Wal-Mart Stores Inc. President and CEO Doug McMillon and Rakuten Inc. Chairman, president and CEO Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani have formed a strategic alliance to grow consumer reach and enhance how customers are served in Japan and the United States.
The partnership includes the launch of a new online grocery delivery service in Japan beginning in the latter half of 2018, as well as an exclusive retail alliance between Walmart and Toronto-based Rakuten subsidiary Rakuten Kobo Inc. enabling the Bentonville, Ark.-based mega-retailer to sell ebooks and audiobooks, along with Rakuten Kobo eReaders, in Walmart stores and online at Walmart.com in the United States starting later this year.
“Rakuten is a strong ecommerce business, and we’re excited to collaborate with the top online shopping destination in Japan,” said McMillon, speaking in Rakuten’s hometown of Tokyo. “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.”
“As global leaders in ecommerce and offline shopping, Rakuten and Walmart are uniquely positioned to empower our customers around the world with innovative services,” noted Mikitani. “We are excited to partner with Walmart because of its commitment to creating the best solutions to serve customers with low prices.”
Details of the Alliance
The delivery service, to be launched by Rakuten and Seiyu GK, a subsidiary of Walmart that operates retail chain stores throughout Japan, will be known as Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper and provide deliveries from a dedicated fulfillment center as well as from Seiyu stores. Deliveries will include not only fresh produce and daily consumables, but also convenient items such as cut vegetables, partially prepared foods and ready meal kits, as well as popular local gourmet products available on the Rakuten Ichiba marketplace.
Further, the new service will employ Rakuten’s extensive ecommerce expertise to present a site with an optimized user experience, as well as leveraging Big Data and AI for a more personalized merchandise offering. Customers using the service will be able to earn and use Rakuten Super Points, which they will also be able to use for more than 70 services within the Rakuten ecosystem.
Also as part of the alliance, Walmart will become Rakuten Kobo’s exclusive mass retail partner for the Kobo brand in the United States, enabling it to offer Kobo’s almost 6 million ebook and audiobook titles from thousands of publishers and hundreds of thousands of authors to Walmart.com customers. Walmart will also sell digital book cards in stores. All ebook content will be accessible through a Walmart/Kobo co-branded app for all iOS and Android devices, a desktop app, and Kobo eReaders.
“Walmart is one of the top retailers in the world and one of the largest booksellers in the U.S.,” said Rakuten Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn. “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. For us, this is another great opportunity to serve book lovers at Walmart, those people who make reading an important part of their lives.”
Walmart operates 11,600 stores under nearly 59 banners in 28 countries, and ecommerce websites in 11 countries.
Founded as an online marketplace and now providing ecommerce, fintech, digital content and communications services to more than 1 billion members around the world, the Rakuten Group has more than 14,000 employees, and operations in 29 countries and regions.