Eye on Retail: Walmart in big overhaul of Jet.com
Walmart is making some big changes at the online retail startup it bought for $3.3 billion in 2016.
The discount giant is merging Jet.com’s retail, technology, marketing, analytics and products teams into the rest of its digital business. The role of president of Jet will be eliminated, and Simon Belsham, who currently holds the title, will leave the company in early August. Walmart announced the changes in a blog post.
“Bringing together talent from Jet and Walmart into joint teams has created more opportunity for our business and our people,” said Marc Lore, founder of Jet.com and president and CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S. “With the teams creating synergy and Jet becoming even more focused, we don’t have the same need for a dedicated leader.”
Moving forward, Jet’s team leaders will report to Kieran Shanahan, who oversees Walmart’s online food, consumables and health-and-wellness categories. Jet will continue to operate as a standalone site.
The changes come as Walmart’s overall digital business is booming, with 40% year-over-year growth in 2018. At the same time, many industry experts say that Jet has not lived up to Walmart’s initial hopes. In September, Walmart repositioned the site, with faster delivery, new merchandise offerings, more personalization and localization — and a shopping experience tailored to specific needs of urban areas, starting with New York City.
“Jet continues to be a very valuable brand to us, and it is playing a specific role in helping Walmart reach urban customers,” Lore said in his blog post. “The focus has largely been on NY so far, and we’re looking at other cities where we might bring together Jet’s expertise and the scale and operating model of Walmart. “
In a report released in January, digital intelligence firm Jumpshot said that Jet was losing its distinct identity and that transactions on the site were down 56% year-over-year. The report, “Retail Winners, Losers and Amazon,” noted that Jet’s paid search traffic fell from 17.4 million visits in the first quarter of 2017 to under four million in the third quarter of 2018.
In the statement discussing the changes, Lore noted that “we saw we could get a much higher return on our marketing investments with Walmart.com, so we’ve dialed up our marketing spend there.” He also acknowledged that Jet’s new urban focus has made it a smaller brand from a sales perspective.
“However, in specific large cities where Walmart has few or no stores, Jet has become hyper-focused on those urban customers,” Lore said.“It added iconic local brands in New York and brought in products from brands like Apple and Nike that you haven’t seen on Walmart.com. While this has made Jet smaller from a sales perspective, it has helped us create a smart portfolio approach where our businesses complement each other.”
In a report, Reuters cited data from Kantar that showed the number of US households that shopped on Jet.com in January 2019 was 2%, down from 3% during the same period three years ago. Reuters said it was told by current and former Jet employees that the site is struggling to keep up its sales momentum and hit revenue goals.
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