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Walmart Launches Shop-By-Text Concierge Service

The discount chain unveils the first fruits of its Store No 8 skunkworks operation.

Walmart has unveiled the first fruits of its Store No 8 skunkworks operation: a members-only personal shopping and concierge service called Jetblack.

Fourteen months in the making, the startup company allows customers to order products around the clock by text, and receive a courier-delivered package the same or next day, ostensibly via Walmart subsidiary Parcel.

See: Walmart Closing The Same-Day Delivery Gap

Boasting a nearly unlimited assortment that pulls from Walmart, its unit, and local merchants and vendors, the $50/month service employs “artificial intelligence practices” and curated recommendations from “category experts” and customers to help time-strapped moms buy the toys, toiletries, sundries and health, fashion and wellness products they need on the fly.

The business describes itself as “the easiest way for busy moms to shop,” and backs that up with free deliveries and giftwrapping with no minimum spend; the promise of hassle-free returns with provided pick up; and competitive pricing on all items, all under the customized attention of a virtual personal assistant.

The company was co-founded by CEO Jenny Fleiss, whose previous enterprise, Rent the Runway, provided designer clothing rentals to women. Her latest initiative was born of Walmart’s Store No 8 incubation arm, which was set up last year by founder and chief Amazon fighter Marc Lore, shortly after he was named president/CEO of Walmart’s U.S. e-commerce business in San Bruno, Calif.

“Our e-commerce strategy has been focused on three elements: nailing the fundamentals, leveraging our unique strengths to play offense and innovating for the future,” Lore said. “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.”

The company launched a closed beta test of Jetblack earlier this year in Manhattan under the code name Code Eight, and is now opening it up in limited release to waitlisted customers in the borough and parts of Brooklyn.

The Jetblack announcement was timed to Walmart’s annual shareholders week gathering in Arkansas.

Jetblack, and its sister incubation businesses at Store No 8, underscore Walmart’s determination to raise the digital stakes in its e-tail rivalry with Amazon.

Related: How Walmart Is Thinking Outside The (Big) Box