If you have ever been in a boardroom during a brainstorming session, you have experienced the process of throwing out as many ideas as possible to see is a possible solution or what is a complete waste of time. This is a great process to come up with general ideas, but the process of brainstorming and trial and error takes time. As entrepreneurs who have a limited amount of time each day and we need to make the most of it in order to leverage the opportunities presented to us.
When I started uploading designs to Merch by Amazon, I took the approach of the shotgun method with designs and niches. Essentially, I would take anything that sounded like a good idea and give it a whirl. I figured I would throw up as many designs as possible and let Amazon tell me what work and what did not work. This method had mild success, but I wasted a bunch of time and money testing the waters.
If you take the time to read an article I wrote back in April 2017, you will see that I realized I should have a process to follow in order to find niches and design ideas. I mention that data is worth more than gut feeling and testing should be done on a small scale instead of a large scale. I mentioned a few quick ways to gather data through Adsense, Amazon, and a few other sources, but I have now realized I should give you a review of my favorite tool to help increase my sales on Merch by Amazon.
In this blog post, I’ll give you a comprehensive look inside Merch Informer and show you how to use Merch Informer to increase sales through Merch by Amazon. By the time you are done reading this post, you should be ready to use Merch Informer to take your print on demand business (specifically Merch by Amazon) to the next level.
Merch Informer Basics
I heard about Merch Informer through an article I read on CNBC and then I had the privilege to meet one of minds behind the software at a conference in Denver. I instantly fell in love with Merch by Amazon and started uploading designs as soon as I got back home. If you are unfamiliar with the basics of Merch by Amazon, I would recommend starting here and then coming back to this article.
The idea is pretty straightforward. Merch Informer was created to help by Merch by Amazon sellers for Merch by Amazon sellers research niches, competitors, and trends. It’s a similar approach to how Amazon sellers use product research to find private label products with tools like Jungle Scout and ASINspector. Merch Informer pulls data from Amazon and allows the user to sort that data with a variety of tools and filters.
The tools include (at the time of posting):
Advanced Competition Checker
We’ll go into more detail about each of these tools later in this article.
Each of these tools provide a competitive advantage to those who use Merch Informer compared to the average seller who randomly uploads designs (also known as a younger and more unexperienced me).
Uses for Merch Informer
Obviously, if you use a tool, you want it to help you in some way. No one buys a hammer, so it can sit on a work bench. They buy a hammer to hit nails into wood. The same can be said about Merch Informer. It is a powerful tool in the right hands and can be used to do the following:
- Identify new niches or niches with low competition
- Search competitors for new ideas or best practices
- Find top performing designs in different marketplaces
- Analyze your sales to find trends or areas for improvement
- Find keywords to improve listings or designs
- Check the quality of your current listings
- Prevent trademark infringement issues to keep your Merch account safe
- Track competitors and their price movements
- Provide potential keywords for exploration
- Identify trends in designs and sales to spot hot opportunities
These actions can help you create more designs, rank higher in search results, and identify niches with a higher accuracy than just a gut feeling (unless you are Leroy Jethro Gibbs…).
Let’s take a look at the different tools within Merch Informer to get a better understanding how you can use it to accomplish one of the above tasks.
What if you could get inside the head of Merch by Amazon experts who are making thousands of dollars on the platform? That is exactly the idea behind the Merchant Search tool. This tool allows you to grab a brand name of a high performing shirt and see how they are doing with their other designs.
Merchant Search pulls all the shirts under the same brand name and does some incredible data dissection. You can get a total on the number of shirts under a given brand name, the low and high price of the shirts listed, the average price of each shirt, the average sales rank, the count of the keywords used on the listings, and a rundown of the designs and their projected monthly sales.
Talk about some incredibly valuable information.
It’s the same as being a football team who has the playbook of your opponent (Patriots…).
You are able to see what is and what is not working without having to spend months testing your own designs. This gives you an advantage as you are able to use this data to craft your strategy moving forward.
