Got Your Merch By Amazon Approval? 4 Strategies To Help You Tier Up FastLast Updated: April 27, 2017
When you get your Merch By Amazon account approval, you get just 10 design ‘slots’ to fill.
In order to increase your total number of slots (or ‘tier up’) – you need to make at least 10 sales.
Note: Amazon actually says that tiering up is not based solely on sales. And I quote: “Admission to these tiers are based not only on sales, but the quality of the products being sold by the content creator as well.” Worth knowing!
Anyway – as you climb through the tiers you should find it gets easier to make sales, because – generally speaking – the more designs you have live, the greater your chances of generating sales.
But in this article I want to share some different – an perhaps slightly unconventional – ideas about how you could tier up in as short a time as possible – getting those initial 10 sales, to your next 25, and then beyond.
1. Buy The Shirts Yourself
At time of writing, there is nothing from Amazon that says you cannot simply purchase 10 of your own Shirts, and have those sales count towards your ‘tier up’ number.
However, I haven’t done this personally, and so I can’t guarantee this works. (Bear in mind that Amazon’s tiering up of accounts is not immediate – so even if you buy 10 shirts today, you are unlikely to find yourself tiered up tomorrow. It could be weeks or months before you actually gain access to the next tier level).
As long as you order 10 and don’t return them, you should be credited with 10 sales (you’ll get any royalties) and you should tier up to 25 whenever Amazon does it’s next round of upgrades.
So – you would simply price your shirts at the lowest possible price ($11.54 currently) and order 10. That would cost you $115.40 in total.
That represents a pretty small investment, especially if you believe in your personal ability to generate sales with Merch By Amazon organically in the future – and recognise the benefit of tiering up fast.
If I was starting out today and had $120 in the bank – I’d probably go ahead and buy 10 Shirts.
At worst you get 10 Shirts you don’t need, and at best you speed up your progress through the Merch tiers, meaning you should be making more sales and more income faster than would otherwise be the case.
But – I have some even better ideas – one’s that should actually save or make you money, rather than cost you money.
2. Gifts For Friends And Family
I recently did a design around a topic that I knew one of my friends would like.
I showed it to him on WhatsApp, and he nearly bit my hand off trying to find out where he could get it.
Now I’m gonna order him one as a gift, but I could just as easily have sent him a link where he could get it himself for $11.54 (If I wanted to be super-generous) – or for $25.99 which I’m sure he would have happily paid.
You could do the same – and at $11.54 per shirt that’s not too bad a price for a gift.
And if you were pushed I bet you could list out 10 friends or family members right now – and think up with an idea or design that each would love.
You could also do some super-personalised stuff with people’s names (or group family shirts, super-inside-joke shirts etc.)
And they don’t need to have a birthday around the corner – why not create and buy their gift now, and hold it until the right time?
Finally – ask friends of family if they want custom T-Shirts to give as gifts for others. You can offer to design them for free – and just send them the purchase links once done. If you give them some examples, I’ll bet at least a few of your close relations or acquaintances would bite.
And if you don’t have 10 friends or family in the first place then my first suggestion is: make some friends. (The Merch By Amazon Facebook group might be a good place to start).
3. Start Your Own Store (On Etsy / Shopify / Woocommerce) And Order 10 As Stock
If you’ve read my articles about a t-shirt business roadmap or going from zero to $10k a month with t-shirts – then you’ll already be familiar with my suggestion that you use first ‘organic’ sites like Merch By Amazon and Redbubble to help you generate confidence (and cash), whilst ‘climbing the ladder’ towards your own website and brand.
Etsy is a kind of half-way house between a site like Merch/Redbubble and having your own online store. It has organic traffic and a credible brand (like Amazon) but you also control your own ‘store’ within Etsy.
So the basic idea is this: you’re going to have an Etsy store (or Shopify, or Woocommerce) and sell a small number of designs on there. Instead of using a fulfillment company to handle the printing and shipping, you use your Merch account to place a bulk order of 10 shirts up-front, hold them as inventory, and ship them out personally as-and-when you get the orders.
If you sell your Shirts at around $24 (which is what I do on Etsy) – you’ll make around $11 per shirt sold.
Of course you may have to wait to see that profit returned – but if you know or believe you have designs that will sell on Etsy – then this is a way to tier up whilst also making that money back – and then some.
I use Etsy as my suggestion because it has decent organic traffic, but you could use the same principle and sell on Shopify /woocommerce or any other ‘own brand’ platform where you’d be responsible for fulfilling the order.
Some further points and tips:
- This comes out cheaper (ie. more profitable) than using a fulfillment company. Printful charges $13.5 for an anvil shirt (not including shipping).
