Merchers have a love/hate relationship with the month of December.
We LOVE December when our items can still be purchased and shipped in time for Christmas.
We HATE December when sales drop like a rock after our items can no longer be purchased and shipped in time for Christmas.
As we rapidly transition from love to hate at this point in the month, I can’t possibly emphasize enough how important it is to NOT waste the rest of December by simply waiting for new opportunities to emerge in the new year ahead.
Here are TEN WAYS to make the end of 2020 a positive, productive, and profitable stretch of time.
1. Focus on making “I,” “Me,” “My” designs. Most of what you sold in December were gifts for others. Now, buyers are back to buying for themselves. And they are very focused on New Year’s resolutions and doing what matters to them in 2021. This is why some of my best-selling Q1 tshirt designs tend to feature messaging about the wearer (using “I,” “Me,” or “My” in the messaging). From weight loss and self-care, to hobbies and other interests, cater these designs to the moods and mindsets of the wearer, who is also the buyer!
2. Design for “start” and “stop” niches. January and February see strong sales in niches that are top of mind for starting or stopping in a new year. Fueled by appetites for fresh beginnings and keeping resolutions, there’s a rush to stop smoking, stop eating poorly, stop wasting time, etc. Conversely, there’s another rush to start pursuing goals, start working out, start going to church again, start enjoying life more, etc. Make designs for people who are eager to start or stop something. While these types of tees are evergreen in nature, they are seasonally strong performers in Q1.
3. Go window shopping for niche inspiration. From CreativeMarket to CreativeFabrica and everywhere in between, look at sites and platforms where talented graphic designers upload their work. Filter products by what’s new or popular. Take niche inspiration from the niches that graphic designers are focusing on, as many know what’s “hot” and soon-to-be trending. Of course, you’re bound to see many generic concepts. But some things will be fresh and interesting. Let these discoveries guide your seasonal or evergreen creations for the rest of December.
4. Run “rapid fire” creation drills. Open a browser and visit a leading non-Amazon retailer website (like Target or Walmart). Set a timer on your phone for two minutes. In that period time, while only scrolling through what’s on the home page of these sites, write down the first tshirt message that comes to mind (without any hesitation) in response to the products and images displayed. See an electric shaver, camera, and vacuum on the home page of Walmart? Without overthinking, blurt out your first thought and record it. In my experience, we kill some of our most creative and original ideas by overthinking and overcomplicating this basic process. Sure, many of the suggestions you blurt out will either suck or be non-compliant. But some will be shockingly good and surprisingly creative. Run these rapid-fire drills in response to looking at products and niches all over the e-commerce spectrum. It’s a great way to sharpen your senses, boost productivity, and learn to trust your gut.
5. Practice pausing your tshirt-first mentality. Thousands of mobile devices are being exchanged over the holidays. PopSocket and phone case demand will remain strong in early Q1. Thousands of people will go vegan, get a gym membership, or vow to waste less and become more environmentally conscious — all scenarios that benefit niche tote bags. Thousands of people will want to start the new year with a new look for their living/work spaces. Throw pillows are a decorative staple and will be needed for new looks in Q1. My point? Most of us design for tshirts first and then, if appropriate, we’ll upload these designs to other products available through MBA too. Devote at least some time to designing for these “other products” first. By this time next year, I predict many Merchers will have top-selling non-tshirt MBA items that will rival if not exceed the earnings of their best-performing tees.
6. Use experience over BSRs to get a jump on 2021 seasonal leads. This is the WORST time of year to do niche research on Amazon because so many diverse niches are selling for Christmas that will stop selling by the end of this month that there’s little insight to be gleaned into what will be seasonally hot and relevant in early Q1. What were your best-selling seasonal niches last January/February? For me, it’s the same niches year after year — 100 Days of School, Groundhog Day, African American History, Valentine’s Day, and Mardi Gras. These will ALL be winners again. Think about them (and design for them) NOW when most of your peers are either taking the rest of the month off or haplessly still creating last minute Santa designs.
7. Start your 2021 design branding. December is the BEST month on the calendar to plan out every niche message and design opportunity for the coming year that will benefit from a year-stamp. Put differently, there are tons of general retirement, wedding, anniversary, graduation, holidays, baby announcements, and other milestone-tees on Amazon that focus on 2018, 2019, and 2020. There are far fewer that focus on 2021. And 2021 is what people will exclusively want in a matter of days. Don’t fall behind the incoming rush to do precisely what you could be doing in December.
8. Purge and replace. If you’re short on slots and you have multiple evergreen designs that have been live for months and endured the holiday season without any sales, this is the time to seriously consider purging some of those designs and using your new slots to upload tshirts that look like nothing else in your portfolio. Regardless of how diverse your niche selections are, if your catalog is lacking in visual diversity, you will struggle to attract new audiences that wouldn’t otherwise be interested in your products.
9. Strategically raise prices. Post-Christmas, consumers expect prices to once again reflect pre-holiday sales. If you have a huge winner on MBA priced at $17, boost it to $19 for Q1. Sometimes, increasing our royalties has nothing to do with selling more products. In many instances, this can be achieved by no longer underpricing your creative work. Don’t shortchange yourself in 2021.
10. Expand, expand, expand! Yes, I know I sound like a broken record but so many Merchers continue to focus narrowly if not exclusively on MBA. There’s so much more to POD/Ecommerce than just tshirts on Amazon. If you’re not at least expanding to KDP and Etsy, I honestly believe your 2021 will financially under-perform its potential for your business. The future kings and queens of our industry won’t just cultivate a portfolio of diverse niche designs. They’ll also create a portfolio of diverse products on which those designs can be placed. If you want to be a king or queen, this course of action is essential.
The rush of the holidays may be subsiding for MBA, but Amazon is a bigger part of the typical consumer’s life than it ever has been. For this reason and many others, I believe there’s no such thing as an “off-season” for Merch By Amazon any more.
January doesn’t have to be the letdown that we’ve been conditioned to think it is. By targeting the right needs, the right seasonal niches, and the right products for Q1, you can create a powerful buffer against the post-holidays sales drop that does the most damage to un-diversified sellers who fail to think strategically about the market this time of year.