(Bloomberg) -- Walmart Inc. wants to be your personal shopper -- if you’re lucky enough to be invited.
The world’s biggest retailer unveiled Jetblack, a concierge shopping service for busy urban families. For $50 a month, members can text their requests and receive same-day delivery from Walmart, Jet and other retailers like Saks and Sephora with gift wrapping included. The service -- available by invitation only -- has been piloted for the past eight months in Manhattan doorman buildings and will expand to parts of Brooklyn and non-doorman dwellings in the weeks ahead, the company said in a presentation in Bentonville, Arkansas, on Thursday.
Jetblack, the first business to emerge from Walmart’s Store No. 8 technology incubator, is headed by Jenny Fleiss, who co-founded Rent the Runway before joining Walmart last year to develop personalized shopping services. It comes as Walmart is upgrading its online operations to compete with Amazon.com Inc. through a redesigned website, hundreds of additional curbside grocery pickup locations and upscale brands like ModCloth and Moosejaw.
“I don’t know if it will work, but I know it’s a good idea,” Scott Galloway, a marketing professor at New York University, said by email. “No traditional retailer has done a better job than Walmart of grabbing the mic back from Amazon.”
Fleiss said existing Jetblack members are buying more than ten items a week, and Jetblack has thousands of people on its waiting list. The company has reserved some spaces for frequent customers of Jet.com, which focuses on affluent city dwellers.
“It lets you shop more efficiently,” Fleiss said of Jetblack. “The key is surfacing the right products to the right consumer -- from paper towels to monogrammed jewelry boxes.”
Shoppers text their requests to Jetblack, which uses a combination of automated bots and actual humans to recommend, for example, a selection of gift ideas for a child’s birthday party. Responses usually take five to ten minutes. The shopper picks the desired item, which is then typically delivered the same day via third-party couriers. The service is not using Parcel, the New York-based same-day delivery service that Walmart acquired last year. Fresh food is not part of Jetblack’s offering.
New Jetblack customers get a 10-minute phone call from the service to help determine their brand loyalties and frequently-ordered items. It also checks if children in the family have allergies.
“I don’t know that the market opportunity is big enough that it would be impactful for a company that has $500 billion in sales already,” Sucharita Kodali, an analyst at Forrester Research, said. “But it’s a great experiment.”
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