It’s been 13 days since the official launch of Jet.com, and speculation is flying about whether or not the new online marketplace will be able to topple Amazon from its e-commerce throne — or at least rock it a little.
Promoted as an online membership store, Montclair, N.J.-based Jet hopes to entice customers with low-cost products and bulk savings, profiting only from its monthly membership fees of $49.99 (waived for the first three months).
Although seemingly unorthodox to some, the site gives shoppers discounts or credits toward future purchases when they purchase with a debit card instead of a credit card, delay shipping or waive the free return option.
It's About the CX
Rick Chavie, CEO of Enterworks, a product information management solution, agrees Jet has some interesting things going for it, including publicity and venture backing.
But its success depends on the way it treats its customers.
“You can't ignore the consumer experience anymore,” he said. “People expect that consumer-type experience, and they expect a rich digital experience. What are Jet’s real plans to improve it?”
Here’s What Jet Can Do
1. Increase Inventory
Because consumers save more when they buy more, the success of the Jet model depends on customers purchasing in bulk.
However, because Jet is just starting out, said Chavie, the site doesn’t yet have enough assortment to persuade customers to purchase the large baskets the company is banking on.
For example, he told us that since football season is coming up, he tried a search for “football jersey” on the site. And, although the results came up with some footballs, equipment and a few jerseys, he didn’t think the selection was adequate.
“Customers need to buy a bigger basket; it’s hard to make their model work if they don’t,” he said. “They don’t have the logistics that Amazon does.”
Although Chavie added that it would take time, he is optimistic Jet can build up its selection, and chalks the current shortcomings up to growing pains.
The company is still in early stages, he said. “As they sign up more retailers, the assortment will scale up accordingly. Over time, retailers will add those things in that they can supply,” he added.
Jet will also need to increase brand awareness, he said. “They need to make a big splash to get the attention to scale up."
2. Improve Content
Another area that Jet needs to step up, said Chavie — especially if it wants to attract new brands — is content, including ratings and overall presentation of the products it offers.
"Currently, there is a discordance between what the brand and retailer want, and the consumer experience,” he said.
"The opportunities for Jet are to get a much better view, control and curation of content so that the image a brand wants to have in the market, and how it’s reflected are improved.”
He added that enabling great content, and having a consistent set of attributes that makes the site easily searchable in order to build a basket, will ultimately lead to a great experience.
“Eventually, they’ll need to compete on content in order to make the visual experience consistent with the brand experience. That’s when they really become a true force. People will try it, but they need a compelling way to encourage a repeatable shopping list and make it easy to shop.”
Offering the site in different languages, he added, could help Jet tap into customer segments they may not yet have considered.
3. Leverage Retailer Relationships
Finally, Chavie sees a major opportunity for Jet to compete with Amazon if it can leverage the relationships it has with retailers, and become a retailer advocate in the marketplace in a more friendly way.
For retailers struggling to optimize the omnichannel experience, Jet can provide scale and help improve their systems, he said.
And Jet is off to a good start, he added, because it is capitalizing on retailer interest to compete and providing a path for them to do so.
“Part of the brilliance of Jet is that they’re building on what retailers want to do to compete with Amazon,” Chavie said. “There are a bunch of retailers that want to compete, and don’t want their market share taken away.”
One way Jet is helping these retailers, said Chavie, is by providing them with customer information so they can do customer care and marketing after the purchase.
According to Jet’s Retail Partner FAQ’s, the company will allow customers to opt in to receive communication from retailers. For those who opt in, Jet will forward e-mail contacts to that retailer.
“This direct access to the consumer is different than Amazon,” he said.
To take it even further, Chavie said that Jet could incorporate ratings and provide retailers with information to help them understand why their offerings didn’t get chosen, and how they can tweak their offerings in the future.
This could also help retailers come up with alternative strategies such as how to take advantage of overstock and end-of-season clearances.
“It’s more of a retail play than a warehouse-centric model like Amazon,” he said. “Local retailers can not only encourage customers to shop on Jet, but if they get their name and email, the retailer can get them as a referral source, giving them another channel to get customers into the store.”
“It all comes down to the experience and great value,” he concluded. “Jet should build up their assortment and visual experience to where the value that is there outweighs the challenges to shop.”
Title image by Sharon Mollerus.