Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
Earlier in July, the Kobo Touch ereader was the hottest selling item in Rakuten’s online shopping mall, the third-largest e-commerce website in the world. The preorders were apparently outselling water in the middle of summer. The hype was gigantic, but does the product live up to it? It’s probably still too early to tell.
When Rakuten’s Kobo Touch hit the Japanese market on July 19, users immediately encountered technical difficulties with the desktop software, ineffective customer service, and a lack of available titles. Early reviews reflected these problems. Then, according to the Register, “The e-commerce site then dug itself into an even deeper hole by removing all the reviews without explanation—not really the way to endear oneself to one’s customers or behave in World 2.0.”
Ted Homma, from Rakuten’s executive office of digital content promotion, makes the following clarification:
Following the launch of Kobo Touch in Japan we saw a tremendous consumer response. Unfortunately, some users were able to gain access to the system before our official launch timing of 15:00 on July 19th. Users began writing reviews and comments about the service that was not yet ready for public release.
We then launched on schedule, but considering the review board had been populated by feedback not relevant to the actual service we decided to temporarily suspend the review board feature, which we felt was not fully reflective of the service at launch time and was misinforming consumers.
However, we understand that we did not meet the high expectations of our loyal customers. We have been listening to their feedback through our customer support centre and having been working around the clock to resolve all outstanding issues.
Not the best start for a company aiming to go up against Amazon, the industry’s reigning King of Customer Service.
Nevertheless, Rakuten still has the advantage over Amazon for the time being.
“Rakuten’s secret?” Reuters reports, “Print publishers, analysts say, may be afraid of losing a lucrative business, but they’re even more afraid of Amazon. And, says [Rakuten CEO] Mikitani, ‘although we are an aggressive company by Japanese standards, we are still a Japanese company.’ He said he’s spent much of the past month persuading publishers to join him and says ‘about 95 percent’ of the Japanese industry has done so.”
To receive the print publishers’ blessing is not something to be taken lightly. On the battlefields of the digital revolution, this is a mark of serious clout and one that is not likely to be shaken by initial technical glitches.