Wal-Mart Company, Startup Latch Pitch NYC Landlords with Systems for Easier Delivery

By Keiko Morris Features Dow Jones Newswires

Jet.com Inc., the online retailer owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc., and real-estate technology startup Latch are aiming to expand their reach by offering a free system to New York City landlords to potentially make shopping online easier for tenants in nondoorman buildings.

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The companies are testing a program providing free installation of Latch's keyless technology for lobby entrances in 1,000 city buildings, said Luke Schoenfelder, Latch co-founder and chief executive. Focused initially in Brooklyn and Manhattan, the program aims to smooth out the logistical hassles of shopping online for the many urban residents who don't have building staff to accept deliveries when they aren't home.

"People are ordering so many things online," Mr. Schoenfelder said. "Access is holding that back because you need to be home in order for that to happen."

Latch's hardware and software system allows entry using methods such as a passcode, smartphone or a smart card. Delivery personnel will be able to use temporary passcodes generated with Jet.com orders to enter lobbies and drop off online purchases. The program, reported earlier in TechCrunch, could reach 100,000 people and allow the companies to test this type of keyless entry on a large scale.

Jet.com's teams have been working on ways to reduce online shopping difficulties faced by urban apartment dwellers. Jet.com, which is based in Hoboken, N.J., has many employees who live in urban areas and face similar issues, said Sumaiya Balbale, vice president of marketing for Jet.com.

"We are focused on identifying points of friction at every step of the e-commerce shopping experience," Ms. Balbale said.

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The buildings participating in the program haven't yet been identified. However, many of Latch's investors are connected to multigenerational family real-estate companies with apartment portfolios that could serve as a testing ground. Corigin Real Estate Group has deployed the technology. Another Latch investor Sterling VC, a venture arm of the Wilpon and Katz families' sports, media and real-estate businesses, is open to considering the idea.

"It's nice to test it out at a scale like this with a partner of Wal-Mart's size and ability," said Farzam Kamel, a partner at Sterling VC.

Write to Keiko Morris at Keiko.Morris@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 16, 2017 14:29 ET (18:29 GMT)