Walmart tests white glove shopping service in NYC

by Kim Souza ([email protected]) 1,197 views 

Within Walmart’s Store No. 8 incubator in Bentonville, the retailer is testing a white-glove shopping service in New York City dubbed Jetblack and co-founded by Jenny Fleiss who joined Walmart last year.

Fleiss announced to the media Thursday (May 31) Jetblack has been under beta testing with a select group of shoppers in Manhattan since the fall of 2017.

The cost of this white-glove shopping assistant is a monthly subscription price of $50. Fleiss did not say how many users are testing the service. She said it’s invite only and there is a waiting listing in Manhattan, with plans to roll it out to Brooklyn in the near future. For now the service is available to buildings with doormen. The goal is same-day delivery for requests made by 2 p.m.

Fleiss said urban shoppers are willing to pay for white glove shopping assistants who save them time. Jetblack uses text communications with human interaction on the other end. The company plans to use machine learning and artificial intelligence. The goal is to provide consumers with one step problem solutions on everything from what is the best birthday day gift for a two-year-old boy to how and get facial make-up reordered from Sephora.

She said by testing the service the consumer gets the recommendation and in the case of the birthday gift it will also be wrapped. Jetblack is willing to source products from other retailers outside Walmart and Jet and will look for the products with the fastest delivery, best price and still solve the need for the user. She did not say how many retailers the service is working with but the list is always expanding and some of the partners include Saks Fifth Avenue and Pottery Barn.

“We are thrilled to introduce Jetblack to the world today,” says Fleiss. “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.”

Jenny Fleiss, co-founder of Jetblack, unveiled the new shopping assistant program Thursday in Bentonville at the Walmart’s shareholder media event. The subscription service is being tested in Manhattan by invitation only.

Kimberly Skelton, one of the consumers involved in the beta testing, said the service helps her manage her busy household.

“When I need diapers I just text Jetblack and they know the brand I use and send my way. When I needed to buy a scooter helmet the service gave me three recommendations and I chose one in a matter of seconds. It too was delivered to me same-day at no-added cost,” Skelton told the media at the press conference in Bentonville.

She said at sign-up with Jetblack she made her preferences known and over time they know what products she regularly buys. The service is not offering any cold-chain grocery at this time, only packaged grocery.

Fleiss said Jetblack is working with numerous carriers in New York City to make the deliveries. She said the company is not now working with Parcel, which is owned by Walmart, but there are plans to leverage that relationship. She said this is a start-up, but there is about 100 people working in the call center and it’s growing rapidly.

Fleiss, who founded Rent the Runway, said innovating toward solutions for customer needs was the premise for the apparel rental business as well as the new Jetblack service because time is one commodity in short supply for working families no matter where they live. She said there are applications for the service in more rural areas but for now her team is focused on testing and learning how to perfect it New York City. She said Jetblack fits well within Walmart.com’s strategy of innovating for the future of 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 Walmart U.S. eCommerce CEO Marc 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.”

Lore’s vision for Store No. 8 has been to incubate companies that help the retailer test and learn new applications of technology that can be shared throughout the retailer’s brands. While some of these aspects of Jetblack are not likely scalable to Walmart stores — the retailer said they are confident some learnings are transferable.