Wal-Mart Moves Onto Amazon's Turf With E-Reader Partnership

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The companies said a joint venture would be established between Japan online grocery delivery service Rakuten and Seiyu GK, a subsidiary of Walmart.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s (WMT) battle to claw back customers from Amazon.com Inc.

"Working with Rakuten Kobo enables us to quickly and efficiently launch a full e-book and audiobook catalog on Walmart.com to provide our customers with additional choices alongside our assortment of physical books", Walmart's Chief Revenue Officer in e-commerce division in the U.S., Scott Hilton, said.

Rakuten is Japan's largest e-commerce company, with around 14,000 employees. It will launch in the second half of 2018 and will be a mix of dedicated fulfillment centers as well as deliveries direct from existing Seiyu stores.

The deal - which Walmart's chief executive, Doug McMillon, flew to Tokyo to announce - will allow Walmart's online grocery business in Japan to expand exponentially.

The launch of the new e-commerce business is the USA firm's latest attempt to crack a competitive overseas market, by teaming up with a popular local partner.

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"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", said Rakuten's CEO Hiroshi Mikitani. Walmart acquired online retailer Jet.com and announced free same-day shipping in NY, and partnered with Deliv to offer same-day grocery delivery services in San Jose, California. 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.

The new service will be powered by Rakuten technology, using artificial intelligence "to offer a more personalized merchandise offering", according to the statement.

The collaboration will also allow Walmart to take direct aim at Amazon.com Inc.'s Kindle by bringing Rakuten-owned Kobo's e-reader to its US stores, along with a catalog of almost 6 million e-book and audiobook titles to Walmart.com customers.

The most interesting facet of the alliance however, from a USA market perspective at least, is that Rakuten will leverage Walmart to help sell its Kobo ereaders. "I'm not sure how Kobo will fare in the U.S.", Sato said.

The deal will give Walmart's United States customers access to Rakuten Kobo's six million ebooks and audiobooks. What that means is, over 4,000 Walmart stores will start offering Kobo e-readers as well as access to almost six million e-book titles and audiobooks.

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