How to botch a launch: Razzle.ca

We were excited to cover the launch of Razzle.ca here last week. Things were looking up: Razzle.ca was cloning Woot.com, an American 1-deal per-day site which has been very successful, and while there were a few technical glitches that needed to be worked out, Razzle seemed to have the business problems all worked out. Negotiating 365 deals in the space of a year can’t be easy.

rs110_a_pro1.jpgIt turns out it’s not easy. The first deal to hit the front page of Razzle was for a pair of brand new Sennheiser RS110 headphones for around 50$. By all means, a great deal even with shipping costs factored in.

The surprise was not just the great price however, as soon as the Sennheisers started arriving at the doorsteps of anxious purchasers, there was a new surprise: The headphones appeared to have been used, some even had hair still clinging to them and some were heavily scratched and had boxes which were ragged and torn.

Razzle.ca has tried to respond to some degree, posting this notice on their site:

Coming after several emails asking about the condition of certain Sennheiser RS116s we went and investigated more thoroughly. It looks like CERTAIN products included in our batch of Sennheisers were actually refurbished that we sold as new. We immediately contacted our supplier to ensure that if anything like this happens again there will be immediate repercussions.

The biggest problem for Razzle isn’t that they sent out some bad headphones, it is that they have now alienated their core audience: early adopters. It is not easy to find the type of purchaser who jumps in with reckless abandon and starts giving their credit card number to a ragtag internet startup. Dozens and dozens of people did, most notable is the RedFlagDeals.com community who could have been a huge Razzle sales channel for years to come.

To add fuel to the fire, it appears that someone from Razzle has been signing up for multiple accounts on RedFlagDeals and has been contacting members, one moderator on the forum noted that a pro-razzle post made by a brand-new user had the same IP-address (a sort of fingerprint for the internet) as another user who had previously identified himself as a Razzle employee.

Strong buyer communities are critical for sites like Razzle.ca and Woot.com. Having customers encouraging each-other, providing reviews and ratings, and just generally promoting your site is the only affordable way to generate growth. Instead, Razzle now has product pages that look like this.

So, here is your chance to learn from a botched launch, and here are a few quick tips avoiding a screw up like this one, which could very well be fatal. These apply to new web apps as much as they do to gadgets.

  • Seed your launch with great products, case studies and/or testimonials. Razzle would have been smart to offer a deal that was actually a great deal. Even if they did so at a loss, the goodwill they could have built would have been critical.
  • If you are working with a new supplier, test the product yourself. Don’t work with fly-by-night importers and refurbishers.
  • If problems do arise, respond passionately. Refund everyone completely, including shipping costs. Step up and take the punches.
  • Do not try to infiltrate established communities. Forums like the one at RedFlagDeals are very cohesive and it is easy for member there to spot fakes in their midst. You have to earn your way into these communities, which Razzle would have been better advised to do by offering great deals.

Is Razzle dead? No way. If they are serious, there is still an opportunity to make this right. They should contact all of their affected customers to make sure they are happy with their purchase (pick up the phone guys) and for anyone not happy, they should send a replacement or pay for return shipping and offer a complete refund.

The opportunity is to then return with good, honest, deals on a regular basis and to keep growing the community. If Razzle leaves even a single disgruntled customer out there however, they are dead in the water. The comments are open, did you buy from Razzle? What was your experience? Do you think they can ever recover?

And good luck to Razzle, you are going to need it.

  • http://beyondthebleedingedge.blogspot.com Andrew

    I was just thinking about writing pretty much this exact post. Early adopters are critical to the success of Razzle – they should be bending over backwards to right the ship. I know little about the management at Razzle, and whether they are funded or have resources available to them, from the outside it appears as this is not the case.

    Jumping into social media and marketing without fully understanding the consequences of botching it is a clear sign this was a poorly written business and marketing plan. Woot (granted a much larger company) executes very well – Razzle should have started smaller and with a laser focus, no forums, better copy, amazing first week of deals etc., rather than trying to do everything perfect out of the gate.

    I do wish the Razzle team well, but they have an uphill battle now – my advice shut down take the time to make sure all your customers are tickled pink and then relaunch correctly.

