BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Walmart has formed an alliance with Rakuten Inc., Japan’s largest online retailer.
The Walmart-Rakuten partnership — designed to leverages each company’s strengths and assets to expand consumer reach and enhance the way customers are served in Japan and the United States — was announced Thursday night after Walmart president and chief executive officer Doug McMillon met in Tokyo with Rakuten chairman, president and CEO Hiroshi Mikitani.
The collaboration includes a new online grocery delivery service in Japan that is set to launch in the third quarter. In addition, Walmart and Rakuten’s bookselling unit, Kobo Inc., have formed an exclusive retail alliance that will enable Walmart to begin selling electronic books, audiobooks and Rakuten Kobo e-Readers in Walmart stores and at Walmart.com in the United States from 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 e-books and audiobooks for our customers in the United States.”
Rakuten and Seiyu GK, a subsidiary of Walmart, intend to establish a joint venture that would introduce an online grocery delivery service in Japan, to be known as “Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper,” in the second half of the year.
Rakuten and Seiyu intend to leverage each of the company’s strengths to offer a more convenient shopping experience that meets the changing needs of Japanese shoppers, the companies said in a statement. Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper will increase fulfillment capacity, enrich the merchandise offering and improve convenience for the customer, according to the plan. The service aims to increase capacity in 2018 with the establishment of a dedicated fulfillment 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, according to the companies. 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 food and ready meal kits, as well as popular local gourmet products from merchants on the Rakuten Ichiba marketplace.
In addition, the service will utilize Rakuten’s expertise in e-commerce to offer a site with an optimized user experience, leveraging big data and artificial intelligence (AI) to offer a more personalized merchandise offering, the companies said. Customers using the new service will enjoy the benefit of being able to earn and use Rakuten Super Points, allowing them to use their points on more than 70 services within the Rakuten retail ecosystem.
The Walmart-Rakuten partnership calls for Walmart to become Rakuten Kobo’s exclusive mass retail partner for the Kobo brand in the United States, offering Kobo’s nearly 6 million titles from thousands of publishers and hundreds of thousands of authors to Walmart.com customers. Walmart will also sell digital book cards in stores, enabling more than 4,000 stores to carry a broader selection of books for customers. Digital 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.
“As global leaders in e-commerce and off-line shopping, Rakuten and Walmart are uniquely positioned to empower our customers around the world with innovative services,” Mikitani said. “We are excited to partner with Walmart because of its commitment to creating the best solutions to serve customers with low prices.”