Here’s How The Jet.com Buying Experience Stacks Up Against Amazon

From Forbes on June 21, 2016:

It’s been nearly a year since Jet.com, a direct challenger to the Amazon.com e-commerce empire, launched onto the retail scene. And over this relatively short time period, Jet.com has dropped its initial membership model, instead offering free shipping on orders over $35, two-day delivery on common household essentials, and an almost game show style shopping experience where customers unlock new deals and discounts when they waive free returns, buy in multiples, pay with debit cards, or add specific items to their online carts. On paper, this business model seems like a surefire way to gain savings-hungry, free shipping-loving shoppers’ attention. So is Jet.com making inroads with consumers? Or is the site destined to become another blip on Amazon’s radar, à la once hot flash-sale sites like One Kings Lane? For this analysis, we’ll take a look at Prosper Insights & Analytics’ latest consumer insights on Jet.com shoppers – including repeat purchasers – as well as how the Jet.com shopping experience stacks up against Jeff Bezos’ behemoth.

What’s playing into Jet.com’s favor is shoppers’ awareness of the website. Prosper’s June 2016 consumer survey of more than 6,000 U.S. adults found that the majority of shoppers (51.7%) have at least heard of Jet.com, rising nearly 200% since we first asked the question back in August 2015. As of June, however, fewer than one in 20 adults (4.5%) confirm they’ve purchased from Jet.com; among these shoppers, just 35.2% report that they’ve bought from Jet.com again since their initial transaction – a figure which seems rather lackluster, given recent reports of Amazon Prime membership retention rates.

Jet.com Awareness: June 2016 versus August 2015

So what’s keeping Jet.com from winning over customers? To fully explore the Jet.com experience, I recently placed an order while simultaneously clicking the “buy” button on the same basket of items over at Amazon: a head-to-head match-up, if you will. To keep the two retailers on an even playing field, I ignored the 15% off coupon code presented on Jet.com and bought from an Amazon account not linked to a Prime membership (and its two-day shipping perk). To summarize: two orders, three items apiece (Energizer batteries, KIND snack bars, and Fujifilm Instax cameras), standard shipping (free at a $35 order minimum for Jet.com and $49 for Amazon), and no offer codes. Overall, my orders with both sites were processed seamlessly and packed/shipped/delivered very quickly, even without an expedited shipping selection. I automatically received free two-day shipping on my KIND bar and battery “essentials” from Jet.com; this package, along with a second shipment containing the camera, arrived two days after I placed my order. My full Amazon order arrived one day later. While I had to wait an extra 24 hours for my Amazon delivery, I saved more than $10 on this order. The batteries and snack bars were comparably priced on both sites, but Amazon was the clear winner on the camera (which also included a bonus incentive to use at Shutterfly). Granted, I could have saved an extra $1.64 to waive my rights to free returns on Jet.com, but as a first-time buyer, I opted not to do so.

Jet.com versus Amazon.com: Receipts

It appears that a big positive of the Jet.com experience was its no-nonsense, free two-day shipping on household essentials (with a $35 minimum order), which includes a wide variety of commonly used products, ranging from groceries to personal care to household supplies. These are items that Amazon typically sells as a “Pantry” offering to Prime members only, where shoppers can fill a box of goods with such items – and are charged a $5.99 shipping fee for delivery. For shoppers not wanting (or not having the budgets for) membership accounts, but who desire the convenience of ordering everyday items online, Jet.com seems to be the winner in this category. However, Amazon’s expanding Prime Now delivery service (with its free two-hour delivery) may mitigate this “essentials” shipping expense issue among the retailer’s devotees.

That said, Jet.com clearly advocates higher-volume orders. Shoppers have the options of buying in bulk, receiving discounts for multiple quantities, and unlocking discounts on other items when they add specific merchandise to their carts. Certainly, it’s an interesting mix of bargain buying and treasure hunting, but one almost expects a Pat Sajak-esque personality to pop up in the middle of browsing, offering up a discounted trip to the Caribbean when shoppers add snorkel gear to their baskets. Admittedly, Jet.com’s discount “game show” is a little distracting and perhaps has already resulted in some regretful purchases. My advice: hold onto your right to free returns.

Here’s the glaring drawback of Jet.com, though: no reviews.

The camera I ordered from Jet.com was shipped via a third party seller, which was not evident until I reached the check-out and, even then, did not offer any other information on the seller – such as the critical ratings and reviews from customers. While Jet.com makes its customer service readily available (I didn’t interact with them), buying from an unfamiliar, un-reviewed third party felt a little risky, even though the transaction proceeded smoothly. It’s a quite different story over at Amazon, where shoppers have access to sellers’ ratings and reviews; customers may even send messages to sellers with any questions.

Further, the “no review” issue extends to the products Jet.com offers on its website. Prosper’s research indicates that more than eight out of ten consumers (86.1%) regularly or occasionally research products online – and their top information destination is Amazon (34.2%) over second choice Google (19.0%). With this in mind, it seems that serving as a de facto search engine and a convenience to shoppers, Amazon’s reviews drive traffic – and potential purchasers – to its website. Additionally, brands selling through Amazon recently confirmed that items with low reviews sold better than those with no reviews. Lacking the ability to see, feel, and examine potential purchases, it appears that online shoppers rely on product reviews to make informed, confident purchase decisions, and Jet.com offers shoppers none of that.

At the end of the day, Amazon is disrupting the retail industry by providing shoppers with an exceptional shopping experience. The website that Bezos built has earned the trust and loyalty of shoppers by offering a wide selection of products at value-oriented price points, easing the buying process by helping shoppers make informed purchase decisions, and – the cherry on top – providing stellar customer service. It’s a retail business model not easily replicated – and it appears that Jet.com can attest to that.

Pam Goodfellow is Principal Analyst/Consumer Insights Director for Prosper Insights & Analytics™ and editor of the monthly Consumer Snapshot.

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