- There are not many screenprinters who would do a run of just 10 Shirts – as it just wouldn’t be profitable to do so. Merch is one of the few ways to order such a small run of Shirts at such a low price.
- You will have to store these of course, but 10 shirts shouldn’t take up too much closet space.
- Because you hold them in stock, you have the added advantage of offering super-quick shipping – unlike most Etsy stores that use a fulfillment company (takes anywhere between 3–8 days to have a shirt printed and shipped in most cases). Of course you’ll have to go down to the local Post Office when you get an order – but you are making a profit and tiering up at the same time.
- You could list several designs on your Etsy store to begin with, so that your ‘shelves’ don’t look bare, and then use Merch to stock the 10 for your best selling design (and use a fulfillment company to handle the others). If you were ordering from Merch for just one design, I would order sizes in the following way (and probably just go with the ‘mens’ shirt, and list it as ‘unisex’ on Etsy):
- 2 x Small
- 3 x Medium
- 3 x Large
- 2 x XL
- If you Shirts sell out, you can simply shift to using a fulfillment company, or re-order from Amazon (or place a bulk order from a screenprinters if you want even more profit margin).
- Remember that what we’re doing here is killing two birds with one stone – you get to tier up fast with Merch, and at the same time you get inventory for your Etsy T-Shirt store. If you play it right, you come out with around $124.60 profit, plus a Merch account with the extra slots.
Obviously this isn’t for everyone – perhaps you aren’t ready to go the Etsy route – or you don’t want to ship Shirts out yourself (I don’t blame you).
So…what about contacting someone you know who could use an extra 10 Shirts for their T-Shirt brand?
One of the regularly-made suggestions for tiering up is to contact a community group, sports team or local charity who could use some Shirts, and have them place a bulk order via Merch.
But another group who need bulk orders of Shirts are people starting their own T-shirt brand or clothing line.
So if you can contact such a person (you only really need 1 small order of 10 in order to tier up) – you can offer them a decent price for a tiny run of Shirts. You could even offer them a discount if you want – to make it more appealing for them, and lose a little bit of cash in order to tier up fast
Finally you could also contact someone who is already selling via Etsy or similar, and offer them 10 shirts for a decent price. If they are working with a fulfillment company and paying $14 plus per shirt – but you can offer them a bulk order of 10 for $10 or less, you may be able to tempt them. If you offered to ship them out to customers on behalf of this seller also – that could make the offer even more attractive.
Anyway, perhaps that’s all a bit complicated for where you’re at. If so, read on…
4. Go Organic: Ride A Social Media Trend
If you’re relying on organic traffic alone to generate sales, then you’re probably going to find it takes a while to reach your first 10, especially with only 10 designs live.
With this in mind, I would want to focus my attention on trending topics – stuff that is currently viral, topical and ‘hot hot hot’ 🔥🔥🔥.
Because such designs are much more likely to generate a large amount of sales in a short space of time – which is exactly what you want when you are in the lower tiers.
(As you get into the higher tiers you can focus more on ‘evergreen’ designs that should generate slow regular sales for recurring income).
So where would I go to find or get ahead of a trend?
- Reddit. Visit daily, use the search function to search for ‘t-shirt’ or ‘shirt’ – and sort by ‘new’. This should show you any recent posts with ‘t-shirt’ in the title – and you can determine if there are any ideas, concepts or trends here that are worth pursuing (by looking at the total number of upvotes & comments on any given post).
- Twitter. As above – do a daily (or even more frequent) search of twitter for terms like ‘Shirt’ and ‘T-Shirt’. See what it throws up. Remember you’re looking for trends rather than individual designs – and you’re looking for something popular: it should have a lot of retweets/likes – and be recent.
One thing I do NOT recommend is looking at the current high-sellers on Merch By Amazon and trying to create similar or identical designs.
Because this is what everyone is already doing, and it means you would already be late to the party.
You want to be ahead of a trend – not behind it. That means looking outside the places where everyone else is looking.
Should You Price Super-Low To Make Sales When You’re In The Lower Tiers?
This depends on your designs and strategy, but when you’re in the lower tiers you generally care more about the actual raw number of sales – and not the royalties or income you’re earning from them.
But if you can get ‘ahead of a trend’ using tactics like those above, you shouldn’t actually need to price super-low at all.
I would advise pricing competitively – but not rock-bottom. That way you should be more likely to hold onto your ‘top spot’ as the competition moves in, but you still make a bit of income in the meantime. (I wouldn’t price below $16.99 unless I had a really good reason for doing so).
Alright, so now you have a few extra ways to help you tier up fast. Hopefully this has also sparked some ideas of your own.
If you have your own tactics or tricks for getting your Merch By Amazon account tiered up fast – please leave them in the comments below!
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