A number of analysts, journalists, pundits, and investors have spent a lot of time trying to guess which companies Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) and Wal-Mart (NYSE:WMT) may buy next. In fact, you could probably find an article or a report linking one brand or the other to nearly every struggling retailer and upstart pure-digital brand. This type of speculation has only gotten stronger since Amazon agreed to buy grocer Whole Foods for $13.7 billion and Wal-Mart agreed to spend $310 million to buy upscale men's clothing retailer Bonobos.
Beyond pure speculation, the people at Foursquare, which calls itself a "location intelligence" company, believe they can use data-driven insights to predict which companies both retailers will target next. "Our analysis is driven by the unique perspective we have based on our location intelligence and our understanding of how people move through more than 105 million locations around the globe," the company said in a post on Medium by CEO Jeff Glueck.
What are the giants looking for?
Foursquare went into its research using what can be gleaned about each company's potential purchases based on its past ones. It found, for example, that Amazon "prefers brands that foster an even deeper relationship with its current shopping base," while Wal-Mart is looking for companies that help it play catch-up in e-commerce.
Both companies, Glueck wrote, "are interested in attacking verticals that have proved resistant to e-commerce penetration." In addition, both appear to value companies that use a limited amount of retail locations to push immediate in-person or later online purchases.
Based on those assumptions and its interpretation of data, Foursquare came up with a list of three companies the retailers could be interested in. The company does acknowledge that "location intelligence is only one factor in evaluating such a transaction," but pointed out that its past history of prediction success shows "it's a good one."
What companies might be on the shopping list?
Foursquare found that both companies would be smart to consider buying fashion retailer Nordstrom (NYSE: JWN) and growing eyeglasses company Warby Parker.
The analysis shows that Nordstrom and Nordstrom Rack customers are 55% less likely to go to Wal-Mart than the average American. "What Nordstrom does have is a bona-fide track record as well as a healthy concentration of Millennials and females, a nice addition for Walmart to balance out the purchase of Bonobos, which has a wider male reach," according to the report.
Foursquare believes that while Wal-Mart could buy Nordstrom to reach new customers, Amazon might buy it to expand its offerings to core customers. "Nordstrom shoppers are almost 2X more likely to shop at Whole Foods than the average consumer," wrote Glueck. "So an Amazon-owned Nordstrom chain would deepen Amazon's relationships with its expanding core base."
When it comes to Warby Parker, many of the reasons are the same. A shocking 80% of Warby Parker customers also shop at Whole Foods, according to Foursquare data. "Amazon's acquisition would improve Warby Parker's distribution and reduce their shipping costs -- fueling growth and padding pockets, too," Glueck wrote.
Were Wal-Mart to buy the eyeglass brand, it would be doing so to bring in women and millennial customers to its stores. Foursquare's data show that 55% of Warby Parker shoppers are millennial.
"It's a similar hand to what Walmart played for Bonobos, but on a bigger scale," Foursquare reported.
Warby Parker customers are also 80% less likely to visit a Wal-Mart compared to the average American. So a purchase would, much like the Bonobos deal, give the retailer a way to bring in fresh customers.
Foursquare's research also showed that Amazon might buy Lowe's while Wal-Mart could make a play for Ulta Beauty.
There's more to the art of deals
Just because a deal falls in line with what a company has done in the past does not mean it will make it. Foursquare's research is interesting because it uses data to identify logical purchases for both retailers. You can see why Amazon or Wal-Mart would want Nordstrom or Warby Parker, but factors like price and management would play into any deal as well.
This type of research may be useful to both companies in helping them evaluate potential purchases. Knowing where else your customers do (and don't) shop allows both brands to look at whether a deal would bring in new users or deepen their relationship with existing ones.