Wal-Mart Stores Inc (WMT.N) said on Tuesday that it was partnering with ChannelAdvisor Corp (ECOM.N), a software company that aggregates retailers and brands for online marketplaces, in an effort to expand the number of products on its website.
The deal should make it easier for the thousands of retailers and vendors that are working with ChannelAdvisor to get their products on Wal-Mart's website. Wal-Mart has made expanding its online assortment, currently at about 9 million items, a priority for its online business this year.
While Wal-Mart procures and warehouses many of the high-volume products on its own, like other retailers it has turned to third-party sellers to round out its assortment. That includes online industry leader Amazon.com Inc (AMZN.O), which has more than 200 million products for sale.
The move to expand its product line-up follows major investments on new distribution facilities dedicated to filling e-commerce orders and on an in-house technology platform that has boosted its capacity to process and analyze data.
Seth Beal, head of Wal-Mart's online marketplace, said the retailer could expand the number of third-party sellers, currently less than 500, into the thousands as early as this year. He declined to give a specific timetable.
"We think that number will be in the thousands pretty quickly," Beal said in an interview.
ChannelAdvisor says it has more than 2,800 customers globally and that $6.8 billion, measured in gross merchandise value terms, ran through its platform last year. It connects sellers with marketplaces such as those run by Amazon and Sears Holdings Corp (SHLD.O) as well as search engines and comparison sites.
Beal said Wal-Mart would not automatically open up its website to all sellers on the ChannelAdvisor platform but that the partnership would make the process easier. He said Wal-Mart would continue to vet sellers for compliance risks and be selective based on customer needs.
But he indicated a significant ramp-up in assortment was likely.
"If our customers come to us and tell us 'we want 50 million items,' we are going to find those 50 million items. If it’s 100 million items we are going to go find those 100 million items," Beal said.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in San Bruno, Cal., and Mari Saito in Las Vegas; Editing by Matthew Lewis)