Walmart is taking another major step toward courting wealthy consumers with the launch of Jetblack, a new text-to-shop service aimed at busy urban parents.
Developed by the retailer’s startup incubator, Store No. 8, and spearheaded by Rent the Runway co-founder Jenny Fleiss, the service pairs customers with personal shoppers who are prepared to field any request by text, even for brands not carried by Walmart itself. Co-founded by Jet.com founder Marc Lore, the venture is the retailer’s most significant move into the conversational–commerce space, blending the human element of personal shopping with the scalability of artificial intelligence.
For $50 per month, Jetblack promises same-day or next-day delivery on everything from diapers to Gucci loafers, prepared with concierge-style touches like complimentary gift-wrapping and handwritten notes. (One popular request, demoed in the intro video, is a gift for a kid’s birthday party, complete with age- and theme-appropriate recommendations.)
For now, Jetblack is invite-only and available to select customers in Manhattan and Brooklyn in doorman buildings, but Fleiss says the plan is to expand to metropolitan areas across the country and expects it may be even more valuable in regions where there isn’t a Duane Reade on every corner and a saturated market of on-demand services. Hopeful customers can join the wait list now, and interest will help dictate where the service next opens up shop.
What differentiates Jetblack from competitors like Amazon Prime — which, even at the new membership price of $119 per year, is still significantly more affordable than the Walmart venture — is the personalization and curation it offers, so customers don’t need to track down the exact product they want by name every time, as well as the convenience of text messaging.
On the other end of the service are concierges armed with what Fleiss refers to as a “souped-up dashboard of all your favorite brands, past purchases and other details about you.” If the product a customer is looking for isn’t in the Walmart catalog — like, for instance, a high-end night serum — experts in areas like fashion, beauty, wellness and home are on hand to offer recommendations. Texts can include photos, too, to identify a brand or ask for suggestions on, say, a dress to go with a new pair of shoes.
During its beta period, the service went by the stealth name Code Eight, and early testers included Negative Underwear co-founder Marissa Vosper, entrepreneur Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, who co-founded Gilt Groupe and is now senior vice president for consumer strategy and innovation at Allergan, and Fleiss herself, who has three kids — all examples of what she called “the busy supermom that we’re servicing in New York for now but eventually all over the U.S.”
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