Walmart Jetblack Program Seems Confused With What it Wants to Be
What do you get when you cross a retailer that champions low-cost items with a premium-priced service that aims to put those same products in the hands of more affluent, time-crunched shoppers? Aside from a headache, the answer to that question is the Jetblack membership program launched by Walmart.
This week, the retailer announced that the program, which has been in beta mode in Manhattan, is now accepting waitlist signups from residents across the city.
While every bit of me wants to look at the Jetblack program and applaud Walmart for launching a truly unique and different kind of retail program, I’m instead left feeling confused. I struggle to see what Walmart actually wants Jetblack to be. With a membership cost of $50 per month, it seems like a service aimed at wealthier shoppers who’d like to take advantage of the personalized ecommerce experience that Walmart touts on the Jetblack website. At the same time—and on the same website—Walmart calls the service out as being “the easiest way for busy moms to shop.” The Verge’s breakdown of the service makes it clear that the service is meant to be exclusive though, highlighting that membership is available by “invitation only” and that members have to be “judged worthy” to join.
So maybe we’re talking about rich moms here?
Born out of Walmart’s Store No. 8 tech incubator, the service was cooked up by Jenny Fleiss, who joined the company last year. And Jetblack borrows a lot of the same basic principles of another brand that Fleiss founded, Rent the Runway. Once a waitlistee is welcomed aboard as a member, they receive a phone call from the service that helps sort out all of the personal details—favorite brands, frequently ordered items, any allergies you might have, etc. From there, members can text questions or make shopping requests to the service’s network of AI bots and human professional buyers. Deliveries will arrive the next day or within hours, with no additional charge.
Jetblack will even come to you to pick up returns, and there’s no minimum threshold that has to be met for a delivery. The only catch at the moment—aside from being approved for membership—is that you can’t order food or alcohol.
Still, Walmart seems to believe that it’ll have success convincing people to pay $50 per month to have the same Walmart products available in stores and online delivered to them. Is the concierge texting service really worth that much? And what’s the deal with the Jetblack branded AirPods? There seems to be a voice assistant component to it as well, which should scream innovation, but instead comes off as Walmart trying to plop an additional layer of unnecessary technology onto a service that seems confused as it is.
According to Bloomberg, however, there are already thousands of people on the waitlist hoping to gain entry into the service. And those who have been approved are ordering “more than 10 items a week” through the service.
Maybe my struggle with Jetblack has something to do with me not being an affluent mom who’d rather spend time with my kids than walking the aisles of Walmart?
What We’re Reading
- The June DS Index survey is out, and consumer electronics retailers continue to see their confidence rise. (Dealerscope)
- 66 new emoji are making their way to our smartphones today. (CNET)
- California, New Jersey, and New York are spending $1.3 billion to build more electric vehicle charging locations. (The Verge)