Walmart Launches Order By Text


The one-upmanship competition that seems to be perennially on between Amazon and Walmart has just gotten its latest entry.

Walmart has announced that it’s rolling out a same-day delivery service all their own, with a twist. Customers will be able to text their orders to Walmart. The new service is called Jetblack, and it will allow shoppers to not only order from — but also the websites of other rival retailers.

Jetblack, according to Reuters reports, comes care of Walmart’s internal startup incubator Store No. 8. The service has already launched in New York City, and there are reportedly plans to roll the service out to the rest of the U.S. No timeline, however, has been announced for that larger-scale rollout.

“The goal is to think about game-changing technologies that will change the way people shop,” said Jenny Fleiss, co-founder and chief executive of Jetblack. Fleiss is a known eCommerce commodity; she is the co-founder of popular online fashion website Rent The Runway.

The future of retail, according to Fleiss, is in technology and how it can be leveraged to create a shopping experience that can be individually tailored to customers needs. Expanding into order by text message, she noted, fits into that bigger customer service picture.

The effort comes as part of an enterprise-wide effort on Walmart’s part to build out and strengthen its eCommerce and digital offerings to consumers. The last year has also seen Walmart partnering with delivering logistics firms as it has pursued and expanded into grocery delivery.

That effort is designed to complement Walmart’s buy online, pick up curbside offering, which, as of their last earnings report, has been a big success with consumers. Walmart reported overall eCommerce growth of 33 percent in Q1 and is still forecasting eCommerce growth north of 40 percent for all of FY 2018.

“Online grocery continued to accelerate, and [we] had the new site redesign late in the quarter,” Brett Biggs, EVP and CFO, said. “We also have new brands in eCommerce, including the partnership with Lord & Taylor, so there are a lot of different things driving growth there.”

The Jetblack service is a membership program, and it’s not an inexpensive one at $50 a month. It will offer users the option of same-day and next-day delivery. According to Fleiss, consumers who took part in the initial pilot of Jetblack used the service to purchase 10 items a week on average.

Apart from offering goods on demand, Jetblack will also perform services like texting customers to remind them if they are at risk of running out of a previously ordered product. The service will also be tapping into artificial intelligence to better sort and curate suggestions for users of the program.

The question, of course, is will this compete with Amazon’s parallel offerings, particularly when one considers the price differential. For Prime Now– and Prime Now Grocery-eligible customers, Amazon is already offering same-day delivery without a membership fee over and above the cost of Prime Membership.

It remains to be seen if Jetblack will have a good selection, interface or services roster so much more expansive that customers will pay an extra $600 a year for it.