Barely a year after Amazon launched its first ever Voice Shopping Weekend in November 2016, Walmart and Google have teamed up to take on the e-commerce giant on its own turf. Starting this September, users of Google Assistant on Google Home smart speakers, Android devices and other products will be able to pick from hundreds of thousands of SKUs (stock-keeping units) ranging from milk and bread to toys, electronics and much more.
According to Marc Lore, founder of Jet.com (acquired by Walmart a year ago for $3 billion) and current chief executive of Walmart’s e-commerce division:
“Voice shopping is becoming a more important part of everyday shopping behavior.”
Amazon got the ball rolling by linking a sizable chunk of its online offerings to Alexa, the virtual voice assistant that originally came with the Amazon Echo line of smart speaker products. Those offerings have grown tremendously in size since then, and Amazon is now fully committed to pushing as many SKUs as it can into the voice shopping bucket.
But Walmart and Google are going at it in a slightly different way. Because Walmart and Google, combined, have a goldmine of consumer information, they intend to personalize the voice shopping experience. For example, if you just order “milk”, the system will know exactly what type of milk you buy, and how much of it you usually order.
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, earlier this year introduced voice shopping through its partnership with a large pool of about 40 retail chains, including Costco and Target. That initiative, launched in February 2017, has obviously yielded results for Google. As for Walmart, its whole purpose now is to beat Amazon at its own game of e-commerce.
The new Walmart is taking several steps to make sure that Amazon’s encroachment into its brick and mortar format is pre-empted by using offense rather than defense. That’s why it is stepping into Amazon’s territory in a big way. Walmart’s online sales are a fraction of what Amazon sells online, but it’s only a matter of time before the physical retail giant catches up with the online retail giant.
While Amazon feverishly works towards increasing its physical footprint by aggressively expanding its fulfillment centers and buying up assets like Whole Foods, Walmart is taking the fight to Amazon’s doorstep. The latest battle in that war is Walmart’s entry into voice shopping using Google as its partner.
Things are about to get ugly in the US retail market as the two behemoths attempt to take a bite out of each other’s market shares in their respective specialty areas. And we’re going to watch.