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The Observer has an interview with Jennifer Fleiss, who is running Jetblack, Walmart's concierge service in New York City, in which she talks about the goal of the startup.

The motivation behind Jetblack, she says, is "'I’m a busy mom with three kids and constantly needing to purchase everything from paper towels to kid birthday gifts to you know… clothing for myself to wear to work (or to workout).' It can be really time consuming and inefficient. It’s made shopping into a chore, to the point where I had people, like my husband and housekeeper, texting me about stuff that we needed for the household. Sometimes, I would text myself as a reminder. This customer behavior of texting-to-shop for any product you want, that’s what Jetblack came out of - both a passion and a need that I felt as the consumer."

The goal, though it may seem counterintuitive, actually is to make e-commerce less transactional.

Fleiss goes on: "We’ve sort of returned to the idea of customization and attention, with e-commerce coming full circle and borrowing from retail’s interaction-heavy strategy. Perhaps at the end of the day, shoppers want someone to explain how something works or make recommendations, not just get a product shipped to them in a box … with Jetblack, it’s a combination of agents and bots. We have agents behind the scenes who are leveraging a dashboard that we built, and the dashboard has a lot of automated tools. It has many types of filters that will automatically pop up, depending on who the customer is. So the moment we get someone’s text, we know who it is and have a pre-filter based for, say, their children’s age or other preferences … Eventually, we’ll become better and able to service more and more customers quickly."
KC's View:
The Jetblack business model may make a lot of sense in certain markets, though I suspect that the economics may end up being challenging until a certain mass is achieved.

But, I must admit that I'm sort of amused by a Walmart executive talking so openly about texting back and forth with the housekeeper. Nothing wrong with that, but it certainly speaks volumes about how different Jetblack is from the company's core/traditional business. And I always wonder how long such non-core businesses can survive in the Walmart ecosystem.