SHANGHAI: Walmart, the world's largest retailer, has taken over Yihaodian, after buying the remaining 49% stake in the Chinese ecommerce firm it did not already own.

Although Yihaodian is a minor player in China compared with the likes of Alibaba or, Walmart's move to take full control of its venture will help it to target China's rapidly growing online market, Reuters reported.

"With full ownership of Yihaodian, Walmart plans to invest in both accelerating ecommerce and creating a seamless experience for customers across online, mobile and stores," Walmart said in a statement.

Walmart has taken over following the departure earlier this month of Yihaodian co-founders, former chairman Yu Gang and former CEO Liu Junling.

The move comes as Walmart, like many other large Western retailers, experiences lacklustre sales at its physical stores as China goes through an economic downturn.

In addition, international retailers are facing increased competition from Chinese retailers and the growth of ecommerce in the country has made expanding online essential for Walmart.

Neil Ashe, president and CEO of Walmart Global eCommerce said that Yihaodian has "excelled" as one of China's top ecommerce businesses and that Walmart's investment is part of its long-term commitment to grow in the country.

"This local experience, combined with Walmart's global sourcing and our strong local retail presence and supply chain will allow us to deliver low prices on the products customers need in new and exciting ways," he said.

According to a report published earlier this year by research firm Forrester, China is now the world's largest ecommerce market after growing in value to $440bn in 2014.

Alibaba and dominate this space, with market shares of 57% and 21% respectively, as well as having a combined 85% of the mobile market. With its acquisition of Yihaodian, Walmart will be hoping to win a bigger share.

Data sourced from Reuters, Wall Street Journal, Forrester; additional content by Warc staff