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Why Walmart Is Shutting Down Its Jetblack Personal Shopping Service

Walmart is putting an end to personal shopping service Jetblack.

The retail giant announced today on its corporate website that the text-to-shop platform, which launched less than two years ago in New York City, will shut down on Feb. 21. According to Walmart, the venture was the “first portfolio company” to launch from its startup incubator, Store No. 8, and was available through a $50-a-month membership.

“We’ve learned a lot through Jetblack, including how customers respond to the ability of ordering by text as well as the type of items they purchase through texting,” Store No. 8 head Scott Eckert said in a post. “We’re eager to apply these learnings from Jetblack and leverage its core capabilities within Walmart.”

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, roughly 350 staffers would lose their jobs as a result of the decision. (Documents viewed by the publication in October showed only 600 active Jetblack members as of last summer as well as a loss of $15,000 per member on an annual basis.) FN has reached out to Walmart for further comment.

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Jetblack debuted in the summer of 2018, created by Jet.com founder Marc Lore and spearheaded by Rent the Runway co-founder Jenny Fleiss. It marked Walmart’s strongest push into the conversational-commerce space, combining the scalability of artificial intelligence with the human element of personal shopping. The service paired customers with personal shoppers who fielded requests via text — even for brands not carried by Walmart itself.

“As we said in the beginning when we launched Jetblack, part of the initiative was to start testing and building technology with the intent that it could be used in other ways, including applying it to other parts of our business,” Eckert added today. “Over the past few years, we’ve explored a number of areas in conversational commerce, from Jetblack’s text-based ordering to voice ordering in pickup and delivery — all with the belief that this technology will be an important way Walmart serves customers in the future.”

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