Is Walmart aiming for a new customer with personalized text shopping?
Walmart has been pursuing an image makeover in the past few years. But its latest move appears to take the chain even farther away from its traditional core customer base.
A subsidiary of Walmart headed by Rent the Runway founder Jennifer Fleiss called Code Eight is testing a personal shopping service, according to Recode.
The service, aimed at “busy NYC moms” and “high net worth urban consumer[s],” lets users get product recommendations and make purchases via text message. Users can text the personal shopper general information about a type of product, make a specific request, or send a photo of an item they want. Walmart will deliver household items and pick up returns at no charge. The retailer plans to eventually charge for the service, but beta testers are using it for free. Human personal assistants are most likely receiving the users’ texts at this point, but Code Eight may intend to automate the process in the future.
Many have observed that “high net worth urban consumers” being targeted by the service are a far cry from the core customer typically associated with the low-price, big box chain.
But exploring new technological avenues and courting new customer bases is in keeping with Walmart’s recent attempts at reinvention, which the chain has pursued at least in part to keep pace with Amazon.
Since its 2016 acquisition of e-commerce startup Jet.com, Walmart has thus far acquired the Millennial-targeted indie brands, ModCloth, MooseJaw, Bonobos and Shoebuy.com (and was in talks to purchase makeup subscription box service Birchbox). While the ModCloth acquisition generated online outrage from the brand’s loyal customers due to Walmart’s reputation as a corporate giant, it nevertheless pointed to the chain’s attempt to court a new audience.
Walmart has also begun pursuing environmental initiatives like Project Gigaton, a project meant to reduce greenhouse gases produced by its supply chain.
And the chain’s Silicon Valley tech incubator, Store No. 8 (of which Code Eight is a part), demonstrates a desire to be at the forefront of retail technology development.
But in courting an urban luxury shopper, Code Eight appears to move even farther from Walmart’s core customer base than these other acquisitions and initiatives.
- Walmart is developing a personal-shopper service for rich moms — and a store with no cashiers – Recode
- Should Walmart buy Birchbox? – RetailWire
- Will Project Gigaton give Walmart a sustaintable competitive edge? – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What does Code Eight indicate about Walmart’s ambitions and does the personal shopping initiative make sense? How can Walmart best position itself to cater to high-end, urban consumers?