Amazon Merch T-Shirt Empire
While everyone has heard of the corporate giant Amazon, a surprising number of people still haven’t heard of Amazon Merch. Amazon Merch is their platform that let’s anyone with a free Merch account sell t-shirts directly through Amazon’s main website. You’re not printing and packaging any of these t-shirts yourself. You’re simply uploading t-shirt designs. Whenever a customer buys one of your t-shirts off of Amazon’s website, Amazon prints the t-shirt, packages it, and ships it directly to them.
With this print-on-demand model, you are setting your own prices, and Amazon only takes their base fee from of each t-shirt sold. Since you can set your own price, you have a degree of control when it comes to how much profit you are making per shirt. You’re not paying anything upfront. You’re not stocking your own inventory. You don’t have to handle customer payments. You don’t have to worry about shipping or returns.
Everything is handled by Amazon, letting you leverage the e-commerce behemoth’s efficient platform. After you make sales, they deposit your profits directly into your bank account in a set payout schedule.Set And Forget
Something to understand about Amazon, is that their website is basically a giant search engine for physical products. People search for something they might want on Amazon, and the top results that are shown are based on the relevancy of the keywords they searched as well as how well that product is selling on Amazon in relation to similar products.
Because it’s essentially a search engine, this allows people like us to use some basic search engine optimization tactics to give our product pages a better chance of showing up in the top results for certain keywords. The more t-shirts you have showing up in the top results, the more money you will make without any additional work.
No Design Experience Required
One great thing about selling t-shirts through Amazon Merch is that you don’t really need to be some kind of expert graphic designer. The truth is, some of the bestselling t-shirts are just clever, text-based phrases in an interesting font. Amazing-looking graphical t-shirt designs don’t necessarily sell better than a funny, relevant phrase within a targeted niche.
The hardest design decisions you really need to make are the font type, font color, and t-shirt color. That’s about it. Even if you needed some specific graphics other than text, there are tons of sites where you can download free design elements and many include the rights, even for commercial uses.
You can sell t-shirts in just about any niche but on Amazon, clever or funny novelty t-shirts are often going to sell best with the least effort. This is due mostly to the previously mentioned search engine format. You can make an amazing t-shirt with an interesting but non-text design, but are people likely to search for that? Your amazing design might never be purchased organically.
However, people will certainly be searching for things like “funny gamer t-shirts” or “dog lover t-shirts.” Do you see the trend here? Find a niche or a tribe and cater your designs to stuff that says “this is who I am!”
The easiest way to come up with ideas is just to make a list of everything that interests you. Your hobbies, things you are a fan of, activities you like, etc. Basically, if you just start writing down everything you’re into, you’re bound to find niches and tribes within your list.
Once you have a beginning list, type search terms into Amazon with “t-shirt” after it. See what kind of stuff is selling. What kinds of jokes work? What kinds of phrases are popular within that niche? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. You can come up with similar phrases or modify and build upon already existing ones to start. Just avoid trademarked phrases and slogans from established brands unless it is a direct parody.
Dominating Less Competitive Niches
Amazon gives you some great opportunities to completely dominate less competitive niches and sub-niches. For any major niche, there is of course going to be a lot of competition at the top level. “Gamer t-shirts” and “Dog lover t-shirts” are both going to have thousands of t-shirts already ranking really high.
If you choose a smaller sub-niche or cross between multiple niches, you can find some sweet spots with little to no competition. To expand on our previous examples, “Gamer Dad t-shirts” is going to have less competition and so is “Cat and Dog best friends t-shirts.” Sure, there are overall going to be less searches every month for these specific keywords. However, you will be able to dominate the rankings for any focused sub-niches due to a lack of specific competition.
Another interesting way to dominate a niche is to create designs that will peak at certain times of the year. Christmas time is popular for t-shirts. You can take a niche you already are interested in and then design holiday themed t-shirts around them. You can also base it around birthdays, graduations, or any other kind of event. With different holidays your sales will peak around those times of the year, but the other events will be more evenly spread out. I still get around $1000 payout every holiday season with no additional work from a couple of Christmas-themed t-shirts I designed over two years ago.
It is also possible to quickly put out a design about an upcoming one-time event or a recent viral internet sensation. When a solar eclipse was happening in recent years, a few people who got their designs up first got ranked quickly and made thousands pretty easily. The same can be done for any recent popular memes. If you can get your design up first before a lot of similar designs come online, your t-shirt will likely show up first when searched, resulting in many more sales.
