TOKYO: Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, is joining forces with Rakuten, the biggest e-commerce operator in Japan, in a strategic alliance that effectively ramps up their challenge to Amazon in Japan and the US.

The CEOs of both companies – Walmart’s Doug McMillon and Rakuten’s Hiroshi “Mickey” Mikitani – announced the deal in Tokyo late last week, saying their aim was to expand consumer reach and enhance customer service.

As part of the deal, the two retail giants will launch a new online grocery delivery service in Japan, to be known as “Rakuten Seiyu Netsuper”, in the second half of 2018.

The new venture, which will replace Walmart’s existing online grocery delivery service in Japan, promises to offer both quality and low prices as well as a more personalised offering for shoppers.

In addition, the new service will involve a combined e-commerce fulfilment centre while customers will be able to accumulate bonus points via Rakuten’s loyalty programme.

But the initiative does not stop in Japan because the two companies are also taking direct aim at Amazon’s Kindle e-book business in the US, where Rakuten’s Kobo subsidiary will sell e-books, audiobooks and e-readers in Walmart’s US stores.

It will mean that Kobo’s catalogue of nearly six million titles from thousands of publishers will be made available to Walmart shoppers.

Walmart will also sell digital book cards in stores, enabling more than 4,000 stores to offer a broader selection of books.

“The e-book and audiobook offering will be fully integrated into the Walmart online shopping experience, and customers will be able to buy these versions as well as the physical book while shopping for their favorite titles,” explained Scott Hilton, Walmart’s Chief Revenue Officer, in a blog post.

“For example, anyone shopping for the latest best seller will be able to purchase the physical book shipped to home or to their local store, an eBook and/or an audiobook,” he added.

Sourced from Walmart, Rakuten; additional content by WARC staff