  • http://beyondthebleedingedge.blogspot.com Andrew

    I was just thinking about writing pretty much this exact post. Early adopters are critical to the success of Razzle – they should be bending over backwards to right the ship. I know little about the management at Razzle, and whether they are funded or have resources available to them, from the outside it appears as this is not the case.

    Jumping into social media and marketing without fully understanding the consequences of botching it is a clear sign this was a poorly written business and marketing plan. Woot (granted a much larger company) executes very well – Razzle should have started smaller and with a laser focus, no forums, better copy, amazing first week of deals etc., rather than trying to do everything perfect out of the gate.

    I do wish the Razzle team well, but they have an uphill battle now – my advice shut down take the time to make sure all your customers are tickled pink and then relaunch correctly.

  • http://scrawledinwax.com Nav

    Razzle seems (seemed?) like a great idea with half-assed execution. I know I was quite excited about it when it popped up on RFD but even the design of the website seemed to be subpar. I do hope they get things together but as you said, they have an uphill battle. I think something video game related may help them win back some goodwill and appeal to the right demographic.

  • http://scrawledinwax.com Nav

    Razzle seems (seemed?) like a great idea with half-assed execution. I know I was quite excited about it when it popped up on RFD but even the design of the website seemed to be subpar. I do hope they get things together but as you said, they have an uphill battle. I think something video game related may help them win back some goodwill and appeal to the right demographic.

  • http://www.willpate.org Will Pate

    It’s always surprising that no matter how many people get caught astroturfing, some misguided person makes the mistake of lying about who they are to drum up interest about their company. If consumers can’t trust the conversation about a company, or the people that work for it, how can they be expected to trust the company at all. Razzle may have killed their brand from day one. Hopefully someone will learn from their mistake.

  • http://www.willpate.org Will Pate

    It’s always surprising that no matter how many people get caught astroturfing, some misguided person makes the mistake of lying about who they are to drum up interest about their company. If consumers can’t trust the conversation about a company, or the people that work for it, how can they be expected to trust the company at all. Razzle may have killed their brand from day one. Hopefully someone will learn from their mistake.

  • http://montrealtechwatch.com Heri

    imho, it’s mostly because the team is young

    give them time, people

  • http://montrealtechwatch.com Heri

    imho, it’s mostly because the team is young

    give them time, people

  • http://savvica.com/ John Philip Green

    Yikes!

    We once got busted astroturfing on MetaFilter. Don’t mess with those guys! They got pissed off and Google-bombed my colleague, so that if you search his name all sorts of colourful (mostly sexual) things come up.

    Won’t make that mistake again. Hopefully Razzle sees that now too. Read the cluetrain… markets are conversations and so on.

  • http://savvica.com/ John Philip Green

    Yikes!

    We once got busted astroturfing on MetaFilter. Don’t mess with those guys! They got pissed off and Google-bombed my colleague, so that if you search his name all sorts of colourful (mostly sexual) things come up.

    Won’t make that mistake again. Hopefully Razzle sees that now too. Read the cluetrain… markets are conversations and so on.

  • http://www.mappingtheweb.com Aidan Henry

    I agree that the company made some poor decisions. However, I do believe that part of the problem was out of their hands – it was pure bad luck. Unexpected business circumstances will come about all the time. How a company deals with these circumstances is the big issue.

    Cheers,
    Aidan
    http://www.MappingTheWeb.com

  • http://www.mappingtheweb.com Aidan Henry

    I agree that the company made some poor decisions. However, I do believe that part of the problem was out of their hands – it was pure bad luck. Unexpected business circumstances will come about all the time. How a company deals with these circumstances is the big issue.

    Cheers,
    Aidan
    http://www.MappingTheWeb.com

  • Charlie

    I got the bad headphones from launch day. They ignore all RMA requests and just delete my posts to the web site! Razzle will be gone soon. Stay away.

  • Charlie

    I got the bad headphones from launch day. They ignore all RMA requests and just delete my posts to the web site! Razzle will be gone soon. Stay away.

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