Organic Traffic Testing
The most basic method of generating traffic is to just put your designs up, fill your title and product descriptions with relevant keywords and see what happens. If you chose a less competitive sub-niche and your design is good, you’ll likely make a few sales this way alone.
In the beginning, you are limited to a certain number of design uploads until you have enough sales, so if you have some shirts that have made a sale or two, but others that haven’t made any, remove the non-sellers and replace it with a new design to test.
Since you set your own prices, keep the price low at first. Just a little above the base amount Amazon charges. This will help increase initial sales and help your t-shirts climb in the ranking for the keywords you are aiming at. Once it is selling better due to a stronger ranking, you can increase your price and improve your profit margin.
The Instagram Method
An easy way to boost your sales and rankings, is to create an Instagram account around your niche. Instagram works wonder with physical products, especially clothing. As you grow your account with followers who are fans of this niche, you can promote shirts and link them in your bio or with Instagram Stories.
This will help drive sales directly to your designs, and your ranking will improve as well, so you will benefit from additional organic sales.
If you use cheap or free advertising methods, you can give your t-shirt sales a boost this way as well. For instance, if you don’t have a large Instagram following around your niche yet, find an Instagram account in that niche that does have a large following. Message them and ask them what their shout out price is. I’ve had shout outs for as little as $30 where an influencer sent a large amount of traffic to one of my t-shirts, resulting in around $300 profit for that one shout out. That’s an easy 10 times my ad spend.If you really want to be clever, instead of having a niche influencer shout out directly to one of your t-shirts, run a contest for a free t-shirt giveaway. To be eligible, they must be following your Instagram account. This can generate you a large amount of followers, and then you can promote all your future designs to them as well.No matter what paid advertising method you use, keep in mind this is only necessary to boost your ranking with the first initial sales and then you want to let most of your sales be organic through Amazon’s search engine. The profit margin on t-shirts can make paid advertising difficult as a long term strategy.
With Amazon Merch, your on-page optimization is everything. You need to make sure your product page does two things. First, it needs to make it relevant to specific keyword phrases your target customers will search for. Second, it needs to convince interested people into actually buying your t-shirt.
For each t-shirt design you upload, your main title is absolutely crucial. Think about what keyword phrase or phrases your ideal customer will search for when looking for a product similar to yours. Use these keyword phrases when writing out your title. Combining a couple keyword phrases works well. It’s okay to have a long title as long as it is relevant to the search terms. If your t-shirt is targeted towards women and fans of a specific dog breed, include all of that in the title. “Corgi dog lovers women’s t-shirt” works great. Notice that I still leave dog in the term even though Corgi is a dog breed? Include your main niche terms along with your sub-niche. If your t-shirt has a specific, funny phrase, include that in your title. An example I once saw was a funny phrase parodying a popular TV show, “A Lannister always spays his pets t-shirt.”
For the rest of your product description, you want to use the same keywords in your title. Not in the same way, but within the text of the description so it flows more naturally. Also, for most novelty niches, the key is to be light and entertaining with your product description. Use inside jokes that are common in that niche. Be playful with it if it is a playful niche. Of course, if the niche is more serious, then your description should also be serious.
Your product description should answer certain questions about your t-shirt. Who is the t-shirt for? What do these people like to do? Where or when would they wear this t-shirt? Allowing your description to help answer these questions will lead to additional sales.
Lastly, write your product descriptions like you are talking directly to that one single fan who is currently reading it. Writing like it is a conversation between two people makes it more personal and will always lead to an increase in sales conversions.
Scaling Up and Building Your Empire
Once you have started uploading designs, making sales, and increasing your design upload limit, you can start expanding your t-shirt empire. While I recommend sticking with one or two niches when you are first starting out, there is nothing stopping you from eventually expanding into as many niches as you want to with the same Merch account. The more designs you have uploaded to Amazon that are ranking and making sales, the more money you can expect in your regular payouts without any additional work needed.
Creating hundreds of designs yourself can be a daunting. You can hire a graphic designer and offer them a bulk rate for t-shirt designs. A friend of mine was able to get 100 designs for $400. That’s only $4 per design. Search on Fiverr or Upwork. Many overseas designers offer great rates, especially if you don’t mind them using free graphic assets in their designs to speed up production.