A few weeks ago I met Stanislav through a post on Amazon Tools's Reddit.
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This guy has been writing code for companies and is now starting his own projects which, I didn't knew I was subscribed to 😀 I'm talking about https://fbamonthly.com/, a biweekly newsletter for Amazon Sellers.
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But, of course, he has more stuff to tell us, so I decided to interview him. Here we go!
For those who still don't know who you are… could you introduce yourself and what do you do?
My name is Stanislav Katkov, I'm originally from Estonia. But nowadays, I‘m living with my wife and kid in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This city was praised by the author of ‘4 hour work week', Tim Ferris, and to this day this small town in Asia attracts people who are in a biggening of their entrepreneurial adventure and I love that.
My wife is originally from Chiang Mai, so we mostly ended up here because of that. But this place matches my inner-mood perfectly. I'm a founder of a Skylup company. It was founded 6 years ago as a software consulting shop and I still consult some clients. But we're in a beggining of our transformation into a productized company that focuses on Amazon Sellers.
Wife is in a similar mood as well, she's running a tiny wellness brand. I had my experience selling on eBay and Estonian online marketplaces before, so as a good husband I helped out with my wife's business. We evaluated shop builders that looked like spaceships, but in a week we built a simpler website that helps my wife make money while she takes care of a baby.
We also looked into selling on Amazon, but her products are handmade and quite limited in quantities … It was not a good fit. But I got hooked on Amazon — for such a huge company it's so dynamic, that it feels sometimes that internet news is mostly about Amazon.
Here in Chiang Mai I've meet and befriended with Amazon Sellers on local meetups and It became obvious to me that initial learning curve is pretty steep. One have to know sooo much to be a successful Amazon Seller. I really believe that ‘e-commerce should be easier', it enables so many people to reach financial independence.
Because of this belief, for more than a year, we're focused on improving businesses of Amazon Sellers in the best way we can – by making it easier. We're currently maintaining three projects all aimed at same customer demographics.
You're not an Amazon seller, but you are absolutely up to date on every Amazon information coming out. How do you curate/select that information for your FBA Newsletter?
As I said before, Amazon seems like a very dynamic company. For such a huge business entity it can move with a lightning speed sometimes. If we plan to stay relevant in Amazon eco-system it seems important to inform myself and colleagues about latest developments. We've looked for a resource that could help us solve this problem, but failed to find ay… so https://fbamonthly.com was born. Newsletter format seemed perfect for this.
Initially we just manually scavenged news, social networks and forums we knew off. But since we tend to treat everything like an engineering problem, it didn't took us a lot of time to semi-automate most of the process. We use google alerts and a telegram bot to gather all the intelligence. Telegram bot stores all the links we post in a channel and aggregates all the google alerts, but we manually dissect all the useful information and send it out manually.
We partly became crowdsourced as well. People started contributing by sending us links they deem important. I'm quite fond of that fact, it's nice to see people wanting to contribute!
It's great to see that Amazon Sellers found value in such a service, but not only them — people who have Amazon Sellers as a clientele found significant benefit in this newsletter as well.
What is fbacatalog.com about?
This project started out as our internal research project around software for Amazon Sellers. We've been collecting a lot of different data points about our competition and other solutions on the market. It was just an Excel file that I showed around to friends — I was amazed to see some of them immediately discovering something new and trying it out the other day.
We built a website around this data, to overview each project easily and see all possible solutions. We don't rank products, don't review anyone…
We had a lot of eye-openers while working on this project. As an example, Amazon's MWS API is built in such a way, that it doesn't offer granular permissions on your business data.
To put it simply – your handing over all Amazon Business data to every software that integrates through MWS. And there are already bad actors that acquire software projects mostly to gain access to that data. It became easier to detect possible bad actors like that with FBA Catalog — those usually register companies in China or Hong Kong, don't openly disclose who actually owns domains (with private whois).
Our biggest goal with this project is to release “State of Amazon Software” report. We would like to highlight some of the possible issues in the eco-system and current trends. It would be great to make this report publically available — I'm looking forward to see what debate it would lead to. Currently, we're looking for possible partners to collaborate with us on this report so we can finish it sooner.
Last posts from our blog
Could you tell us more about ashop.co and who's that software for?
aShop is a platform to manage amazon microsites effortlessly. Microsite is marketing tool that presents itself as a branded webstore, it uses Affiliate API to complement existing Amazon Business in the best possible way — it brings direct sales.
Direct sales are crucial to boost Best Seller Rank on Amazon. We've seen amazon sellers that offer extra percentage of each sale to certain affiliate websites, so they would be more motivated to bring them direct sales. We also found popular Amazon agencies operating a networks of more than 1000 microsites for their clients.
I tend to believe that we're democratizing a very effective marketing tool, that usually requires some serious technical chops to have. There is no need to deal with hosting, wordpress, shopify, no need to edit any html code, no need to know about Google Analytics much. In minutes I'll have a working website that converts well, sends direct sales to your amazon store.
For the last year we've been building and testing platform with our first Amazon Sellers. And we've had results that exceeded our most positive expectations. Microsite converted so well, that it made ad campaign really effective. The power of direct sales managed to revie dead products in a very competitive category with a very modest marketing budget.
As with all our products, we always keep Amazon Sellers in mind. We're building up features to cover as many use cases as possible. But currently we're in public beta and only US region is supported. We will add support for more regions and microsites with multi-regions as soon as platform will be feature-complete.
We already cover a lot of use cases, please be sure to check out our website. But we will be happy to hear your feedback to grow your amazon business with our platform.
What are the tools that you use in your daily basis?
We're a very small company, only two people full time. But we collaborate with other individuals quite a lot. Most of the stuff we do has a very low overhead and all the routine work is mostly automated. Our creative workflow revolves mostly around github, telegram and zoho docs.
Most of those services have programmatic access of some sort, so it's pretty straight forward for us to automate things. I'm also geeking out with a lot of developer tools, we have quite a zoo of different tools. Engineer inside me believes that right tools are important to do your job well.
About the author
I work as an independent eCommerce and Amazon consultant.
Estrella Damm, Intersport, Bella Aurora, Lladró, Textura Interiors, Nice Things Palomas, Castañer, Due-Home and many other clients.
Lecturer & Teacher
I teach and have been a speaker at: Meet Magento, Prestashop, Prestashop Day, SEMRush, Cambra de Comerç Barcelona, ClinicSEO, Ecommbeers, Ecommbrunch, Ecommercetour.com, Ecommfest, EOI, ESIC-ICEMD, Foxize, Generalitat de Catalunya, Inesdi, Quondos and The Valley.
In addition, I have done in-company trainings for brands such as Orange and Adidas.
Finally, I collaborate writing articles for Helium 10, Carbon 6, Shopify, SEMRush, Prestashop´s official blog, Brainsins, La Vanguardia, eCommerce-news.es, Marketing4ecommerce and other blogs and media.