If you do not know where to start with brainstorming for ideas in a given niche, the Product Search tool is a great place to get started. It allows you to search for products by keywords and view their data from Amazon. You might be thinking: Can’t I just do this on Amazon? You can, but you will have to interpret data, filter out non-Merch by Amazon designs, and interpolate monthly sales based upon a BSR ranking.
Instead of messing with that headache, you can quickly do all of those tasks with the Product Search tool.
This allows you to look at a niche from a high level and also see the quality of the designs that are currently ranking under that keyword. It’s like Google Keyword Planner on Amazon steroids.
If you want to find the best performing shirts (or pop sockets) at this moment, look no further than Merch Hunter. Instead of trying to come up with ideas or find a competitor in your niche, Merch Hunter gives you the state of the Amazon print on demand marketplace on demand.
I like to use this as a starting point to get ideas for broad level niches or top sellers that might not have been on my radar previously. I am able to let the marketplace tell me what is in demand and then I use that to drill down into subniches or find out if there is a new trend I should be considering.
Here is a perfect example of how I would use this tool:
I would start by doing a broad search of the top 1,000 shirts within the price range of $18-22. This gives me a good profit margin and also weeds out a lot of the new sellers who focus on entry level pricing. I would then scroll through the list and see if there was anything that caught my attention or that stood out from the rest of the results. If that was the case, I would take that product and start looking at its description and bullet points (along with the title) to see which keywords are being targeted (this is easy to do with the Listing Optimizer). Then I would find a few new keyword leads and use the Advanced Competition Checker to dive into each niche deeper (I use this in conjunction with the Keyword Finder to help expand my possibilities.
I don’t use Merch Hunter to simply replicate designs. That is not a good long-term business model as you set yourself up for failure by not creating your own designs.
This tool is like the bookmark bar on your favorite internet browser. If you like me, you have a handful of websites you like to visit on a regular basis. Your bookmark bar allows you to quickly access these sites to save you time and to help you not forget the web addresses.
Favorites in Merch Informer does the same thing. There are some searches that you will run on a regular basis. Instead of having to remember to run the search every day, you can add a quick cheat sheet to Merch Informer. This also helps to quickly tag ideas or niche possibilities as you are looking through the other tools in the software.
Advanced Competition Checker
Using Merch Informer, you know how to look at your competition and the trends in the market. The next step is understanding how to know if you have found a solid niche to invest into with designs. This might be easy for experienced Merch by Amazon sellers, but it takes some time to build up your knowledge and playbook.
That is where the Advanced Competition Checker comes into the picture. It takes a keyword and does an in-depth analysis on the listings currently on the market.
Let’s say that we want to know more about the keyword “firefighter”
Merch Informer uses the data it has pulls from Amazon and has collected over the years to look behind the curtain. We can see that there are an estimated 702 shirts with firefighter in the title, 832 with that keyword in the features, 440 with the keyword in the description, and 393 with it in the brand name.
With this information, Merch Informer gives the keyword a grade on its level of competition. The lower the grade, the more competition that exists for that keyword. The higher the grade, the less competition that exists. I like to be on the honor roll if possible, with A and B grades for keywords.
I then use this information to start grading my niches. If a large amount of the keywords in a niche has a high level of competition, then I shift my focus to other niches. One keyword does not represent an entire niche, so it is very important to look at a group of keywords to get a better picture of a niche as a whole.
I have always been a keyword fanatic, but I always lacked a Merch by Amazon specific tool until I started using Merch Informer.
My favorite tool in the entire software is the Keyword Finder.
Once I have done my initial research on my competitors (or even with a deep dive into my own analytics), I head over to the Keyword Finder to expand my understanding of what I know to be true in a niche. Most people assume that a niche is a simple as a holiday or an occupation. The real value of Merch Informer is its ability to identify niches within niches (and they don’t get stitches) or subniches. Everyone might think Christmas shirts sell well, but there might be a lack of supply for Christmas shirts with dinosaurs. The Keyword Finder gives me the power to dig deep into a niche and find the real opportunities.
