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A Monday Global Times editorial said the agreement—which will create a U.S.-based subsidiary, with Americans filling four of five board seats, and allow Oracle to review TikTok’s source code—reflects the U.S. government’s “bullying style and hooligan logic.” Meanwhile, TikTok said it removed over 104 million videos for breaching community guidelines or terms of service in the first half of 2020. (Reuters, The Logic)

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Talking point: Global Times doesn’t speak for the Chinese government, though it’s published by the state outlet People’s Daily. But TikTok’s new ownership structure—and President Donald Trump’s false claim that it removes parent company ByteDance entirely—are unlikely to be popular with Beijing; in August, it imposed new technology export controls that could impact the deal. Within the app, TikTok said it has asked nine other unnamed platforms to set up an early-warning system for “violent, graphic content” that’s uploaded on one and may be cross-posted on another. In September, a suicide clip originating on Facebook spread widely on TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

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Walmart started testing grocery delivery by drones in North Carolina using equipment from Flytrex, the same day British grocer Tesco, that country’s largest retailer, revealed plans for its pilot in Ireland next month with partner Manna. Walmart drones will deliver “select grocery and household essential items,” the company said in a blog post, while Tesco’s innovation director Claire Lorains said its trial will deliver only some grocery items within 30 minutes to an hour of ordering. (Reuters)

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Talking point: Grocers have worked hard to strengthen their e-commerce offerings in recent years, and the COVID-19 pandemic amplified that process as shoppers scaled back on store visits. Traditional grocers also face increasing competition from Amazon, which the Federal Aviation Administration designated as an “air carrier” recently allowing it to begin a trial program for drone delivery in the U.S. Amazon announced its drone program, dubbed Amazon Prime Air, in 2013, but it and all other companies exploring this type of delivery continue to face regulatory hurdles.

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Instacart will offer a same-day delivery option at Walmart locations in four U.S. cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Tulsa. (CNBC)

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Talking point: With grocery delivery and curbside pickup booming due to the pandemic, grocers are rethinking the services they provide to consumers—and Instacart is both benefiting and struggling in the process. Since March, it has added hundreds of thousands of new contract workers and raised US$325 million in new financing, giving it a valuation of nearly US$14 billion. Its new partnership with Walmart—Amazon’s primary rival, it has been trying to establish its own grocery-delivery network—could help both the retailer and Instacart fend off growing competition in the grocery wars. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos acknowledged the competition in his testimony before the House Judiciary antitrust subcommittee last month: “We also face new competition from the likes of Shopify and Instacart—companies that enable traditionally physical stores to put up a full online store almost instantaneously.”

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The spending includes $1.1 billion to build two new distribution centres in Vaughan, Ont. and Surrey, B.C., and renovating more than 150 stores to include more digital technologies like shelf scanners “to monitor product voluments” and a new self-checkout that allows employees to check customers out “anywhere in the store.” Walmart Canada is also aiming to offer a complete merchandise pickup service at about 270 branches, or 70 per cent of its locations in Canada, by the end of this year. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Walmart has seen a surge in online demand as consumers limit trips outside their homes during the pandemic. The company’s online business in the U.S. grew 74 per cent in the first quarter ended April 30. The investment announced today will ensure Walmart Canada is developing “a supply chain that is the envy of the world,” said John Bayliss, senior vice-president of logistics and supply chain, in a statement. It will also spur competition in an increasingly crowded grocery market. Uber announced earlier this month it was launching grocery delivery in Montreal and Toronto, while Loblaw and Sobeys have also recently launched their own digital and delivery endeavours.

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The big-box giant is reportedly set to release Walmart Plus, a subscription service that will cost US$98 a year and will include same-day delivery, Walmart fuel discounts and early access to promotions. Walmart declined to comment. (Recode)

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Talking point: Recode reported in February the company was originally planning to launch the service late March or April, but delayed it due to the pandemic. While Walmart has grown its e-commerce business, reporting online sales growth of 37 per cent in 2019, it continues to lag behind Amazon, which counts over 150 million members for its US$119 per year Prime service. Walmart’s online sales surged 74 per cent in the first quarter this year, partially due to pandemic-driven demand for online purchases.

