3 Ways To Stay Competitive In Merch by Amazon

It has been a while since we last posted an article here on the Merch Informer blog but this not without good reason. We are working on some really exciting updates to Merch Informer that will help everyone really deep dive their research and get a competitive edge in Merch. If you have not checked out our latest update where we added the social hunter, make sure you check that out!

Before we release that though, we thought it would be a good idea to go over the three best ways to stay competitive in the Merch environment.

It’s true, Merch has changed A LOT over the past few years. When it comes to running a business, you have to constantly be evolving. If you don’t, you will get left behind! If you are willing to test and evolve your business and practices, you can stay at the head of the pack, which is exactly what we want for all of our readers.

Here are the 3 ways to stay competitive in a changing Merch environment.

1: Research Research Research!

This has probably been pounding in to your head since you first began your merch journey but this is more important than ever. Things are getting more competitive, there are more sellers than ever, with even more products live on Amazon.

So how can you possibly stand out?

Deep dive research!

The days of uploading “dog” shirts and making 100 sales a day off a single shirt are pretty much over unless you get really lucky. What strategy has been working lately is that you upload t-shirts in a niche that are very specific to a sub niche of that category. An “mind map” example of this research would be something like this: Dog Niche –> Dog Groomer Niche –> Dog Groomers who run their own business. We know that the dog niche is HUGE, but using the mind map I just showed you, there are only a very select few shirts targeting the sub niche of dog groomers who run their own business. This an opportunity! If you do this enough times, you can easily gain market share in that massive niche.

If you take a look at the keywords and results inside of Merch Informer, you can see that the overarching niche is doing very well and that there are a lot of keywords you can use inside of your dog grooming shirts:

Research is really the only way to stay ahead of any competition that will crop up. If you are first, and your designs are good, you will stay first!

Everything else in this list relies on you understanding the market, and what they are looking for. Get this piece wrong, and you are going to be in for a rough time.

The example above is perfect for evergreen niches (niches that sell year round), but research is also CRUCIAL for holidays and trends. Trends you have to jump on really fast, and can be hit or miss. While this can work really well when you are a lower tier, I like to focus on holidays when your account has grown.

Previously, it was recommended that you get your shirts up about 60 days in advance of the holiday actually happening.

What we have found is working even better is getting these designs up 6 months in advance. This helps them get properly indexed so that by the time the actual holiday is rolling around, you stand the best chance at search visibility.

This means that if you are going to be doing Christmas shirts, you should be getting those uploaded to Merch by Amazon in JUNE!

2: Putting Money Behind Your Work (Amazon Marketing Services AMS)

Since Merch has changed so much over the years, one of the easiest way to stay competitive is to actually put some real money behind your designs.

MOST people are not willing to do this, which automatically gives you the edge.

That being said, your designs have to be GREAT in order for this strategy to work. Your 10 second text design does not count and should probably not be used with a paid traffic campaign.

You can read about how to set up your first campaign here:

Launching Your First Amazon Advertising Campaign (Sponsored Products)

There are a few key things you need to remember when running ads though to make sure that you get the best out of them.

The first, is that this is not a set up and forget process! You simply must know your numbers. If you do not, or do not keep an eye with what is going on inside of your AMS account, you will more than likely lose money. We recommend setting up auto campaigns which will pull keywords for you. Once you have run your auto campaigns for a while, take a look at the keyword report and see which of them is performing. Kill off all the keywords in a campaign that is NOT performing, as those are just losing you money if they are getting clicks and no sales.

The second, is that the lower the ACOS, the better. ACOS stands for Advertising Cost Of Sales. You will need to do the math to see if you are making money. For example, lets say that you price your shirt at $14.99 and make a sale via AMS. If you spent $1.72 on ads to make that $14.99 sale, you have an ACOS of 11.49%. This looks GREAT right?


You actually lost money on this transaction because you spent $1.72 on ads and only made a $1.45 royalty on the sale through Merch.

You will see so many people running AMS and bragging about their sales and how much money they are making, when in reality they are losing money on every shirt they sell. This strategy CAN work if your goal is to kickstart organic traffic and then turn them off, but if you are running ads to make a profit, keep an eye on them!

Nothing is worse than spending money without a return, so always be testing and watching your ACOS as it relates to the royalty you are making per sale.

Note: Remember when we mentioned that the best time to upload Christmas designs was in June? We recommend that you start playing around and testing AMS ads on your holiday shirts about 2 months in advance of the actual holiday. This will really give you the boost that you are looking for.

3: Explore Other Markets

As much as we are lead to believe, Merch by Amazon is not the only outlet out there!

There are so many places to go out and get ideas as well as see where and what customers are buying off Amazon. This leads to an opportunity for you!

We see this all the time. There might be a popular niche over on Etsy where the seller is doing very well. Many Etsy buyers are purchasing, they are happy, and the niche seems to be flourishing. Yet, when we go on Amazon and look into the same niche (notice I said niche, not the same design), there is nothing to be found!

This is an arbitrage opportunity for you. You can create a bunch of unique designs around that niche and control it over on Amazon.

The best part about using Etsy as an outside marketplace to do your research is that you have access to social proof and actual traffic that the product is getting! This gives you a good idea if there are buyers out there or not.

In the example above, we used the Social Hunter inside of Merch Informer to gather some information on this product. We can see that it has 70 favorites, so people like it (social proof) and that they are getting a lot of views to their single product. This would be perfect to look into further and maybe use some keywords to get ranked on Amazon.

You do not need to just look at other marketplaces though! You can look at MARKETS.

By this, we mean places that have certain demographics. A good example of this is Pinterest.

Pinterest is a visual search engine, and is a GREAT place to get some ideas and concepts that you can use to create unique Merch by Amazon designs. Their demographic is women who are highly educated and love to spend money on things they find on Pinterest. This makes it perfect for marketing as well as get ideas of what people are buying.

Very soon you will see a Pinterest option inside of Merch Informer to help you really deep dive your research. There is no easier way to come up with unique designs than by looking at other markets that may not even exist on Amazon yet. Talk about low hanging fruit!

Wrapping It Up

To quickly wrap it up, our suggestions are as follows:

  • Focus more on research
  • Put some money behind your products
  • Explore other markets

You will notice that some of these actually require a bit more work than you may be used to. However, if you are willing to adapt and put in the time and effort, you can easily stay competitive in this changing Merch ecosystem.

Good luck out there!

  • Hi Neil: According to your experience, it is profitable to announce new shirts (which have not yet been sold)? Or on the contrary, is it preferable to announce the shirts that have a review?

    • What do you mean by announce? If you mean run ads to them, I would recommend testing ads on all your shirts and seeing what is profitable. You can always turn them off if it is not working.

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