During the last two years, MMW has kept close tabs on the growth of Merch By Amazon (MBA), the online retail giant’s foray into the world of print on demand apparel.
For content creators, app developers, marketers, graphic designers and more, Merch By Amazon has been a goldmine and an invaluable resource like nothing before available across the online retail space.
For the last year, one of the most important leaders in the Merch space has been Neil Lassen, a brilliant entrepreneur who famously went from pushing carts at Target to pulling down six-figures a year through his entrepreneurial efforts (covered by CNBC) via Merch By Amazon.
In response to his success and having developed a keen awareness of the needs that were going unmet across the Merch community, Lassen created what has since become one of the most invaluable tools for Merch By Amazon designers — Merch Informer.
This week, MMW once again caught up with Neil, to discuss MBA, research and design strategies, and how Merch Informer can dramatically raise any seller’s prospect for success overnight!
Check out our exclusive chat below.
MMW: For new and veteran Merchers, what should be the game plan for anyone looking to fill more slots and tier up as fast as possible on the eve of Q4?
Neil: First off, if you are in the 10 or 25 tier, I would recommend a different approach than I would for those who have a lot of slots available to them. Before, I would have said that you should be looking into the market and seeing exactly what is selling. You want to identify where customers are spending their money, and then offer them better choices. Remember, this is a business!
Since Q4 is literally right around the corner, for those in the lower tiers and want to treat this as a business and not a hobby, your ONLY goal should be to get out of those tiers as fast as possible. I still think you should be researching good niches where customers are spending money and come to market with better designs, but there is no point in waiting. With accounts in Q4 seeing 5-6X normal royalties, my advice would be to simply buy yourself out! You can either wear those shirts yourself, give them away to family and friends, or simply donate them to a good cause (and take a tax write off!).
If you are at the higher tiers though, there are a few things you should do. First is that you should take all the shirts that got hit with the 90 day rule (being removed after 90 days without sales), and get them back up on Amazon! You spent the time to do the research so you know there is a market. Get them back up in front of potential customers! The second thing I would recommend is outsourcing. We all know that time is money and you only have so much time in the day. Utilize the time of others and scale up your operations! There is no point in doing all the designs yourself as you are only a single person. Use your resources and start reinvesting back in your business.
MMW: In your opinion, should designing and uploading scaled designs be a high priority for sellers or are there better strategies and approaches in your opinion?
Neil: Scaled designs are NOT for everyone! That being said, I think a specific strategy has worked well for myself as well as many others I know.
Generally, I will put up designs in all types of niches and see what starts selling well. If I hit on a niche that starts selling regularly with a few sales a day, I think go back in and take a look at that specific niche. Is it something that can be scaled? If you have a shirt about nurses that takes off, there is room in that market to earn more royalties and you might consider doing a 25-50 scaled design test. I like to scale vertically and not horizontally. This allows me to identify the niche first (so you are not wasting money on outsourcing), and then dominate a specific niche.
MMW: What’s the biggest strength offered by Merch Informer that most designers still overlook or under-appreciate?
Neil: The biggest strength that Merch Informer offers that I see a lot of people completely skipping in their research process is the access to historical BSR data and historical price data on selling shirts.
Finding a good niche where customers are spending money and then coming to market with a better product is only one part of the equation. The historical data is needed so that you can properly optimize your listing amongst the thousands of other designs out there. It allows me to take a look at a niche and specific shirts within that niche, and see EXACTLY what the top sellers are doing. Did they start their product at a lower price and then jack the price up? How did that move the BSR? Maybe they sold a shirt at a lower price and then slowly raised the price over time. I can see how exactly that changed the listing and sales so I can mimic the same strategy on my own shirt designs.
Another big one that I will quickly mention is the keyword finder. While it is great to be able to find keywords that many people are not using them and putting into place, Merch Informer gives you all the data in a single screen to see if that niche is seasonal, when that specific keyword sees an uptick in interest, and a score on how easy it would be to compete. You can use this information to time your uploads so you stand the best chance of cashing in a trend or a seasonality niche such as gifts for a certain holiday.
MMW: How can Merch Informer be best leveraged for scaling designs?
Neil: Merch Informer can be used to scale out designs by easily telling you what is selling and what kind of niches are hot. For example, “funcle” shirts are really doing well right now. You have seen the simple designs all over the place. They usually look like a dictionary and then give you a description. Funcle – noun. Like a dad, only cooler.
This right there is a signal that while everyone else is focusing on creating a variation around funcle, you can easily branch off and make shirts for every type of funny saying around family. Uncle, Aunt, Cousin, grandparents… you name it, there is a niche out there for it. Figure out what is selling and then branch off within the same broad niche.
MMW: If you could offer everyone at low tiers and high tiers alike one piece of encouragement before Q4, what would it be?
Neil: Merch has had an entire year to prepare and scale up their operations for this coming Q4. Last year there was freezes on uploads, MUCH lower print capacity, and even not having all the sizes available for different listings.
When Amazon does something, they go big and they use the data they have available to them. Not only can you typically expect 5-6X more monthly royalties during this time, but this Q4 Amazon should be ready to handle the amount of orders so I would fully expect to see people earning even more. If you have never experienced Q4 on Amazon, especially with the amount of people who buy shirts as gifts for loved ones, you are about to have an amazing experience.