Woot.com was not only a successful daily deals site that spawned many imitators – it was a destination where people could go for entertainment and community as much as for the shopping. Having sold Woot to Amazon in 2010, founder Matt Rutledge now gets to do it all over again with the launch of Meh.com, but this time with the knowledge and experience gained the first time around.
Meh.com, launched this week, is similar to Woot. When asked what he was doing differently with his new company, Mediocre Labs, Rutledge told EcommerceBytes, “Because Meh.com is a single experiment we’ll run, we can be more idealistic and keep it focused,” he said. “There are other business facings to lean on and new site ideas to launch without interfering with what we believe can remain simple and fun. We also have some fun differences in brand, tone and site function, but these are best left discovered.”
One of those differences is how Meh handles shipping. Many ecommerce experts say consumers demand free, fast shipping, though merchants will tell you there is no such thing as free shipping. So it’s interesting to see how Meh.com handles the issue, given that Rutledge spent time at Amazon, which offers a shipping membership program.
Just as with pre-Amazon Woot, Meh.com shoppers can purchase up to three of the daily featured deal and pay $5 for shipping. But shoppers also have the option to sign up for the VMP program (Very Meh Person). For $5 a month, VMPs receive free shipping on every Meh deal all month.
Meh makes it clear up front it’s not a product-sourcing site for eBay resellers. So are there any opportunities for online sellers on Meh.com or at Mediocre Labs, we asked Rutledge?
“A majority of our business is done on the wholesale side and we have a team who handles that. I’d love to have future ability to sell smaller batches of product, but at this stage larger retailers are the focus. Look up the right team member on LinkedIn if you’d like to connect,” he suggests.
For sellers who want to become less dependent on eBay, Amazon, and Google for their traffic, Rutledge offered this advice: “The main thing is to determine whether you have repeat opportunities for the same crowd or not. If you don’t, you’re stuck paying for a flow of new folks and whatever hassles that entails. If you do, double down on pleasing them and be meticulous about measuring growth (or lack of it) of your best customers. Always assume you are not doing enough to please them.”
Rutledge had given us a sneak peak of his new venture in October, telling EcommerceBytes he envisioned Mediocre operating both as a set of consumer-facing ecommerce sites, as well as a middleman for vendors and wholesalers, offering services to help them manage and move their inventory across other, already established channels.
He was critical of what Woot had become under Amazon with its push for rapid growth (Woot no longer features just one daily deal, for example), though Rutledge took some responsibility, saying he had been unable to be an effective advocate for Woot at Amazon.
He recently described a watershed moment he had with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in an interview in D Magazine. He described an uncomfortable breakfast meeting and an even more uncomfortable explanation from Bezos on why he had acquired Woot. The interview, which launched a “Breakfast Octopus” meme on Twitter, explains a lot about why Rutledge left Amazon.
Could history repeat itself – knowing what he knows now, would Rutledge ever consider selling Meh to Amazon? “I am nearly certain that we will not have to face that dilemma! But here’s the thing; the main point is actually not diluting the business model or introducing a lack of transparency. With Meh we will show our willingness to be open and honest even if it costs us mainstream growth.”
On Wednesday, Meh launched its inaugural daily deal – an iRobot Roomba 560 for $179. By 3:30 pm EST, Meh had sold 125 of the floor vacuums, with almost 48,000 visitors to the page. By 9:30 pm, it had sold 275 units and had 179,000 visitors.
The iRobot Roomba 560, which originally debuted in 2007, is a metaphor for Meh itself. The title reads, “Simple. Classic. Familiar. Refurbished.”
In the “sales pitch” for the vacuum, Meh says, “If you ask us, the good old 560 was peak Roomba,” with all the classic features that made Roomba Roomba, without any of the “finicky” refinements that later made Roomba models “so expensive.”
The next line was perhaps a message for the folks at Amazon as much as for would-be Roomba 560 shoppers: “Hmmm: a cool, simple, fun thing gets bloated by add-on features into something complicated and pricey. Seems like we’ve heard that story before.”