Updated from 9:37 a.m. to include additional details about the deal.
The world's largest retailer said Monday it will acquire Jet.com for $3 billion in cash. It will also give Jet.com $300 million worth of Walmart shares, which will be paid out over time.
Jet.com founder Marc Lore -- a long-time e-commerce entrepreneur known for selling well-regarded online platform Quidsi to Amazon (AMZN - Get Report) in 2010 -- and members of his executive team will get undisclosed management roles at the company, a source familiar with the situation told TheStreet. Lore is rumored to be ready to take the reins of Walmart's e-commerce operations.
The source said Walmart had "engagement" with Jet for a "while," but didn't disclose when talks between the two companies became more serious.
In Jet, said the source, Walmart recognizes an experienced management team in digital retail. Lore in particular is an expert in the space, the source said, and he could provide very valuable knowledge on e-commerce.
Walmart shares recently fell a fraction of a percentage point to $73.
Wall Street seems bullish on the potential impact of Lore, too. "Quidsi was known for its industry-leading same-day delivery and warehouse optimization, attributes Amazon likely benefited from and ones that can be valuable for Walmart," wrote Morgan Stanley analyst Simeon Gutman in a new note Monday.
Walmart expects the deal to close later this year.
"We're looking for ways to lower prices, broaden our assortment and offer the simplest, easiest shopping experience because that's what our customers want," said Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart, in a statement.
McMillon added, "We believe the acquisition of Jet accelerates our progress across these priorities. Walmart.com will grow faster, the seamless shopping experience we're pursuing will happen quicker, and we'll enable the Jet brand to be even more successful in a shorter period of time. Our customers will win. It's another jolt of entrepreneurial spirit being injected into Walmart."
According to the source, Walmart is particularly keen on Jet's "smart cart" technology. The technology recommends savings opportunities to customers such as increasing item quantities, buying items that ship from the same location, waiving returns and using a low-fee payment method.
Walmart executives probably see several other attractive synergies.
Jet leads Walmart in how much online business it does in consumer products, according to market research firm Slice Intelligence, which points out that the health and beauty and grocery and gourmet food categories each accounted for over 12% of Jet's revenue over the past year.
Given that items such as makeup and food need to be constantly replenished by customers, Walmart gains access to a lucrative recurring business in scooping up Jet. Furthermore, three of Jet's five top product categories do not overlap with Walmart's, said Slice.
Meanwhile, Jet and Walmart are both strong in the electronics and accessories and home and kitchen areas online. The two categories combined to make up over 50% of sales on Walmart's site in the last year, and almost 40% on Jet. By buying Jet, Walmart could become more of a go-to place for electronics and more effectively challenge the likes of Amazon and Best Buy (BBY - Get Report) .
Finally, Jet could help Walmart diversify its customer base. According to Slice, Walmart's core customer is more likely to be female, less educated and slightly older than Jet's. In effect, Jet would give Walmart access to a higher-income customer that likely is in a position to spend more online and in its super centers throughout the year.
And make no mistake about it: Walmart could use more customers for its online business. Walmart's e-commerce sales were about $14 billion last year -- a mere 3% of its $482 billion in annual sales.
Further, the business likely remains unprofitable. "Walmart has been losing money in e-commerce for many years. The last published metric was over $1 billion in losses two years ago," points out Gutman, adding, "Losses are expected to narrow over time, but we are not sure this is the case."
Amazon's revenue, meanwhile, was $107 billion last year, including its web-services business. Amazon is profitable.
Executives at Walmart pledged last fall to invest some $2 billion to bolster its e-commerce business by building new fulfillment centers, adding more products to its website and more recently, debuting a two-day free-shipping service to compete against Amazon Prime.
Despite these efforts, however, Walmart's online sales growth has continued to slow, likely causing the bricks-and-mortar retailer to see more appeal in Jet.
Jet's sales in July grew 168% year over year, according to Slice. Walmart's online sales, meanwhile, grew only 30% over the same time period, excluding the holiday season, although likely from a much larger base.