In an effort to better compete with Amazon in Asia and the U.S., Walmart has entered a partnership with the largest eCommerce retailer in Japan, Rakuten. The collaboration between Walmart and Rakuten will focus on online grocery delivery in addition to eBooks, industry news source Chain Store Age reported.
Walmart’s Japanese unit, Seiyu GK, and Rakuten will run the grocery delivery service, which will be dubbed “Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper.” Taking the place of Walmart’s current online grocery offering in Japan, the service will launch in the second half of 2018.
Beyond groceries, the partnership will allow Walmart to sell eBooks, audiobooks and eReaders from Rakuten Kobo in its brick-and-mortar stores as well as through its website in the U.S. As a Rakuten-owned company, Kobo has a selection of approximately 6 million eBooks and audiobooks available to customers in 190 countries.
“Rakuten is a strong eCommerce business, and we’re excited to collaborate with the top online shopping destination in Japan,” Walmart President and CEO Doug McMillon told Chain Store Age. “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.”
Known to some as the “Alibaba of Japan,” Rakuten’s mindset of what it takes to be a “truly global company” has shifted in recent years, which has contributed to its overall growth, Rakuten CEO Hiroshi Mikitani said in 2017. The company adopted English instead of Japanese as the company’s official reporting language in recent years, for example.
Rakuten seems to be holding its own against Amazon: DI Marketing, an online marketing research firm, conducted a poll in April which found that 70.2 percent of digital buyers in Japan use Rakuten, versus 66.7 percent who use Amazon. In addition, NTTCom Research and publisher Toyo Keizai found that Japanese shoppers visited Rakuten more regularly than Amazon and spent more money while they were there.