t-shirt designs for sale on the Amazon marketplace.
If you're going to start selling on Merch By Amazon, it's important to remember that the challenge will be standing out in the marketplace.
If you've got unique designs and want to try monetising them, MBA is fantastic for that. If you're a POD entrepreneur that wants to turn the Amazon marketplace into a revenue stream MBA is great for that.
Regardless of which one of the above you fall into, the biggest challenge will be standing out on Amazon. T-shirts are the go-to product for POD entrepreneurs for a reason. That becomes insanely evident on Amazon.
Your success on Merch By Amazon won't be determined by your designs, but rather how you make your designs stand out amongst the sea of other t-shirt designs.
Like all things e-commerce, doing your research and finding your niche is the most important part. Start there, and you will have taken the first steps to become an effective MBA seller.