100k Business In One Year – Merch by Amazon Case Study Update 2
A LOT has happened this month and progress has been made with this case study!
I realized that we started this case study during one of the peak times of the season which makes everything look great, but if anyone has been around for a while, knows that after Q4, sales start to decline and we are in for some slow months.
That is 100% okay and to be expected but it is something you should keep in the back of your head when you see the numbers we are going to post in this case study.
Now, before we get into the actual case study, let’s talk about some of the changes that Merch by Amazon has made in the past few weeks because that has effected the workflow thus far.
On 11/22 we got the ability to add and save drafts. Now, while this is something I have never really used and do not plan to really use going forward, this was a huge undertaking by the Merch by Amazon team. The coding for something like this, across hundreds of thousands of accounts is not a small task, especially to make sure everything runs smoothly!
This is a case study for November, but since you are reading this in December, I should also mention that we got this update:
They finally updated the dashboard after 3 years! It looks good, looks clean and is just the start to our dashboard looking a lot better!
There are some changes I would like to see moving forward, but so far, so good!
Now, let’s get into the case study because all of these dashboard updates has effected this account. Let’s talk about it.
Uploading To Merch by Amazon – Push Your Full Catalog
Just take one look at the first case study in this series and you will see that this account was doing incredibly well with the number of designs that were uploaded. However, MOST of the products had fallen off.
When you are first starting your Merch by Amazon journey, you have only 10 slots.
My main recommendation if you are just starting and following this series is that you create 10 unique designs, and upload all of those to Merch on ONLY standard shirts. The data shows that these are by far the most popular and will give you the biggest spread possible.
However, this account was already at the 2k tier and while most of the products were up in standard shirts, some of them were up on hoodies and long sleeves. MOST of them were not though.
It was pretty apparent that this account had not been touched in ages yet continues to bring in money every month.
With the changes to Merch since this account last uploaded, we now see this:
Your single design in your catalog is equivalent to TWENTY products spread between 3 locales. This account for the case study had almost nothing uploaded in the UK or DE markets, and almost all of the US products were just standard t-shirts.
This gives a lot of opportunity to use what we ALREADY have.
Your first step should be going through your catalog and uploading every design you have to every product available (as long as you are tier 500 or better). If you are below tier 500, I would still just stick with standard shirts and increase the quality and number of designs you have.
So, we set to work uploading products at 500 a day. 500 products a day only 25 designs at 20 each.
This quickly got the account to 1990 out of 2000 products uploaded:
See those last 10 pesky products? Since each design uploads to 20 products, everytime we tried to upload that 1 more design we got an error. So, all that was left at this point was wait for a tier up.
Speeding This Uploading Process Up
Truth be told, uploading these products only took us around 3 days. Each day took around 1 hour or less to get the 500 products live.
The reason for this is that we used tools that we created, in this case, the Merch Informer Lister: https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/merch-informer-lister/ffkgbikejcgiojinaohlajcogfkpihlf
If you do not have a MI account, grab a 3 day trial because this extension will change how you upload to Merch.
So, we started off by creating a profile. These profiles are hotkeyed to your keyboard. Every time you click the hotkey on your keyboard, it will fill out all your Merch by Amazon information FOR YOU!
In this case, since a lot of these products are in different niches, have different brands and titles, we used it by only creating profiles that will standardize pricing and colors.
Here is the exact profile used.
What we did is have all the prices stay the same that Merch auto fills for everything BUT standard shirts. Standard shirts are by far the best seller so the thought process here was:
…if we can get the standard shirts uploaded and at least 1 copy sold, it will be VERY easy to relist these products later on if they fall off since the listing will still be live.
You will also see that we have a bunch of colors selected for all the products. This account has designs that look great on darker shirts, so those were selected. If we are using this profile and need to make some quick edits, we can do that, instead of going through the ENTIRE color selection process. This along saves an incredible amount of time.
Finally, you will notice that we set this profile to only fit men and women.
We all know how annoying it is to get a rejection for a shirt when you accidentally select youth. This way, we get rid of youth and can make a judgement call for each shirt we list on if we want to add youth or not.
Since most of the products were already up, just use the hotkey to fill out all of the information, and then copy and paste the title and bullets that you already have.
If you need to quickly resize some merch designs like we did for a few (poor organization on our part), we used:
..which is a handy drag and drop tool.
Merch Slowed Us Down
Now, since we now have a new dashboard, everyone is happy (or should be), but before we got it, we were getting a little bit frustrated!
On two days that we were going to sit down and bust out these uploads, the Merch platform was so unstable that it would either not load, wouldn’t let us delete products that had been removed, or was just throwing error after error.
I can see that the dashboard updates they were working on were the cause and everything seems to be working properly now, but at the time, I wasn’t sure if all the products were going to be uploaded in time.
Let’s Talk Pricing
There has always been back and forth on what you should price products.
We decided to price the standard t-shirts VERY low to get initial traction while keeping pricing on the rest of the products the Merch standard.
I have heard all sorts of arguments on how we do not value our time, do not value the work, we are in a race to the bottom, this is what copycats do, we only price low because its the only experience we have had…. you name it, we have heard it.
