Not So Sharp: How Online Razor Companies Dropped the Ball

Like most people I shave every day. And like most people, I forget to buy razors before I need them and find myself painfully scraping a dull blade across my face from time to time. Not cool. 

That’s why I was thrilled this summer when a whole new category of razor companies came out. The basic concept was perfect. You sign up for a service, and they regularly send you razors and shaving cream so you never have to torture yourself again. The loudest of them was the Dollar Shave Club, whose viral commercial featured a guy in bear suit and a CEO who promised his razors were “f**king great.” 

This is a great business model. You acquire a customer once and have him or her on an installment plan forever. It was convenient, solved a real problem, and got rid of an expensive middleman. But these companies also had to deliver on the promise. 

I’ve tried a few (though not the Dollar Shave Club, whose reviews are all over the place) and quit every time. They were a letdown. My first delivery was usually delayed by months. No one got back to me when I asked where my products were. And worst of all, the razors were anything but “f**king great.” Some of them didn’t work at all. 



I think there are a few lessons in this: 

Poor goal setting ruins customer experiences. These companies focused too much on marketing their products, and not enough on creating a first rate customer experience out of the gate. They should have made it a goal to have happy customers—not a funny commercial. 

Misaligned marketing wrecks a relationship. Go to the website of one of these services, and the design is great, the copy is fantastic, and the UX works like a charm. Some of them have lifestyle magazines; others videos. They all had cool packaging and awesome logos. They seemed to promise a premium experience for a discerning male. Harry’s Shave Club, for instance, lured me in with their “Truman” and “Winston” sets, as though Harry S. and Sir Churchill might favor them. And yet… 

You can’t forget what really matters. A razor company has to make great razors. But the razors I tried were almost universally sub-par when compared with more established companies. And they were far below what the company’s upscale branding promised promise (better option: “You’ll always be hairy with Harry’s”). If they’d said they were delivering a cheap product on the cheap, some people would be ok with it. By promising a premium experience and delivering a sub-par one, they offered a disjointed experience. 

You have to pivot out of danger zones. Launching a new service is risky, and some of them were clearly overwhelmed by the unexpected demand. But oddly, most continued to advertise heavily, even though their teams needed to ramp up. This was a big mistake. If you’re offering a premium service, you have to deliver one to your existing customers before taking on new ones. 

You need a plan B when customers leave. Almost none of them followed up or tried to give me a different offer. This may be because they were overwhelmed, but you have to have people dedicated to making sure customers understand their options before they leave. I later found out several of the services had better razors available for a higher price, but when I was cancelling my service, no one told me about them. 

The real problem for these companies moving forward is that established brands are now getting in the game. Companies like Gillette are testing out services that do exactly the same thing, and they have the scale and manufacturing experience to make it work. I may have to try them. 

In the meantime, do yourself a favor and buy yourself some blades and shaving cream today. Otherwise, you’ll probably forget.

Shane Atchison is Global CEO of creative digital agency POSSIBLE.


1 comment about "Not So Sharp: How Online Razor Companies Dropped the Ball ".
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  1. Doug Schumacher from Zuum, November 29, 2014 at 8:16 p.m.

    Interesting points, Shane. Having also tried several, I agree they seemed more focused on cool brand promise than great brand experience. The big razor brands have always seemed over-priced, so maybe one of these brands will get the product down better. Would seems there's definitely a need.

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