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Approved merchants will be able to list products on Walmart.com using Shopify’s e-commerce software. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Shopify already has similar integrations with other major marketplaces like eBay and Amazon. Walmart’s store has a similar third-party seller model, charging listing fees and offering services like fulfillment. Shopify’s stock closed up 8.46 per cent following news of the partnership, which some coverage is framing as a challenge to Amazon. But the impact will likely be small for both firms, at least at first. Walmart is focusing on U.S. Shopify sellers, and expects to add 1,200 by the end of the year. Shopify started the year with over half a million U.S. merchants.

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Reliance will deliver groceries from small stores in over 200 towns across the country using a platform called JioMart. The move comes a month after Facebook invested US$5.7 billion in the company’s digital arm. (Reuters)

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Talking point: Reliance is hoping to catch up to Walmart’s Flipkart and Amazon’s grocery-delivery service by leveraging Facebook subsidiary WhatsApp’s 400 million users in India. Facebook expects the partnership to make WhatsApp the primary way small businesses interact with customers in the country. The push into online grocery comes despite India remaining under lockdown due to COVID-19. That may be an opportunity for the firm. “Never waste a crisis, they say!” Damodar Mall, chief executive of grocery retail, tweeted about the launch, adding, “‘Alibaba also flourished starting from the SARS crisis,’” quoting a colleague.

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Iannone, who was most recently COO of Walmart e-commerce, will start the top job at eBay on April 27. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Iannone’s appointment follows the September 2019 outster of then-CEO Devin Wenig, who clashed repeatedly with activist investors Elliott Management and Starboard Value. They wanted eBay to do more to catch up with Amazon in e-commerce, and the firm is increasingly doing what the activists—who have appointed six board members between them—want. EBay has already sold StubHub for US$4.05 billion and is looking at offers for its classified ads business. Jesse Cohn, an Elliot partner and eBay board member, called Iannone’s appointment a “huge positive” for the firm.

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The subscription-delivery service, which could launch as soon as next month, will build on Walmart’s existing grocery-delivery service and could include discounts on prescription drugs and fuel, as well as the ability to check out of stores without waiting in line. (Recode)

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Talking point: Walmart is trying to catch up to Amazon by building on its existing strength in grocery delivery and offering services Amazon Prime does not. Amazon accounts for about 40 per cent of online retail sales in the U.S., with Walmart a distant second, at five per cent. In November 2019, Walmart announced a grocery-delivery membership service; it currently has about 20 per cent market share in the US$800-billion grocery-delivery sector. Drugs and fuel are focuses for Walmart because Amazon doesn’t own gas stations or physical pharmacies. Walmart has tried but failed to catch up to Amazon in the delivery space before, having shut down its ShippingPass program in 2017. This time around, chief customer officer Janey Whiteside is leading the program; she’s become a power player since joining the firm from American Express in 2018.

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The shelf-scanning robots are already in 350 stores, scanning shelves and notifying humans when items are out of stock. The new robots, which should be in stores by summer, are thinner and can scan fresh produce. (Bloomberg, TechCrunch)

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Talking point: Walmart is increasingly relying on robots to drive down labour costs and increase efficiency as part of its battle with Amazon. These shelf-scanners do a job twice a day that used to take up to two weeks. Today’s news will put the devices in about a fifth of Walmart’s U.S. stores. Walmart’s automation push includes robots that process grocery delivery orders, unveiled last week. The firm also has robots that clean floors, pickup towers that can dispense online orders in less than a minute and automated unloaders that scan and sort items as they come off trucks. By at least one metric, all this is helping Walmart keep ahead of Amazon in the grocery space: a survey last month from The Retail Feedback Group found 37 per cent of online shoppers chose Walmart for online groceries, compared to 29 per cent for Amazon.