Let me introduce anyone who says/thinks the above to an economic concept: Price Elasticity Of Demand
Price elasticity of demand (PED or Ed) is a measure used in economics to show the responsiveness, or elasticity, of the quantity demanded of a good or service to increase in its price when nothing but the price changes. More precisely, it gives the percentage change in quantity demanded in response to a one percent change in price.
These price elasticities are pretty much always negative. However, there are some goods in the economic world called Veblen and Giffen goods that are positive.
- A Veblen good is a type of luxury good where the quantity demanded increases as the price increases
- A Giffen good is a type of good that people consume more of as the price rises and vice versa
I think we can agree that t-shirts and the designs we sell on POD items are NOT Veblen or Giffen goods.
So that leaves us with the price elasticity of demand!
The easier a shopper can substitute one product with a rising price for another, the more the price will be “elastic”. This means if a design in a niche increases, consumers will have no problems switching to a design in the same niche at a lower price.
Bottom line, it matters!
You didn’t think you would be getting an economics less today did you?
Anyways, moving on!
Starting The Designer Search
Most of the designs this account has have already been created by the owner with a few that were outsourced in the past.
However, if we are going to hit our goal in 12 months, we need to start looking at this account as a BUSINESS.
This is one of the biggest downfalls I see in the Merch community. Everyone wants to do everything themselves.
Name one business where 1 person can run the entire thing AND scale it at the same time? You can’t. There is a theoretical ceiling to every example you can think of because there is only 24 hours in a day, and you have to sleep probably 6 of those at the least.
When you hire other people for your business, you are leveraging their 24 hours on top of yours, allowing you to scale.
Yes… it costs money.
Yes…it costs time to find the right person for your team.
But if you are not a designer, and it takes you 1 hour to create something GREAT that will actually compete with the quality of designs on the Merch by Amazon platform, are you really valuing your time? Are you really doing what’s best for your business to make more money?
None of this matters if Merch is just a hobby for you, but if you want to make truly life changing money, we have to switch our mindset.
For me, I still do all the research myself because this is what I am BEST at. It is why we created Merch Informer in the first place.
You know what I am NOT good at? Designing. So I pay someone else that can do it in less than half the time with 10X more quality so I can build the business.
For this account, we needed to find some good designers.
Off to Upwork we went!
The above guide is pretty spot on exactly what we do. If you have a Merch Informer account, we also have some videos on how to hire a designer and vet them in the Merch Academy:
When I went to the original article we wrote and grabbed the text and searched it on Upwork, I was amazed at how many of you all just straight up copied the text into an Upwork Job.
That text was just a GUIDELINE.
So, we switched up the text to make our job look unique and posted it.
The next morning we had 37 designers apply (at $5 each mind you), and tested out 3 of the best ones.
1 of the designers ended up being trash, while 2 of them were giving us back quality work. We have a total of 5 designs from each of these designs (each designer was given the same 5 phrases to create unique designs). None of them have been uploaded yet though.
I am not sure if either of them will be able to do the volume we need, but we are not at that point yet. The first priority is getting all the designs we have in all forms before we start loading new designs.
While uploading products the account already had, we ran into a few instances where the shirt was live and selling for the last year or so, but when we ran it through our Trademark Checker before we uploaded, it came back trademarked!
This is such a pain, but something we must deal with, so we skipped those products (since they would have gotten rejected anyways).
You can read about how that plugin works and what you are looking for here:
Something else we ran into was getting a solid 5 rejections on one design where the rest of the products went live:
These are all from the same design. All of the rejections happened JUST in the UK.
So, off to the content policy to read through it again to see what we missed:
The design in question was not making light of a mental illness but mentioned it in the title. That is why they all got rejected in the UK and not in the USA or DE markets.
Mistakes like this happen.
I know a lot of people freak out when they get these rejections because they think Merch is 2 seconds from shutting down your account.
I can assure you that they only ban bad actors and not people who are doing their best to follow the rules and make a mistake here or there. I sleep perfectly well at night and you should too if you are putting in the effort to be a good seller on Amazon.
Sales (Why You All Read This)
Let’s finally get to the point of this entire case study and talk numbers.
The goal was to get as many of the old products up as possible before Black Friday. Before we go into that, October earnings were posted:
Here is what the actual sales for that month looked like:
Keep in mind the actual sales are lower while the estimated earnings are higher because of when products shipped.
These earnings were down a little bit from the last month, but nothing had been done to the account in October really. So, on to November!
November saw over double the sales as the previous month and if we add in the UK and DE royalties, this puts it over $1k in royalties!
Just Black Friday did pretty good as well!
What is REALLY nice though is the spread of products sold this month. In the below screenshot, I have blocked out the NEW designs (designs that were uploaded since we started the case study) that sold in the MI colors, and the old designs in black.
It looks like Amazon is getting faster at indexing and putting those new products in front of the right audience.
I would HIGHLY suggest that everyone get their designs that they already have on all of the products available to us (if you have the slots).
Wrapping It Up
That about wraps up the month of November for the case study!
This month (December) will mostly be about getting the rest of the products all live since it can clearly be seen that by not doing this, we are leaving money on the table.
If you haven’t get those products up!
Next up on the list is doing some more research to come up with some unique phrases and saying and keep testing the designers on Upwork. This is where it will get interesting and really lay down the evergreen catalog which will pad us over for the slower months.
Until next time, keep uploading!