Technology

Walmart-Rakuten Deal to Bring E-Books to U.S., E-Grocery to Japan

Kobo readers, co-branded apps coming to U.S.

Walmart has announced details of a partnership with the Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten that will bring online grocery shopping and delivery to Walmart’s Seiyu retail chain in Japan, as well as e-books and e-readers to Walmart’s stores and online shop in the U.S.

The partnership potentially opens a new front in Walmart’s battle for online shopping with Amazon, which dominates the e-book market in the U.S.

As part of this alliance, Walmart will become Rakuten's exclusive mass retail partner for its Kobo brand in the U.S., offering Kobo’s nearly six million book titles from thousands of publishers. Walmart.com will begin offering e-books and audiobooks for sale later this year. Walmart will also sell digital book cards in stores, enabling more than 4,000 stores to carry a broader selection of books for customers.

All e-book 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, which will also be sold at Walmart later this year.

“Walmart is one of the top retailers in the world and one of the largest booksellers in the U.S. 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,” Rakuten Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn said in a statement. “For us, this is another great opportunity to serve book lovers at Walmart, those people who make reading an important part of their lives.”

In Japan, Walmart’s Seiyu subsidiary will launch an online grocery service to be known as Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper. The new service is planned to be launched in the latter half of 2018. The companies said the service aims to increase fulfillment capacity, enrich the merchandise offering and improve convenience for the customer. The service will aim to increase capacity in 2018 with the establishment of a dedicated fulfilment center, in addition to offering deliveries from Seiyu stores.

To serve needs of customers increasingly short on time for preparation, the offerings will include a lineup of convenient items such as cut vegetables, partially prepared foods and ready-made meal kits, as well as popular local gourmet products from merchants on the Rakuten Ichiba marketplace. Customers using the service can earn Rakuten Super Points, allowing for discounts and offers within the Rakuten ecosystem.

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