I have a real love/hate relationship with Merch By Amazon (MBA). I love making money organically with no outlay for advertising (since Amazon gets tons of visits per day) but I hate knowing that the world’s largest marketplace has no idea what the fuck they are doing when it comes to Print on Demand (POD) merchandise.
Why do I say that Merch By Amazon is clueless? Well, last year during the 4th quarter (Q4), Merch by Amazon totally froze all accounts not allowing anyone to upload, edit, delete or do anything at all with their designs. And, when did they do this – about 3 weeks before Crhistmas. So, this meant that if you had priced your T-Shirts at $111.99 hoping to sell a lot and move up to the next tier, you were shit out of luck since you couldn’t increase the prices to $19.99 (or more) and cash in on Christmas sales.
This year, 2017, Merchers had hoped that Amazon learned from last year and increased staff and printing capacity in anticipatin of more Christmas sales (along with Eclipse, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Veteran’s Day, Christmas and New Year). Much more capacity was required since many, many more had been accepted into the program and many, many more had moved up in tier levels (I started in June 2017 and went from Tier 10 to 25 to 100 to 500 by October). More printing capacity was needed and should have been known by Amazon.
However, this is what we learned on October 30th:
In order to ensure customer orders are shipped on time in November and December, we may temporarily reduce the availability of some products. During this time, these products may not appear in Amazon search results or they may show as “Currently Unavailable” on product detail pages. Additionally, Merch may also lower daily publishing limits and pause account tier upgrades and new account approvals.
This ended all arguments in Merch forums as to whether Amazon throttles sales/views/search engine listings/etc. Flags should have gone off waring all that Amazon was definitely not ready for Q4 and to make edits and price increases accordingly.
Then, on November 3rd, we found out:
Due to limited supplier inventory, we will have intermittent availability for heather t-shirts through December. You may still select heathers as a color, however they may not always be available as buying options.
One of the most popular colors for T-Shirts and Amazon doesn’t have a warehouse full in anticipation of Christmas. Idiots!
Wait, it gets better.
To counter the bad news, Amazon also announced this on November 3rd:
We are thrilled to announce the launch of long sleeve t-shirts! Accounts will be enabled for publishing on a rolling basis starting today. When an account is enabled, a new option to select long sleeves will become available in the product creation process. Long sleeve tees are available in a single unisex fit and in sizes small to 2XL. Five color options are available: Black, Navy, Royal Blue, Dark Heather, and Heather Grey. Please note that we will not be able to provide updates on approvals for individual accounts. Sellers will be notified via email when their account is enabled for long sleeve t-shirts.
WOW! In addition to a regular T-Shirt and a supposed “premium” T-Shirt that is 1-2 too small for most people, Amazon will now have long sleeve T-Shirts available. Big fucking deal. We all wanted the next “whatever” from Amazon to be HOODIES! Amazon continues to lag behind a great number of POD sites that allow multiple items for sale (Tshirts, hoodies, skirts, pillows, leggins, phone cases, wall hangings, coffee mugs and about 40-50 more products. With Merch by Amazon, I have a choice of three products and each one requires an individual upload of the same design, Brand, Title, Bullet points, and description. Whereas, other PODs require one upload for all products. Some resizing may be required, but I would rather has 50 prodcuts for sale with one upload than 3 products for sale with 3 uploads.
On November 17th, Amazon slapped us hard again:
We have seen an increase in the costs to support Merch, including storage, fulfillment, transportation, raw materials, customer service, and the resources required to detect and prevent fraud. As a result, we will be adjusting the royalty on Merch by Amazon products. This change will take effect for sales of all new and existing products starting January 15th, 2018. If your product is priced below the new minimum price, it will be automatically updated to the minimum price. To find out more please visit our royalties page.
So, now a $19.99 standard T-shirt that used to have a $7.19 royalty will now only pay out $5.38. We now have to decide what is a better marketing strategy come January 15th – raise the price to about $21.99 (or more) or keep prices at $19.99. If one decides to change prices, one has to edit the listings one-by-one. There is NO bulk edit function.
To top it off, uploads were decreased (for me and everyone else at Tier 500) from 10 to 2 and then about 3 weeks later up to 5. This cut my design total from what I had thought it would by about 50%. Thanks Amazon.
On December 5th, Amazon dropped this bomb on us:
We have temporarily suspended the ability to submit products or edit existing listings. You will be able to save these products in draft form and submit them when publishing resumes. We will provide an update here on Tuesday, December 12 regarding the status of new submissions and edits.
The “freeze” that all the GURUS said wouldn’t happen this year, just happened. Fortunately, my designs are all priced at $19.99 so I wasn’t stuck fishing for low payouts. Still sucks that no more designs can be uploaded. Plus, the throttling is still going on. Shirts that were best sellers are not selling at all since they are no longer visible in Amazon’s search engine. Only sales I am making in December are first time sales of designs I uploaded in October and November. Kind of hoped that on 12 December, we would be allowed to uploaded designs even at 2 or 5 per day. But, this happened:
12/12 Update: We will continue to pause through next week. Our next update will be by Tuesday, December 19. Thank you for your patience.
Basically, Amazon just told us to get fucked, you are not going to see anything positive that will impact your account before Christmas.
So, even if uploads are restored on 19 December, it will be too late to make any Christmas sales, All we can hope for is that lots of people got gift cards and will spend some of that on T-shirts.
Granted, I am making money on MBA, but should be making a hell of a lot more if Amazon had been better prepared for the popularity of well-designed T-shirts.
So, what does Amazon need to do to make Merch by Amazon better? Much better?
- Get help desk personnel that actually answer questions instead of sending out canned answers that don’t answer the questions.
- Tell us what got a design rejected instead of a canned email.
- All one upload for a multitude of products.
- Open 2-3 more printing sites to handle the amount of orders.
- Ship overseas instead of only to USA.
- Let us know how many strikes we have against us for uploaded designs that were rejected.
- Allow watermarks (or something) to cut down the number of copycats on Amazon and on the multitude of other POD sites.
- Perhaps buy out one or two of the other POD sites like RedBubble, TeePublic or some of the printing companies like Printful or Printaura.
- No more throttling!
Merch By Amazon could be such a great platform to make money for people anywhere in the world if Amazon would just get their shit together.
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