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.
It 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.