Watsons, a health and beauty care company, started to trend and appeared on the hot search list last week, for its failed delivery of products in a sales campaign. The brand started a live streaming marketing campaign on 11 January, selling one box of Korean hydrating face masks at only 0.01 RMB ($0.002). However, while the campaign continues, consumers who already paid online for the products are told it is out of stock when they collect the mask in their stores.
What made things even worse was that the host of the online broadcast reacted poorly to the buyers’ complaint, calling them “mad dogs biting people for 0.01 RMB ($0.002)”. After this event, Watson is going into a PR crisis and more so due to the comments after the fact due to the incredibly poor customer service they have provided.
As of 14 January, over 1,500 people have filed complaints on a major online consumer protection platform. On the same day, Watsons expressed an official apology, saying that their stock failed to meet the huge demand and promising to replenish the stock and deliver the rest of the orders.
However, not all Chinese people let the brand get away with it, with the additional sting of the customer representative adding insult to aggrieved consumers. There are two voices on Watson’s handling of the incident, with customers sitting on either side of this online scandal.
One side shows understanding and raises the concern of backlash leading to boycott, which does no good to anyone. Another voice insists that the company should be punished based on China’s consumers’ protection law and the misbehaving host apologising to the consumers. Either way, the damage this has caused the brand in trust with its customer base along with the social value damage across China is huge.
Over the past two years, many companies have started their online business in an effort to tackle the challenge brought in by the pandemic and other e-commerce retailers. For those who just started, like Watson, the lack of understanding and preparation for the new online scenario might put the brand image at risk rather than boosting it. Online, everything happens fast, making it crucial to research and build up experience before looking for phenomenal events. If brands can successfully navigate the digital landscape then they will farewell, but it is a precarious space each company needs to tread with care.