Digital Transformation

Walmart order-by-text service could be next stage of omnichannel retail and e-commerce

The retail mammoth is starting a same-day delivery service, initiated by just a text message, as part of an effort to keep up with Amazon.

Walmart unveiled plans for their new delivery service, Jetblack, which will allow some of their customers to order goods from their website by way of text messages. The initiative, spearheaded by Rent the Runway co-founder Jenny Fleiss, has started serving people in New York City and will soon expand nationwide.

Walmart created Jetblack within their Store No. 8 technology incubator, believing it to be a step forward in their battle to retake control of the market against Amazon. Users will be able to shop on Walmart.com and other websites, text Jetblack with specific orders, and receive other recommendations before ordering it with same-day delivery.

"Consumers are looking for more efficient ways to shop for themselves and their families without having to compromise on product quality," said Fleiss, who is also Jetblack's co-founder and CEO.

SEE: Digital transformation: A guide for CXOs (Tech Pro Research)

"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."

Fleiss highlighted the recommendation aspect of the service, saying "personalized shopping experiences" were key to Walmart's future retail endeavors.

With Amazon deepening its brick-and-mortar roots with Whole Foods, Walmart has stepped up its efforts to modernize, digitize and expands its offerings not just in terms of what you buy, but how you buy.

They have secured a number of partnerships with delivery services and other online portals to prioritize access and deliverability to their customers while taking advantage of their massive cultural and physical presence in communities across the US. CNN Money says their digital sales grew by 33% last quarter. Walmart also recently announced a partnership with Google, allowing you to buy products from Walmart through Google Home.

The service will cost $50 per month and an 8-month pilot program showed that the average buyer orders 10 items per week. Fleiss told Reuters that the service has an AI component as well, which will "curate" product suggestions and remind you to buy something when you're running out.

"The goal is to think about game-changing technologies that will change the way people shop," Fleiss told Reuters.

SEE: Data, AI, IoT—The future of retail (ZDNet special report) | Download the report as a PDF (TechRepublic)

Walmart recently announced a plan to expand its Pickup Tower program after a successful pilot project late last year. Last fall, the retail giant added 200 Pickup Towers—colossal structures within Walmart allowing online buyers to pick up goods bought from the company's website—to stores across the country. Customers only have to scan a barcode at their local Walmart's tower before receiving their order.

The big takeaways for tech leaders:

  • Walmart is starting a delivery service that allows you to order things through text.
  • The service is available in New York City and offers same day service.

Also see

walmart.jpg
Wolterk, Getty Images

About Jonathan Greig

Jonathan Greig is a freelance journalist based in New York City. He recently returned to the United States after reporting from South Africa, Jordan, and Cambodia since 2013.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox