In a clever move that combines Amazon’s prowess as a large online retailer and advertising platform with its footprint in the mobile gaming market, the company today introduced a new service called Merch by Amazon aimed at helping app developers – or any other content creators – increase their revenue by selling branded t-shirts to their customers.
Developers and others can use the new service to create custom T-shirts that are advertised in their mobile applications or elsewhere online, then printed on demand. For each T-shirt a fan buys, the creator earns a royalty that increases with the number of shirts sold.
Largely, the idea with Merch by Amazon is to offer a self-service tool that eliminates out-of-pocket costs for developers who want expand beyond traditional in-app advertising or in-app purchases like sales on virtual goods.
Offering physical merchandise is something a number of game developers try, but it often requires upfront investment. That’s why you’ve seen merchandise from bigger brands over the years, like the extensive collection of toys and games from Rovio’s Angry Birds franchise, merchandise from Plants vs. Zombies, or partnerships like the one a few years back between Zynga and toymaker Hasbro, for example, but don’t typically see the same from indie developers.
Meanwhile, monetizing on today’s app stores is a growing challenge – especially for newcomers and smaller developers who don’t have a lot of money to fuel things like user acquisition costs.
To use Merch by Amazon, creators upload their custom artwork to an online dashboard – like a logo or art from their game – or they can use Amazon’s templates to get started. They then set the price for the t-shirt with the help of Amazon’s provided calculator that lets them see what the royalty per shirt will be depending on the list price.
Developers earn a royalty based on the list price they set, less Amazon’s costs ($8.10) and a small listing fee (15 percent). Amazon requires that the minimum price cover its own expenses, which include everything from stocking the blank shirts, producing the shirts with artwork when ordered, customer service, shipping to the customer with Prime or Super Saver shipping, and selling expenses.
As sales grow, the cost to print the shirts goes down, so the royalties will increase, Amazon notes. (A list of the available discounts with volume sales is provided here.)
The shirts themselves can be configured as either one- or two-sided printed tees, and creators can specify the material used, says Amazon. Creators pick from either Anvil and American Apparel brands, and the shirts are available from a single product page in men’s (S-3XL), women’s (S-XL), and kid’s sizes (K4-K12). After the sale is complete, the shirts are printed by an Amazon-owned printer and shipped to customers anywhere in the world.
Because the shirts can be promoted in-game on the Android, Fire OS, or iOS versions of an app via Amazon Mobile Ads, they’re mostly aimed at mobile gaming developers. But Amazon says that Merch by Amazon isn’t being limited to app developers.
According to a spokesperson, anyone who wants to create a T-shirt on demand and sell it on Amazon.com could use the service. They just need to register for a Merch by Amazon account on the developer portal, they said.
Amazon’s entry into the print-on-demand space challenges businesses like CustomInk, Spreadshirt, Teespring, Zazzle, CafePress and other services where users can design and sell T-shirts online.
A number of developers have already been using the platform ahead of its release, including Backflip Studios (DragonVale), Etermax (Trivia Crack), Big Blue Bubble (My Singing Monsters), ZeptoLab (Cut the Rope), Glu Mobile (Deer Hunter 2014), among others.
The Merch by Amazon service is live here.