Walmart announced on Friday that it is partnering up with Japan’s Rakuten to launch a new online grocery store in Japan and the sale of e-books, audiobooks and e-readers in the U.S by Rakuten’s subsidiary Kobo.
Walmart said that both the retailers will be collaborating to launch an online grocery service that will replace Seiyu, Walmart’s existing online delivery service in Japan. The new co-created store will be operated by both Rakuten and Seiyu and will be named as “Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper”.
The online grocery service is set to launch in the third quarter of 2018.
The Seiyu stores will not be replaced completely, as some of the customers (depending on their geography) will continue getting their groceries from their local Seiyu stores while other customers may get their orders from the new co-branded store.
Walmart’s online grocery service in all of its markets including U.K, Canada, China, Mexico, Chile, Argentina and India, is focused at home delivery and same will be the case with the “Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper.”
Currently, in the U.S.A, Walmart home delivers groceries (with additional fees) to customers using the services of its third-party partners like Uber. Similarly, in Japan, the customer orders will be home delivered by the local delivering services.
The Tokyo-based Rakuten, using its e-commerce expertise, big data and artificial intelligence capabilities will craft the website for the new venture.
“Rakuten is a strong e-commerce business and we’re excited to collaborate with the top
online shopping destination in Japan,” stated Walmart president and CEO Doug McMillon. “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.”
Both Walmart and Rakuten are joining their forces to mutually fight against the rival e-commerce retailer Amazon. For this purpose, Walmart has teamed up with some large-scale companies including Google.
Another significant initiative that will rise from the tie-up is the availability of Kobo’s e-books and audiobooks on Walmart’s website. The alliance will allow Walmart to sell 6 million e-books and audiobooks, giving the e-commerce giant a chance to combat Amazon Kindle’s dominance in e-books and e-readers.
Kobo is the second largest e-reader manufacturer and has been really innovative with its products and hardware. Although Kobo offered some of the latest versions of the e-book before Amazon, the Rakuten-backed company couldn’t develop a strong user base in the U.S. However, by partnering with Walmart, Kobo can easily prove its capabilities and unseat Kindle.
“Kobo has been very successful in working with market-leading book retailers around the world to provide a very competitive experience in the e-book space,” Rakuten Kobo CEO, Michael Tamblyn told TechCrunch.
“We’re very excited to come to the U.S. and bring e-books and audiobooks to Walmart, and take advantage of the scale that a market leader and a leading bookseller like Walmart can provide,” he added.
Walmart and Kobo, together, will roll out an e-reading app for Android and iOS just like Amazon’s Kindle app.
Just like Amazon, Kobo’s product selection will also be fully integrated online. Means that, that if a customer likes a book on Walmart’s shopping website, he/she will be able to choose from an e-book, an audiobook or even a physical book from the same site.
As Walmart is moving its attention towards online stores, unlikely Amazon is coming towards physical stores. Amazon launched its “Amazon Books” stores around some of the major cities in U.S.A where it offers a huge variety of physical books to customers. Amazon also acquired Whole Foods and launched Amazon Go stores, in an effort to establish an offline empire against Walmart.