According to an announcement posted to the company's official newsroom site, Walmart has now formed what it calls a strategic alliance with Rakuten. For those who may not already be aware, Rakuten is among the largest e-commerce centered businesses based out of Japan. The full extent of the partnership has not been revealed, as of this writing, but the announcement has outlined two areas to be addressed initially. Namely, Walmart will be launching a web-based grocery delivery service in Rakuten's home region and incorporating the latter company's digital book service – called Kobo – into its own retail offerings.
Unfortunately, no further information has been provided about the Japanese grocery delivery service but Walmart has gone into a fair amount of detail about what it intends to do with its book offerings. To begin with, the ebooks and audiobooks to be sold by Walmart will not be available on its website or in stores. Instead, they will be sold through a designated application to be branded by both Walmart and Kobo and made available on both major mobile platforms. The app will be limited to U.S. customers to start out and the book repository will include all of the current titles available through Kobo, including almost six million e-books and audiobooks in total. Meanwhile, it won't just be electronic copies on sale through the application either, possibly hinting at why the new offering will require a separate application. Walmart plans to incorporate its own physical inventory into the joint venture, effectively allowing users to order a physical copy of a given book if they would rather have that and if one is available. The app will start out as a U.S. exclusive and, eventually, the partners plan to introduce ways to purchase the books in-store. Those retail location offerings will reportedly not be limited solely to eBook cards, either, though no further information has been laid out.
This move should not be altogether surprising to anybody who has been paying attention to Walmart over the past several years. That's primarily because this is just the latest in a string of announcements from the U.S.-based retail giant as it refocuses its business models to suit customers and the latest trends in incoming mainstream technologies. With that said, Walmart has also said that there is still plenty to reveal with regard to this partnership and no official date has been provided for when the new application will become available. So anybody interested in where else the company might be going may want to keep an eye out for more news over the next few months.