Week 15 – Finishing some odds and ends in the weeks leading up to subscription launch

Jun 8, 2020

Hello again, this week we wrote a long form article which I just posted, added some products and made some improvements to our backend and search.

The Extension

So we are working on having a search with a lot more information. Firstly, more than 10 listings, the ability to narrow by the category and a list of brands that show up for that search term. This week was spent on that and there was a lot of progress made. A few weeks ago I posted about the 5 things we need to do before testing out our subscription model, well these front end search changes are the most visible of that list. In the coming week we will be working more on that and making a website search, which I will detail more farther down the article.

Research

A paltry 3000 listings were added this week. I was spending my time on other things, and our 2 researchers also worked on the article I posted a few minutes ago. Those articles are great, they help us figure out our standards for special case products. For example if there are no US suppliers of a certain food product, it’s probably better if we go out and find the best alternative, from a country with similar values. We haven’t been doing that so far, but it’s good for us to do an in-depth search on where products come from, and why they aren’t grown/made in the USA. We found that most of the spices we ran across had at least 1 USA grower, and the ones that we couldn’t find a local grower we have put to the side and will come back to. When we do bend our standards in the future, those listings will be very clearly marked to show they aren’t made/grown in the USA, but that they are the best alternative we could find.

The Website

A low traffic week. I haven’t been focused on driving traffic much, it’s just not that important. The thing is we can’t charge, and we don’t know who, if anyone, is going to be subscribing to our premium version. So when I go and post and talk to people, they likely aren’t going to be our exact target market once we start offering our premium version, so some of my effort is wasted. We have a solid userbase now, around 500 people, and get a fair bit of feedback, so there isn’t much of a reason to put effort into attracting more people now.

The main business thing we’ve been thinking about this week is how to offer product search on our website. This is a lot more complicated than it appears, and it touches on the reason we made an extension. People have been making USA only stores and catalog sites for decades, and none of them are very good. They aren’t good because of the tremendous amount of effort required in researching products and keeping them up to date. Why we started an extension is because if someone is using our extension and we haven’t found anything for their search, well who cares they can just shop on Amazon like always. But if we were a website then we would be dependant on return visitors even though we can only deliver results to our visitors 20-30% of the time. That train of thought has led us to our, seemingly baffling current conclusion, where we will put a search on our website for people who can’t use our extension. So there will be a visible search for mobile visitors, for Firefox/Opera/Brave users, but not for Chrome. We view it as basically a free experiment, we will closely monitor how much those users return to our site, and based off that decision we will decide what to do with our Chrome visitors, who can use our extension.

I think the core question we are asking with our startup is “If we make country of origin super easy to see as you shop online, will people pay 1 or 2$ a month for that?” and we want to stick to that. Adding the search to our website will result in people using it first, and then if they get a poor result we are assuming they will leave and never come back. Doing it would change the basic question we are posing with our startup to something more like “If we have the biggest 3rd party listing of Made in the USA products, will people engage and use our website?”. Our extension is so much easier and more convenient that there is a lot more leeway for mediocre results, which will give us the time to build up our list of products and improve our database. So we will make it visible to mobile users, who are the majority of the people who come to our site, and see if they like it and come back often or not, and then we will see how to incorporate it to our current core users, people using the chrome browser.

As always, any thoughts appreciated!

Gareth Struivig de Groot is the founder of Buy Localized. He originally hails from Vancouver, and he is passionate about helping people get informed about where the things they purchase come from.
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