The head of Walmart's invite-only shopping service explains why choice is overrated

jennifer fleisse business of homeCourtesy of Business of Home

  • Jennifer Fleiss, cofounder and CEO of Walmart's text-based personal-shopping service Jetblack, says that, when it comes to shopping, too much choice can be a bad thing.
  • Fleiss, who cofounded Rent the Runway before joining the Arkansas-based retail giant, spoke on Tuesday at the Business of Home's first Future of Home conference in New York City.
  • The Jetblack CEO spoke about her company's focus on curating products for members based on their past preferences.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Shoppers want options. But e-commerce companies aren't doing customers any favors by providing them with an overwhelming number of choices, according to Jetblack CEO Jennifer Fleiss.

The e-commerce executive spoke with Business of Home editor-in-chief Kaitlin Petersen at the home industry outlet's inaugural Future of Home conference in Manhattan on Tuesday. Fleiss, who also cofounded Rent the Runway in 2009, explained how her company seeks to avoid giving consumers decision fatigue.

Jetblack is Walmart's members-only, text-based personal-shopping service. The exclusive e-commerce service costs members $50 a month and requires prospective shoppers to join a waitlist. The subsidiary was formed through Walmart's startup incubator Store No. 8.

Fleiss said that Jetblack's goal is to make shopping both "more enjoyable" and "efficient" for its members. And that means curating items based on a consumer's personal preferences.

Read more: The head of Walmart's invite-only shopping service dishes on what wealthy customers want out of the future of shopping

"Imagine if you were to ask Jetblack for the perfect stroller and it was like, 'Here's 10,000 results,'" Fleiss said.

In the case of Jetblack, the company simply can't support a comprehensive list of options, as it's text-based. But nonetheless, Fleiss said that increased "personalization" is key for e-commerce, as shoppers increasingly "don't want to take that time" parsing through scores of products.

The example of a child's bike helmet also came up in the conversation between Petersen and Fleiss.

"What we've done on the back end is - let's say I know a ton about you, your kid's age and head size and all that," Fleiss said. "There's still tens of thousands of helmets to choose from, but I never want to show you more than two."

So Jetblack relies on a team of "expert merchants, curators, influencers, tastemakers" in order to "refine the set of thousands of helmets to maybe a hundred."

That's when Jetblack will delve into the member's personal preferences, relying on questions the service had previously send out to customers. Fleiss said the company will whittle its list of around 100 or so products down to a handful of choices.

"We have to get you to the right products for you," Fleiss said.

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