As you can see in the screenshots above, there is a lot of information that can be collected from this tool in Merch Informer. The first aspect I enjoy is the ability to search multiple marketplaces including Merch US, UK, DE, Etsy, and Cafepress. Multiple sources of data allow you to see trends and correlate data. I like to run my searches on multiple marketplaces to see if there is a need for designs across the board or just on one platform.
The Keyword Finder then provides you with a list of keywords that are related to your search and then Merch Informer takes it one step further. It provides the search volume and competition levels (note to self – the competition level is actually representing the advertising competition level – the data being pulled for this tool is from Amazon Marketing Services). You might find a niche with a low amount of designs live, but you have to know if people are even looking for that niche in the first place.
Low competition + High Searches = Opportunity
That is why I love the Keyword Planner. It is the piece that ties everything else together and gives you the ability to make data backed decisions.
If you have read my stupid easy method to write descriptions for Merch by Amazon designs, you might want to consider that as a true beginner level . Although it might be stupid easy, most people know that easy and high quality do not always go hand and hand. I was told a quote by a business owner one day that went like this: “There are three things you be great at in business: Speed, quality, or price. You will be able to compete in one category at all times. Very few businesses ever compete in two categories. I have never seen a business compete in all three.”
Merch Informer inherently has multiple ways to help you optimize your listings. You could use the Merchant Search to find top performing merchants and use their optimization techniques as templates for your own optimizations. You could use the Keyword Finder to dive into a niche and target specific keywords that are being searched for on a regular basis with little to no competition. You could use Merch Analytics to analyze your own designs to see if which ones are performing better and duplicate the process across all of your designs.
Another quick way to quick the level of your optimizations is by using the Listing Optimizer on Merch Informer to quickly score your listings and also provide possible alternative keywords. These are not in-depth tools, but they do provide a snapshot of where you can improve your listings using the other tools available.
Listing Score Checker
This one is pretty straightforward. You simply copy the ASIN number of one of your listings (or a competitors) and you provide a keyword to score it against. I used the ASIN B01MXRQE7N as an example below. I scored it using the keyword “Groundhog Day”
It takes a look at the keyword and compares it to the listing on Amazon. It checks to see if the keyword is located in the title, in the brand, in the features, and in the description. It then takes a look to see if the description is at an optimized length.
Once that is all done, you will see a green checkmark or red x for the areas that need improvement. You also will see an optimization score in a percentage form. These results are not a guarantee of success, but they do give you that snapshot of areas you can improve your listings.
This is not an earth-shattering tool, but it is does help with the optimization process. Essentially, you can input words into the top toolbar and it spits out synonyms for those words. It is a modern-day thesaurus. As you are writing your bullet points or description, these words can be used to create a robust listing that does not just use the same word over and over again.
The cool part about this tool in the ability to click on the synonyms and run those words through the Product Search, Keyword Finder, and Listing Optimizer tools within Merch Informer. This saves a few seconds from copying and pasting or even retyping words. It might not seem like a lot of time, but every second counts.
Back in the day, my first Merch by Amazon was temporally suspended because I used a few trademarked words in all of my descriptions (specially related to the movie Christmas Vacation). I had to work with Amazon to get my Merch by Amazon listings fixed and I was able to get my account back up and running.
Since this incident, I have taken trademark law very seriously with relation to shirt designs. The Trademark Alerts tool within Merch Informer helps automate the process of checking for trademark issues. I do this on a regular basis in all of my niches just to be safe.
Knowing that you have found a good niche is one thing, the next part is seeing if your designs and optimization are actually making headway. A great way to track this is by seeing where your designs are ranking in the search results. Merch Tracker within Merch Informer can do just this.
I like to use this tool by focusing on new designs and recently updated optimizations. I track my designs to see if my optimizations are making a difference in the search rankings. If I don’t see a movement over a few weeks, I either need to adjust my techniques or I need use my methods on other designs.
