Week 3 Blog Post – We need more users!

Mar 16, 2020

Another week, another post! It’s been a pretty poor week for Buy Localized unfortunately, we’ve been struggling on getting users. I’ll touch on it later in the post.

The Extension

This week we worked a lot on search. We went from having no search capabilities at all to getting it working in the backend pretty well, and then we managed to get it to a good enough place that we’ve added it to the frontend. We’ve also been looking to upgrade our VPS (Virtual Private Server), but unfortunately our hosting provider has currently disabled upgrades for our server location (Chicago). We will continue working on this this week, as it’s the main hurdle for our Extension at the moment. Once we’ve ironed out all the kinks we will be moving on to working on our backend systems for classifying more complex brands that manufacture in a variety of locations, as well as figuring out user tracking and stats.

Research

We have been working away adding more brands and listings. This week we added around 25,000 made in the USA listings. We still have some personal issues in our research team that has caused us to be working less hours than usual, but due to COVID-19 everyone is getting locked up at home and there is nothing to do but research!  Our method is that we are going through the companies that manufacture only in the US, and making sure our catalog for them is accurate and no other companies products managed to sneak in (which happens a lot). Once we have gone through all the companies we can find that are on Amazon and manufacture exclusively in the USA then we will start working on companies that manufacture in multiple locations. We currently don’t  have the backend to do that easily, but it hasn’t been a priority because we still have the low hanging fruit.

Content Creation

It was a poor week for content creation, these blog posts flow off my fingers, they are stuff I’ve been thinking about all week. However I will also be doing company profiles, so I’ve been sending out a questionnaire to companies that manufacture exclusively in the USA, and I’m going to publish articles talking about why they’ve chosen to do that, the challenges they faced and the challenges they’ve avoided by choosing to manufacture in the USA. I haven’t been getting many responses at all though, and in the drafts I’ve done I’m struggling to find a format that feels natural to me. We are hoping with these articles we can address a viewpoint that I don’t see very often online, where companies specifically talk in depth about the good and bad sides of manufacturing in the west compared to countries with lower environmental and labour regulations.

Website

Now to the main issue we’ve been facing this week, traffic! When I started this it was a lot to do with Reddit. I’m active on Reddit and the project is designed for that audience. If I had been going for an older audience, the likes of which populate anti-Chinese products/pro-American Facebook pages, the website would be quite a bit more descriptive about what an Extension actually is. I assumed that I would be able to get some users for this project from some active, hyper relevant Subreddits, where people are looking to find products made in the west/USA or not made in China, however this hasn’t panned out. I was in conversations with a mod of the main Subreddit and he loved the idea, I went and posted it and another mod removed it and was quite hostile, and I was eventually told that I could never post it there. That’s been really unfortunate, and has made me think a tremendous amount about what to do. Everything I see online has been recommended by something/someone. Either a friend sends me an article, or Google recommends something, or a website like Reddit has a link which has been generally approved by the community. The content that someone/something recommends to me is a combination of trustworthy/authoritative or very relevant to me. Well, Buy Localized is brand new, we have 15 users on the Chrome Extension store and no stars, no one is going to go to bat advocating for us. We are so new and none of us are established authorities in the space, so our trustworthiness is so low that we can’t really get traction even on places where we are hyper relevant, and when we started I assumed that we would be able to. If I had known this I would have started writing right from the start, oh well we will figure it out.

So now we are figuring out where to get users and it’s a real challenge. No one is going to advocate for us, after a few months of these types of blog posts and other content, and a lot of grinding, I imagine we can get to a spot where the project inspires enough trust that people would be willing to tell their friends about the product, or companies might point us out as a way to highlight their products.However we’ve got a team of 4 people, it’s not really in the card to keep building this for months without any users. Our conversion rate and user engagement on the website is good, we just need to find a way to show our idea to 15-20,000 people who are interested in buying American, so that we can get a few hundred installs and start getting a lot of feedback, and we haven’t cracked how to do that.

The current plan is for the company profiles, responding extensively on Reddit, though we still won’t be making many posts introducing people to what we are doing because they won’t let us. We will also quite possibly explore advertising on Facebook. The only reason that is attractive is because my background is in Facebook marketing, I am an expert at it. It’s not the most natural course to do at this stage in the projects lifespan, however it’s something we know we can do excellently.

All in all it wasn’t a very good week, we are at a stage where we need users, and at the pace we are going we are months away from even getting a couple hundred testers, and that’s not good enough.

See you next week.

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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