Walmart, Jet.com see 2 Amer­i­cas for on­line sales

New York Post - - BUSINESS - By LISA FICKENSCHER lfick­en­scher@ny­post.com

Walmart brass feels its brand may not be the best when it comes to sell­ing to ur­ban cus­tomers.

The dis­count giant will have its youngish Jet.com ecom­merce unit fo­cus on shop­pers in large cities while the 55-year-old dis­counter’s on­line store will fo­cus on the rest of the coun­try, The Post has learned.

The two-Amer­i­cas strat­egy — Jet.com for ur­ban mil­len­nial cus­tomers and Walmart for the re­main­der of the coun­try — was dis­closed re­cently to a town hall meet­ing of Jet.com em­ploy­ees at the 3-year-old com­pany’s Hobo­ken, NJ, head­quar­ters.

The news left some Jet.com em­ploy­ees de­flated. They felt Walmart bought their startup in Au­gust 2016 for $3.3 bil­lion to have it lead the dis­counter’s on­line charges across the coun­try.

To be sure, other Jet.com em­ploy­ees were re­lieved to hear Walmart’s strat­egy. They feared their beloved, ag­gres­sive e-com­merce com­pany would sim­ply be sub­sumed by Walmart — mined for its tech­nol­ogy and then tossed aside.

Those left dis­ap­pointed by the Walmart strat­egy hoped that Jet.com would scale up and be­come the for­mi­da­ble com­peti­tor it had started out as — tak­ing on all com­ers, in­clud­ing the mighty Ama­zon, and un­der­cut­ting them on price.

Jet.com’s in­vestors were cer­tainly sold on its tra­jec­tory, throw­ing more than $500 mil­lion at it only a year af­ter its launch in 2014 by co-founder Marc Lore, who sold his pre­vi­ous com­pany, Di­a­pers.com, to Ama­zon in 2010.

“Jet thought it was in there for the Ama­zon war, that it would be lead­ing the charge,” said a source with knowl­edge of the meet­ing.

A spokes­woman for Jet.com said the mes­sage from se­nior lead­er­ship is that Jet.com is “hon­ing its fo­cus on reach­ing ur­ban mil­len­nial shop­pers [in New York, Bos­ton, San Fran­cisco and Chicago] through in­no­va­tions as well as by of­fer­ing pre­mium as­sort­ments and pre­mium prod­ucts on Jet.com.”

“The folks in Iowa and Kansas can still shop with us, but we are fo­cus­ing on the ur­ban shop­per,” added the spokes­woman, Mered­ith Klein.

While Walmart’s cus­tomers shop at its 4,700 stores and on Walmart.com for bar­gains, Jet.com’s ur­ban cus­tomers are not get­ting the same deals, The Post dis­cov­ered. (See story at left.)

The mar­riage between the Ben­tonville, Ark., be­he­moth and its city slicker bride al­ways rep­re­sented a clash of cul­tures and ex­pec­ta­tions, say in­dus­try ex­perts.

Shortly af­ter the ac­qui­si­tion was com­pleted, Walmart put the ki­bosh on Jet.com’s Thurs­day-evening happy hours be­cause Walmart has a pol­icy against drink­ing in the of­fice, The Wall Street Jour­nal re­ported.

“Peo­ple were not thrilled,” Jet.com Pres­i­dent Liza Lands­man told The Jour­nal.

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