It gives me the ability to test and adjust and track my results along the way. Being an experimenter by nature, I think this tool provides some valuable insight into the optimization and search result/ranking process.
What happens if you take a vacation or forget to do research on a given day? Most of the time you have to chalk up the missed data to a loss and just start again tomorrow.
The creators of Merch Informer wanted to provide the users with the opportunity to still access this data and created the Merch Archive tool. This is a tool that allows you to take a look a specific day and look at the top 500 shirts from that day.
This might seem like useless information but remember that history tends to repeat itself.
As I start planning my uploads, I am looking into the future in three to six-month increments. Most people are uploading holiday designs in October and I am already focused on the next year. This is a great habit to get into, but it causes some issues when it comes to research.
Think about it. Christmas shirts sell in November and December. If I am looking at their performance in June, I am going to see different data than if I am looking at the same niche during December.
The Merch Archive tools provides you with longitudinal data instead of a single data point. I am able to look back in the archives and spot trends and seasonal niches with ease. Once I have this information, I am able to start planning out my designing and uploading schedule. Looking back with Merch Informer allows me to look forward.
Looking for some keyword ideas just to get started with your searches? Then you want to turn to the Keyword Cloud tool.
When I’m in a slump, I start with this list for a given day and start my search that way.
It’s nothing crazy awesome, but it does help when I need to get the creative juices flowing.
This is almost exactly like the Merch Hunter tool but focuses on a slightly different angle.
This tool focuses on changes in sales rank instead of overall volume. Merch Hunter looks at the top sellers. Trend Hunter looks at shirts that have a big change in sales volume.
This is the perfect piece of information to help spot trends.
If a shirt spikes in sales, that means more people are interested in that design. This can be caused by a random promotion, ads, or just a random act of God. The real power can be found when you notice trends among trends (like Inception, but with shirts). If you notice a spike in a lot of shirts with a similar theme or niche, that might signal an increased demand and an opportunity to ride the wave of sales. The quicker you can take advantage of these spikes, the more money you can make in the short term.
Most of Merch Informer is focused on the data that can be analyzed from Amazon and already existing sellers and designs. This is a great source of data, but there are also insights that can be learned from taking a look at your own data.
Have you ever wondered if standard or premium shirts sell better with your designs?
Which designs are bringing in the most revenue? Do they have a similar niche? Possibly a similar optimization style?
Are there specific colors that are performing better than others? Are shirts with only two choices performing better than shirts with five color options?
These are all important questions that can help you as you upload future designs or optimize older designs.
Merch Analytics takes the information from your account (via an export) and gives you the ability to analyze how your personal designs are performing. With this information, you can make adjustments in where you spend your time or the type of designs you upload moving forward.
The pricing model is shown above and has various tiers depending on the features and capabilities you would like to use from Merch Informer. I personally recommend starting off with the Basic Tier as it provides access to all of the features I mentioned above and gives you the ability to get started with the Keyword and Product tracking. They do provide a free trial that you should grab right now.
When you break it down, the price can easily be covered by selling 3-4 shirts per month (depending on the pricing of your shirts). I believe you can use Merch Informer to increase your sales by at least three or four shirts if you use some of the techniques mentioned above. If that is the case, Merch Informer is a smart investment that will continue to pay for itself.
Merch Informer can help take your Merch by Amazon business to the next level if you use it find niches, optimize listing, quickly design shirts, or hop on trends in the news or current events. If you are wanting a tool that can provide the data in an easy to use format that can help you make educated decisions, Merch Informer is that tool.
Each of the tools within Merch Informer may look simple at first glance, but they are extremely powerful if they are used properly. Finding just one low-competition niche, can create a multitude of potential shirt designs with a proven level of demand. Optimizing one listing can help it to be found in Amazon’s search results without having to pay for Amazon Marketing Services. Finding a trending topic can help you upload shirts before anyone else can even see the potential.
Knowledge is power, and Merch Informer can provide the average print on demand seller with a ton of useful and beneficial knowledge.
Get your free three-day trial of Merch Informer today.