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Walmart Announces Strategic Alliance with Rakuten

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Walmart Corporate LogoThe saying, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” applies to a new ecommerce alliance announced today between Rakuten and Walmart as they feel the heat from Amazon’s continuing growth.

Rakuten went up against Amazon and eBay after it acquired Buy.com, and while it attracted third-party merchants, it struggled to attract name recognition among US shoppers. Now, it’s entering into an alliance with Walmart.

The companies will launch online grocery delivery service in Japan and new eBooks and audiobooks offering in the US.

In a blog post about the new ebook and audiobook offerings, Walmart indicated it was looking to add new categories, products and brands, and advised shoppers to “stay tuned, there is more to come.”

Press release follows:

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Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. president and CEO Doug McMillon and Rakuten, Inc. Chairman, president and CEO Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani met in Tokyo today to announce a new strategic alliance that leverages each company’s unique strengths and assets to expand consumer reach and enhance how customers are served in Japan and the U.S.

The collaboration includes the launch of a new online grocery delivery service in Japan beginning in the third quarter of 2018. In addition, Walmart and Rakuten Kobo Inc. have formed an exclusive retail alliance that will enable Walmart to begin selling eBooks and audiobooks, as well as offer Rakuten Kobo eReaders, in Walmart stores and online at Walmart.com in the United States starting later this year.

“Rakuten is a strong e-commerce business and we’re excited to collaborate with the top online shopping destination in Japan,” McMillon said. “Here in Japan and everywhere we operate, we’re constantly exploring new ways to make every day easier for customers by offering great experiences in stores, online, via mobile—no matter how customers want to shop. We look forward to expanding our grocery footprint in Japan and launching a new offering of eBooks and audiobooks for our customers in the U.S.”

Mikitani said, “As global leaders in e-commerce and offline shopping, Rakuten and Walmart are uniquely positioned to empower our customers around the world with innovative services.” He added, “We are excited to partner with Walmart because of its commitment to creating the best solutions to serve customers with low prices.”

Japan online grocery delivery service
Rakuten and Seiyu GK, a subsidiary of Walmart, have reached a basic agreement to establish a joint venture with the aim of launching a new online grocery delivery service in Japan, to be known as “Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper.” The new service is planned to be launched in the latter half of 2018.

Rakuten and Seiyu will launch a new online grocery delivery service leveraging each of the companies’ strengths to offer a more convenient shopping experience that meets the changing needs of customers in Japan. Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper will aim to increase fulfillment capacity, enrich the merchandise offering and improve convenience for the customer. The service will aim to increase capacity in 2018 with the establishment of a dedicated fulfilment center, in addition to offering deliveries from Seiyu stores.

The new service’s merchandise offering will showcase Seiyu’s twin strengths of “quality” and “low prices.” To serve the needs of customers increasingly short on time for preparation, the service will include not only fresh produce and daily consumables but also a rich lineup of convenient items such as cut vegetables, partially-prepared foods and ready-meal kits, as well as popular local gourmet products from merchants on the Rakuten Ichiba marketplace.

Furthermore, the new service will utilize Rakuten’s deep expertise in e-commerce to offer a site with an optimized user experience, as well as leveraging big data and AI to offer a more personalized merchandise offering.

Customers using the new service will enjoy the benefit of being able to earn and use Rakuten Super Points, also allowing them to use their points on more than 70 services within the Rakuten ecosystem.

Rakuten Kobo U.S. eReading Service
As part of this alliance, Walmart will become Rakuten Kobo’s exclusive mass retail partner for the Kobo brand in the U.S., offering Kobo’s nearly six million titles from thousands of publishers and hundreds of thousands of authors to Walmart.com customers. Walmart.com will offer eBooks and audiobooks for sale later this year. Walmart will also sell digital book cards in stores, enabling more than 4,000 stores to carry a broader selection of books for customers.

All eBook content will be accessible through a Walmart/Kobo co-branded app available on all iOS and Android devices, a desktop app and Kobo e-Readers, which will also be sold at Walmart later this year.

“Walmart is one of the top retailers in the world and one of the largest booksellers in the U.S. Our strategy from day one has been to partner with the world’s best retailers, so that they can easily offer their customers the option of reading digitally. This informs the software and devices we create, the books and authors we promote, and also the partnerships we build,” said Rakuten Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn. “For us, this is another great opportunity to serve book lovers at Walmart, those people who make reading an important part of their lives.”

SOURCE: Walmart Press Release

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.