February 24 - 27, 2020
JW Marriott, Palm Springs, CA
Here's How Walmart Is Pioneering the Next Level of Ecommerce Convenience with Jetblack
brought to you by WBR Insights
Walmart has rolled out a brand new service for upper-income shoppers in New York. Led by Rent the Runway's visionary Jennifer Fleiss, the new platform - known as Jetblack - is described as a "members-only personal shopping and concierge service that combines the convenience of ecommerce with the customized attention of a personal assistant."
Currently available on an invite-only basis in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, Jetblack offers its members a truly unique experience by giving them the ability to simply text their shopping requests, and Jetblack will then find the products and deliver them the same or next day at no additional charge.
Shopping by Text Message
New members are onboarded to the Jetblack service via an initial 10-minute phone call to determine their shopping preferences. They can also choose to have Jetblack employees come and visit their homes, where they will check through cupboards, scan products, and make a note of favorite brands for the purposes of building a thorough essentials list for daily shopping.
With the set-up complete, members can then simply text questions and shopping requests to Jetblack, and their orders will be promptly fulfilled. Anything from toiletries to household items to toys and fashion can be ordered with a simple text message. If a shopper needs a recommendation for a child's birthday gift, they simply ping off a text, and Jetblack's chatbot - named "J" - will reply with a short list of options. From there, a selection can be made, the order placed, and the item will be delivered at the desired location gift-wrapped and with a handwritten personalized birthday card if requested.
(Video source: youtube.com)
Requests for household items are treated in a similar manner - minus the gift-wrapping, of course. Jetblack sources products primarily from Walmart and its subsidiary Jet.com, though is also working "unofficially" with other retail partners including Pottery Barn, Gap, Bluemercury, and a handful of other smaller boutiques in New York City.
"We are thrilled to introduce Jetblack to the world today," said Fleiss, who stands as the CEO of Jetblack. "Consumers are looking for more efficient ways to shop for themselves and their families without having to compromise on product quality. With Jetblack, we have created an entirely new concept that enables consumers to get exactly what they need through the convenience of text messaging and the freedom of a nearly unlimited product catalogue. We are confident this service will make shopping frictionless, more personalized and delightful."
Jetblack is the first new service to launch from Walmart's technology incubator, Store No8. It uses a combination of artificial intelligence (AI) software to power the chatbot recommendations, and human expertise from professional buyers across home, health, parenting, fashion and wellness categories who handle the ordering and fulfilment. All packages are sent via courier delivery in chic, lightweight recyclable bags, creating a sense of style and saving members from the chore of breaking down cardboard boxes.
At $50 a month, Jetblack is aimed at affluent, time-strapped urban shoppers - particularly moms. "Time is a luxury for everyone," said Fleiss. "But the consumers doing the greatest amount of shopping right now from a volume perspective are parents."
It's also significant that Walmart defines Jetblack as a stand-alone personal shopping service, as opposed to simply another Walmart fulfilment channel, as this signals the retailer is intending both to enter the personal shopping market, and attract more upper income shoppers.
For Fleiss, however, the main driving force behind Jetblack isn't just to win more customers or save people time - but fundamentally change the way we shop. Walmart believes that "conversational commerce" - or the ability to shop through text messaging, online chat, and voice - is the next step in the evolution of ecommerce. Jetblack is the retailer's first embodiment of that vision.
"The initial vision that Marc Lore, who is my Co-Founder, gave to me was let's reinvent the standard for what a delightful digital shopping experience would be like," said Fleiss. "That was the big picture dream and I was given the authority to make that come to life. I always think that as your own consumer you're best positioned to identify a problem and see an opportunity. I am a mom of three young children. Life is busier than ever and I'm constantly looking for different tools to add efficiency to my day. To me, the next version of the delightful digital experience is giving time back and making life more enjoyable. That's where Jetblack came about. The idea is really simplifying the shopping experience with a personal shopper over text - it's as easy as shopping can get."
Currently, the only three categories that Jetblack doesn't offer is groceries, alcohol, and prescription drugs, though the aim is to add these to the service as well in the future.
The rollout of Jetblack marks another move by Walmart both to reach younger and more urban, tech-savvy customers, as well as to grow its online business to compete with Amazon. It will be interesting to see if a personal shopping service can help the retailer further differentiate itself, and indeed if it really can make conversational commerce the next big thing in online retail.
For Marc Lore, President and CEO of Walmart US Ecommerce and Jetblack Co-Founder, Jetblack embodies the next step in premium retail.
"Our eCommerce strategy has been focused on three elements: nailing the fundamentals, leveraging our unique strengths to play offense, and innovating for the future," said Lore. "Through Store No 8 and Jetblack, we're able to build and test technology that can lay the foundation for capabilities we believe will have a profound impact on how customers may shop five years from now. Powered by conversational commerce, the future of retail will bring convenience and high-touch personalization to the forefront for consumers everywhere, and I'm so excited to have Jenny lead the charge."
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