It's been a while since I last posted an update on Candy Japan. Last time I got tons of useful feedback, so I thought it would be only fair to post another update to see how I am taking it into account.
Scalable content creation
Koichi suggested I start writing and making videos about Japanese candy. Ryanwaggoner suggested that I look into what patio11 has written about Bingo Card Creator, which in a way is also a suggestion to make more content.
In response to these suggestions I started individual pages for each candy. I am still missing the "scalable" part here, just testing things out at this point to get a feel for what that content might look like. It took Googlebot about a week to index my test pages. In the past week I received 13 visits directly attributable to those article pages.
Found some people on oDesk who were interested in helping, some even native Japanese speakers. I am held back by the feeling that writing about each individual candy might be the wrong approach to take. Not many people search for specific odd candies and those that do probably want that particular one, not a subscription to random candies.
I feel more confident about videos, although haven't had time to make them recently. The top videos (not by me) on some specific candies are getting millions of views on YouTube. Having such hits might bring in customers just from the sheer volume of views.
Giberson suggested I start distribution brances. I would like FBA to be my distribution system, and Moswald was helpful in responding to my questions about Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA), which is Amazon's dropshipping service.
I started looking into it and have understood that normally in the US when you receive an item which has customs duties associated with it, you just get a customs bill (unlike the insane system in Finland where you have to go clear each item in person) attached. Amazon fulfillment center will not accept a shipment with such an attached bill.
I have begun looking into how I could send a package to the Amazon fulfillment center so that the customs would already be paid for. One company that does something like this is Shapiro and they were recommended on the Fulfillment By Amazon site. I contacted them and received an epic application form as response (which seemed to be paper scanned into a PDF).
From the documents I received, I understood that with the US customs systems a "continuous surety bond" is needed. I had to google the meaning of that, but basically it means you pay some money in advance and if you fail to pay customs duties, then those duties are taken from that. Seems that I would need to put at least $550 into that bond, which at least is a reasonably low sum to give this a try.
Thanks also to Rain Republic for some helpful suggestions via email.
Dmerfield suggested I buy candy directly from manufacturers instead of from the supermarket. At this point I still feel it makes more sense to use the supermarket, as the time saving is more important than the perhaps 20% price saving I could get. If I start shipping in bulk to US, then of course this will become necessary as otherwise the numbers probably would not work out. Karl11 suggested I contact kitchen staff at tech companies to offer them a bunch of subscriptions. This would also require that I can import larger amounts to US.
Accepting credit cards
This was not particularly suggested by anyone, but I had a strong feeling that accepting credit cards directly on the site without redirecting to PayPal would increase conversions. For a non-US merchant like myself the options to accept cards is quite limited. PayPal has a product to do this, but it is not supported for non-US merchants. I was eventually able to find a company calledWireCard that together with Recurly could make this possible.
Thanks to everyone who made suggestions, keep them coming.