Google Home users will be able to order items by voice directly from Walmart beginning in September. Walmart’s Marc Lore commented in a blog post early this morning:
Starting in late September, we’ll be working with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items for voice shopping via Google Assistant – the largest number of items currently offered by a retailer through the platform.
Going Head-to-Head with Amazon.com
Google Home announced integration with Google Express in February providing voice shopping options connected to a number of retailers including Costco, Walgreens and Whole Foods. Since that time, Amazon has indicated its intention to acquire Whole Foods, but Google was focused on a bigger prize: Walmart. Amazon is the dominant online retailer with 43% marketshare according to Slice Intelligence, but Walmart is number three according to eMarketer and it online sales grew at 69% in 2016.
Walmart will pass Apple for the number two slot in online sales with even a modest growth in 2017. The company is clearly committed to its online business and purchased Jet.com for $3 billion in 2016. This is the type of mega-retail partner that Google needs to blunt Amazon’s shopping advantage in the battle for voice assistant adoption.
Walmart is Gaining a Foothold in Voice Shopping
A big part of Amazon’s early success with Echo is the easy re-ordering by voice. CIRP estimates that Amazon Prime members spend 10% more each year after adopting an Echo smart speaker. That could be the big win for Walmart. Mr Lore’s blog post offers a few other insights into Walmart’s ambitions.
One of the primary use cases for voice shopping will be the ability to build a basket of previously purchased everyday essentials. That’s why we decided to deeply integrate our Easy Reorder feature into Google Express. This will enable us to deliver highly personalized shopping recommendations based on customers’ previous purchases, including those made in Walmart stores and on Walmart.com. To take advantage of this personalization, customers only need to link their Walmart account to Google Express.
And, this is just the beginning. Next year, we will also leverage our 4,700 U.S. stores and our fulfillment network to create customer experiences that don’t currently exist within voice shopping anywhere else, including choosing to pick up an order in store (often for a discount) or using voice shopping to purchase fresh groceries across the country.
Google is an important play for Walmart as TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez points out. In an interview with Walmart’s Marc Lore she asked, “if Walmart would ever be shoppable from Alexa.” His answer: “No.” Amazon is Walmart’s arch rival in retail and is Google’s foil in voice. Google is not focused on retail and Walmart is not focused on search, advertising or consumer AI solutions. The partnership has strong strategic alignment and few areas of potential conflict.
Rapidly Filling in the Google Home Feature Gaps
The partnership with Walmart is important for Google because it extends the value of its voice platform, Google Assistant. Voice assistants are supposed to help you get things done. Shopping is one of those tasks that voice assistants are well suited to execute. The Walmart partnership instantly offers Google Assistant users access to hundreds of thousands of products through a single source. And, Google is moving to address the shipping cost and time advantage that Amazon Prime has pioneered. For orders over $35, shipping will be free for Walmart orders and delivery will be 1-3 days. This is an attempt to be a Prime clone without the membership fee.
Starting today, we’re offering free delivery on Google Express as long as your order is above each store’s minimum. There’s no membership required so no matter how you shop—through voice with your Google Assistant or on the website or mobile app—you’ll get free delivery within one to three days.
We have seen that Google has aggressively closed many of the early feature gaps of Google Home compared to Amazon Alexa. A calling feature was rolled out last week. The ability to use Google Home as a Bluetooth speaker became available over the weekend. There are now nearly 100 smart home product innovations for the voice platform. The Walmart partnership enables Google to shore up a gap that many thought would remain a distinct voice shopping Amazon advantage.