At a press conference at its headquarters Friday, Rakuten revealed that it has entered into a “strategic alliance” with Wal-Mart, looking to expand both companies’ consumer reach and enhance how customers are served in Japan and the U.S.
The partnership consists of two parts: an online grocery delivery service in Japan, and an e-book service in the U.S. For the former, Rakuten and Seiyu, a subsidiary of Wal-Mart, will form a joint venture in order to launch a service called Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper, beginning in the third quarter. The goal of the service is to leverage each company’s strengths to offer a more convenient shopping experience that meets the changing needs of customers in Japan.
Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper will aim to increase fulfillment capacity by establishing a dedicated fulfillment center, which will supplement deliveries made directly from Seiyu stores. In addition to fresh produce and non-perishable products, the service will offer time-saving items such as pre-cut vegetables, partially prepared foods, and meal kits, as well as local gourmet products from merchants on Rakuten’s online marketplace.
Rakuten said the service will utilize its “deep expertise in e-commerce to offer a site with an optimized user experience, as well as leveraging big data and AI to offer a more personalized merchandise offering.”
In the U.S., Wal-Mart will become the exclusive mass retail partner for Rakuten Kobo, a Canada-based subsidiary of Rakuten. Through the partnership, the retailer will offer e-books, audiobooks, digital book cards and Kobo e-readers starting later this year. All e-book content will be accessible through a free, dedicated Wal-Mart and Kobo app for iOS and Android devices, a desktop app and Kobo e-readers.