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10/15/2021

Walmart Tests Text Shopping, Again

Jamie Grill-Goodman
Senior Editor
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Walmart is moving closer to bringing another digital shopping channel to consumers — text shopping.

The retailer’s incubation arm Store No8 and Walmart’s Global Tech team are testing the beta experience Walmart Text to Shop. The test is currently going on with customers in select areas and is personalized to the specific shopper.

“We’re learning a lot about when and how customers prefer a conversational experience, and we look forward to making this more widely available in the future,” Dominique Essig, VP of Conversational Commerce, Store No8, said in a statement. She noted that Walmart has offered voice shopping for years, but text shopping is “just getting warmed up.

“We started and first built voice shopping in early 2019,” Essig says in the video below. Walmart and Google partnered on conversational commerce back in 2019, introducing Walmart Voice Order. The launch allowed for customers with Google Assistant to use voice to ask Google to add items directly to their Walmart grocery cart. Later that year, Walmart partnered with Apple to make Walmart Voice Order available on Siri.

Bringing Text to Shop to Life

Walmart’s beta test isn’t the first time the mega retailer is dipping its toes into text shopping.

Back in 2018, Walmart's personal shopping venture Code Eight rebranded itself as Jet black. Jet black was the first portfolio company to launch from Store No. 8. Led by Rent the Runway co-founder Jenny Fleiss, an RIS Top Women in Retail Tech in 2019, it offered its members the ability to text nearly any shopping request to be fulfilled by Jet black and delivered same or next day for a $50 per month service fee.

In early 2020, Walmart discontinued the text-based, personal-shopping service, saying that Jet black will “graduate from incubation” to join Walmart’s Customer Organization. Scott Eckert, SVP Next Generation Retail and Principal, Store No. 8, noted at the time that Walmart was eager to apply its learnings from Jet black and “leverage its core capabilities within Walmart.

He also noted the retailer had learned how customers respond to being able to order by text, as well as what type of items they purchase through texting. In the video below, Essing, who formerly held the position of chief product officer at Jet black, shares learnings as well. 

“Jet black was really focused with the idea of testing new technologies for the business. And we learned a really interesting insight: customers really enjoy talking to brands. So our conversational commerce team is focused on that.”

She later notes that she thinks multimodal experiences are incredibly important for customers. “We see this today as customers jump between apps, desktop, and mobile web, as they’re going about their tasks and conversational experiences aren’t any different at all.”

In addition to offering consumers yet another way to shop, a key differentiator the new Walmart Text to Shop experience is that it offers a gift every busy parent can relate to — less choice.

“In addition to helping our busy families with this simple solution, a key benefit of this new service is that it’s personalized just for them,” Essing said in the statement. “By understanding our customers’ preferences, we also solve the paradox of choice and save them time by serving up what we know they love best. Most importantly, we offer Walmart customers the opportunity to shop no matter where they are, and to communicate naturally by simply asking for what they want, any way they want.

Watch the video below for more on conversational commerce, multimodal experiences, and  leveraging voice.