I find it peculiar that Walmart bid such a hefty price for the 1 year ecommerce website Jet.com. To be honest with you, when there were so much halabaloo about jet.com a couple of years ago with big investors behind the start-up, I really did not know what the fuss was all about. I did order a couple of things from jet.com but the experience was nothing short of earth shattering or that much different to any other online shop site.
Along came the news that Walmart had acquired Jet.com for a princely sum of 3.3 billion dollars which made me even more puzzled regarding the nature of this purchase. I read the articles that came about on Google news site and how the ecommerce magician Marc Lore, founder of Jet.com was instrumental in this large transaction. Then it occurred to me that something that the user could not perceive from the front-end but the back-end which made Jet.com attractive to Walmart. Ultimately, I had to play a guessing game as to what was crucial on the backend that was so appealing to Walmart and to fork out over $3 billion for a year old startup. Unfortunately, I could find much but as I continued to write this post I did have some ideas to the reasons for this acquisition. Having been in the online business domain for over 30 years in both front-end and back-end, I will offer you some of my thinking.
1: Is Walmart going to replace it’s online ecommerce engine with that of Jet?
I have never been a happy camper of Walmart’s user interface for buying online. In fact, the whole ecommerce engine that Walmart has is a joke by any standards. The other day, I made a purchase online for pickup at my nearest Walmart store. I then proceeded to pay online, but before that I remembered that I had something saved in the favorites section. So I went about looking for this item and didn’t have much success as I navigated around for a while. I had no idea what they did with that, because I distinctively remember that I got irritated trying to save those items into Walmart’s favorite section. There were so many steps that I almost gave up but I eventually was able to save this item but then needed to learn how to retrieve it. In the ecommerce world, users simply do not have to go through so many hoops just to do something as simple as saving to favorite lists. I always give Amazon, the king of ecommerce as an example of how to really do it. So marks to Walmart regarding the feature -add favorites – 2/10.
2: The purpose of ecommerce is to make life easy for the end user.
I hate to say this but Walmart’s ecommerce is pretty much screwed up and feel embarrassed knowing that it is the largest retailer in the world. I took a break from the days work and went back to the Walmart site to check on my order and then I was greeted with the screen (Fig. 1). What I thought to myself, I only saw the order a few hours ago and that it was being processed and now they are saying that. I went into My Account and then tried to locate the order this way and low and behold the order was in their system despite what the home page was claiming, phew I thought.
Continuing on the saga of my simple order for a BISSELL 3 in 1 Stick Vacuum, I was notified on the site about when I could pick it up. You will see in Fig. 2 the message that the order would be ready by 8:08 p.m. Aug 12th which was the same message I sawÂ yesterday? I know how damning it can be to get hold of Walmart support but I thought I would give it a try and located the number to call about my online order by following a set of questions on their help page. I was prepared for a long wait and followed the voice commands. Instead of being patched through to the representative I thought I would try their voice commands to locate the order. Initially asked for my phone no and returned with could not locate order. Tried the actual order no and guess what could not locate the order. Finally I had no option but to talk to a rep. The person on the phone seemed a bit placid but was trying to help me. He told me that even though he could see the order on his end the actual order was not able to retrieve it. He asked me whether I wanted to cancel the order or for him to try the store and see if he could resolve the problem. I replied that I was hoping that I would have the item soonÂ and how long it would take. There was a long brief silence and either he could not hear me or I could not hear him and I hung up. Just to buy a simple thing like this, one needs to go through all this hassle, no wonder people just buy from Amazon.
Going back to what I was saying about the acquisition of Jet.com. Was this done to fill those glaring gaps on their online system shown above. I do not believe for one second that a purchase of jet.com is going to resolve those blatant issues that I faced. Personally if they hired me, I could have sorted out those glaring issues at fraction, fraction, fraction of the cost.
On a personal level, if Walmart actually thinks that it can capture some of the Amazon’s online share, then they should think twice. Amazon has been around since 1996 and they have simply got not only their engine down but also their distribution system down to a T. Amazon will continue to grow and grow and Walmart can only do more catching up. Granted, that Walmart has a huge distribution infrastructure but so has Amazon. Will the jet.com change their fortunes? I do not think so, look towards another 3 years where the game would have hardly changed. To overlook the obvious shortcomings of one’s ecommerce system means that management unfortunately are gearing up for trouble.
Look to the new posts that are arriving day by day talking about this odd acquisition.