Wal-Mart Developing Personal Shopping Services, Cashier-Free Stores
Wal-Mart's Code Eight, the first portfolio company in its newly launched incubator, Store No. 8, has started testing personal shopping services for moms in New York City, Recode reports. The service is targeted to “busy NYC moms ” who are "high net worth urban consumers" and will enable them to get product recommendations and make purchases simply through text messaging. The shopping service is currently focused on health, beauty, household essentials and apparel/accessories. Code Eight has told early users that they can order products simply by texting a photo of it. They can also message with a general request for a type of product they need, and leave it up to the service to pick the specific item for them. Customers fill out a survey upon joining to help personalize their experience. Household items are delivered for free within 24 hours and other purchases are delivered within two business days. Returns are picked up for free. Code Eight plans to eventually charge a membership fee, but current testers are using it for free, according to Recode. Store No. 8 is also working on another under-the-radar project, dubbed Project Kepler. Reportedly, the goal of the initiative is the creation of physical stores that would operate without checkout lines or cashiers, in a similar fashion to Amazon.com’s futuristic Amazon Go store, which was announced a year ago but has yet to open to the public.
Total Retail's Take: Code Eight was created by Wal-Mart to help it develop personalized, one-to-one shopping experiences. The portfolio company is being run by Jennifer Fleiss, the co-founder and former head of business development of Rent the Runway, a designer fashion rental company. When Wal-Mart spent $3 billion to acquire Jet.com, it said it wanted to use the addition to help expand its consumer base and offer a simple, easy shopping experience for its customers. That’s exactly what Wal-Mart seems to be doing by targeting “high net worth” people with personal shopping experiences. A rich city dweller is certainly not the target customer when you think of Wal-Mart, but things are changing as the retail chain tries to keep pace with Amazon. As for this initiative and Project Kepler, taken together, these initiatives mark a major leap in the vision for the type of business Wal-Mart will operate, and customers it will serve, five or 10 years down the line. However, both projects are in their early stages, and there's no guarantee that either will develop into a long-term business or launch widely.