By Aaron Pressman and Adam Lashinsky
September 28, 2017

China’s Didi and U.S. ride-hailing startup Lyft were among the members of what others, never themselves, call the Anti-Uber Alliance. If Uber’s quest was world domination, the alliance’s mission was to make life more difficult for Uber in every market where it mattered. The effort worked for the company with the most to gain, Didi, which last year succeeded in chasing Uber out of China.

It’s intriguing then to see the tie-up between Walmart and Google, announced last month as an enhanced e-commerce cooperation pact and, which I at least have dubbed the Anti-Amazon Alliance. Neither Marc Lore, the founder who heads e-commerce at Walmart, nor Sridhar Ramaswamy, who cut his teeth at Google on AdWords and now runs all ad-related products, took my bait on the name when I interviewed them Wednesday morning in New York at an Advertising Week event. But neither denies that despite their heft in their respective fields, Amazon is the company to beat in e-commerce and ancillary technologies.

Their path forward won’t be as straightforward as Uber’s foes was.

Both get Es for effort. Under Lore, Walmart has become the whirling dervish of offline/online shopping. It has set up a Silicon Valley incubator, Store No. 8. It is partnering with startups Deliv and August to allow deliverypeople to unlock your door, enter your home and stock your fridge. If experimenting were the entire battle, Walmart would have won already.

Google walks a finer line. It already dominates search terms for e-commerce, making it the king of the long tail. The problem is that Amazon is the head of a very large tail of its own, dwarfing Google, Walmart, and anyone else when it comes to moving merchandise digitally.

I cheekily asked Lore and Ramaswamy if Amazon was too powerful, knowing Lore is a well-documented Amazon antagonist and that all-consuming power isn’t exactly a subject Google likes to address. Lore mouthed something about Walmart’s advantages, especially with its strength in fresh food sales. (If Walmart stresses “fresh,” I pointed out, Amazon didn’t do badly for itself by buying a company called Whole Foods.) As for Ramaswamy, he somewhat quietly said, “I’m not an expert on antitrust,” which was a polite dodge though an exercise in wishful thinking.

Battles of titans are always interesting.

Adam Lashinsky


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