Walmart prepares Jet black for final landing

Dan Berthiaume
Senior Editor, Technology
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Walmart Inc. is discontinuing Jet black, its text-based, personal-shopping service.

Launched in May 2018 as the first business to go live from Walmart tech incubator Store No.8, Jet black allowed members, who paid a $50 monthly fee, to order items over the phone via text message, with products delivered the same or next day for no extra charge. It also gave members access to personal shoppers who offered gift recommendations if requested and such perks as gift wrapping. While some everyday essentials were sourced from Walmart and, other items and specialty products sold via Jet black were procured from local brands and specialty shops.

In a corporate blog post, Scott Eckert, senior VP of next generation retail of Walmart and head of Store No. 8, said Jet black will “graduate” to join Walmart’s customer organization. What this actually means is Walmart will shut down Jet black as a standalone offering. But the discount giant intends to leverage technological features of Jet black, such as the ability to order via text and insights gained on what types of products consumers prefer to purchase via text, across its mainstream business.

“As we said in the beginning when we launched Jet black, part of the initiative was to start testing and building technology with the intent that it could be used in other ways, including applying it to other parts of our business,” Eckert said in the blog post. “Over the past few years, we’ve explored a number of areas in conversational commerce, from Jet black’s text-based ordering to voice ordering in pickup and delivery, all with the belief that this technology will be an important way Walmart serves customers in the future.”

According to CNBC, Jet black on Thursday notified customers via email and texts that it would no longer accept new orders, but would fulfill pending ones. It also said it would refund all customers their most recent $50 monthly membership fee. Walmart was reportedly losing $15,000 per month on the service.