Assuming Walmart isn't done buying its way into e-commerce glory, startup research firm CB Insights has settled on 11 possible companies that the retail giant might acquire next, basing guesses on both Walmart's recent acquisitions and its future goals.
Those possible targets, according to CB Insights' report, include athleisure e-commerce company Outdoor Voices, high-quality basics company Everlane, hair care startup Madison Reed, sneaker company Allbirds, bulk online retailer Boxed, membership-based organic online grocer Thrive Market, e-commerce personalization vendor Richrelevance, last-mile delivery startups Deliv or Axlehire, robotics startup Canvas Technology or pharmacy logistics and delivery startup PillPack.
- Since its acquisition of e-commerce startup Jet in 2016, Walmart last year scooped up a series of pure-play e-commerce retailers, including ShoeBuy, Modcloth, Moosejaw, Bonobos and in October same-day last-mile delivery company Parcel.
"Who's next?" may be the basic, unsettling premise of a horror movie, but it's also a game that many observers are gleefully playing when it comes to the acquisition plans of both Walmart and Amazon, which each made headlines with major purchases last year. Walmart's play has been mostly to build up its e-commerce retail, though the purchase of Parcel shows that it also aims to bring on tech and talent in last-mile delivery.
So far, the prognostications have been off. In August there was speculation that the retailer might grab beauty subscription service Birchbox, but that hasn't happened and didn't make CB Insights' list. Neither has Nordstrom, which made location intelligence company Foursquare's summer list of possible Walmart targets, along with beauty brick-and-mortar retailer Ulta Beauty and eyewear startup Warby Parker.
CB Insights centered much of its number-crunching on Walmart's own stated goals or prominent recent moves (aside from acquisitions). The retail giant is clearly bent on boosting its private label offerings, CB Insights notes, at least at its Jet unit, and is also pushing to bring more SKUs online, attracting more higher-income customers, increasing in-store efficiency and making deliveries faster and more efficient, according to the report.
Although Walmart has run innovation labs in Silicon Valley for years, it didn't really move the needle on e-commerce sales until the purchase of Jet and the arrival of Jet founder Marc Lore to headquarters; CB Insights notes his role in last year's acquisition spree and his promise to continue acquiring more. Indeed, Lore has brought a fresh mindset to Walmart, making swift change possible despite the retailer's position as a stolid stalwart of traditional retail, according to Greg Portell, lead partner in the retail practice of global strategy and management consulting firm A.T. Kearney.
"Retailers need someone to run the business and secure their assets, but they also need that disrupter to agitate a bit and spark that renewal. That's the Marc Lore play at Walmart," Portell told Retail Dive last year. "Not everybody has that mandate or that kind of money, but that model illustrates [what I mean]. He has been turned loose, but doesn't have to worry about the stability."