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Is Amazon's 'Merch' the Next Big Thing? This marketing tool has been around for over a year but may be one of the best-kept secrets out there.

By Thomas Smale Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Jonathan Weiss /

In case you didn't know, Amazon is home to some incredible print-on-demand services.

Related: 5 Myths About Selling on Amazon

Consider the example of CreateSpace. This Amazon-owned platform allows authors, musicians, filmmakers, course creators and others to self-publish books, CDs and DVDs. Amazon fulfills all orders, which eliminates the need for independent content creators to carry inventory.

Another useful platform? In late 2015, Amazon announced Merch by Amazon. Merch works much the same way CreateSpace does. You can upload your design or artwork, choose a T-shirt style and color, create a product description and set the price; Amazon will handle the rest.

Since its launch, Amazon Merch has been quickly gaining momentum with marketers and entrepreneurs.

The walking billboard

It's easy to gauge people's reaction to your brand when you're wearing a t-shirt with your logo on it. This is a good way to test your concept out in the real world, and find out if your target audience resonates with what your logo says about you and what you stand for.

But the best part about branded merchandise? Your customers become walking billboards for you. If they resonate with your brand, and they love the product or service you offer, they may become willing advertisers for your company.

It has often been said that there is no marketing like word-of-mouth marketing. Your t-shirts could make for great conversation starters that help you grow your business. Conversations could be happening where you aren't even present.

T-shirts can also be created to promote awareness for causes you care about, whether your cause is LGBT awareness, a greener planet, world peace or otherwise. Or, you can also have some fun with it, and make things like this puppy dog T-shirt.

Related: Shipping 101

Whether you're promoting an upcoming event or music release, you can create a variety of designs to test out what works. The only limit is your imagination.

Another revenue stream

It would be an understatement to say there's good money in t-shirts, especially based on the results some Amazon marketers have reported they're seeing with their Merch.

  • "Neil" of MerchInformer, for instance, said he made over $150,000 in 2016 with Merch by Amazon.
  • "Elaine" of MerchEntrepreneur reported making $6,754 with Merch by Amazon in a single month.

These numbers are nothing to sneeze at, of course, and reflect how people love wearing t-shirts with an attractive design.

Not sure where to start? No problem. You could download a free Kindle book and learn how to set up your account and ensure your designs are ready to be printed on T-shirts. If you have questions, you could also join a thriving community such as Chris Green's Facebook Group or John Adams' Group and learn from those who have gone before you.

This isn't to suggest you should abandon your primary business model or get distracted by shiny objects. But Merch could be a simple way to diversify revenue and promote your company as well.

Just so you know, however: You'll still need to promote your t-shirts if you want to sell any. You can't just put together a design, create a listing and hope for the best. You might see a few sales this way, but it won't be anything significant.

The Amazon advantage

Amazon is the world's largest online marketplace. As such, there are more advantages to working with Amazon than meets the eye. After all, if you just wanted to get t-shirts made up, you could do that with CafePress or Zazzle.

Here are several reasons why people are so excited about Merch by Amazon:

  • Amazon handles printing, shipping and fulfillment. You don't need to carry any inventory, or process orders. You simply earn a royalty on sales.
  • "Prime" members get free shipping on orders.
  • You gain the ability to sell on the leading e-commerce platform.

Now, there are some important things to keep in mind.

First, there are many people selling merchandise out there. Some are even selling near-identical designs. If you're going to start selling with Merch by Amazon, ensure your designs are unique and aren't the intellectual property of someone else.

Second, you won't sell many t-shirts if you don't put effort into it. You must consider whether you have the financial or personnel resources to move forward with an opportunity like this. Think carefully about how you're going to promote your t-shirts before jumping in with both feet.

Third, Amazon keeps $9.80 on every t-shirt sold, so you need to work some margin into your price if you want to earn a decent royalty. Fortunately, many customers will happily buy a stylish t-shirt at $15 to $20.

If you keep these three things in mind, you should do well.

Getting started with Merch by Amazon

To get started with Merch by Amazon, you'll need to request an invitation and fill out an application. Once accepted, you can begin selling your t-shirt designs.

You'll then need to put together your designs. Amazon allows up to 10 designs to begin with. If you're a graphic designer, or you have someone in-house that can handle these duties, you'll be off to the races in no time.

Once your design is ready, you can choose a template, position your design and price your item. As noted earlier, you'll need to price strategically if you want to make a profit. You can then choose the color of the t-shirts. Amazon recommends using three so as not to confuse your buyers.

After you've filled out the product description, you're ready to launch.

But don't forget about marketing. Merch Informer is a must-have tool for Merch sellers, as it allows you to conduct research, spy on other brands, determine what keywords to target, run competitive analysis and optimize your listing.

Final thoughts

Amazon Merch has been around for just over a year. In that sense, it might be one of the best-kept secrets out there.

As with any market, as more entrepreneurs jump onboard, it could become a less viable opportunity down the line. But, for the time being, this is an exciting opportunity, and a great way for businesses to build brand awareness and create another stream of revenue.

Related: How Amazon's Recent Changes Could Affect Your Business

Plus, who's to say Amazon won't add additional items down the line, such as hats, hoodies, keychains, buttons and so forth? There is plenty of room for growth.

Thomas Smale

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Founder of FE International

Thomas Smale co-founded FE International in 2010. He has been interviewed on podcasts, blogs and also spoken at a number of industry events on online businesses, exit strategy and selling businesses.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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