Google announced that Google Home interactive speaker owners may now use Google Assistant to shop via voice at Google Express retailer partners including Costco, Whole Foods Market, Walgreens, PetSmart and Bed Bath & Beyond, as well as more than 50 other national and local merchants.
Google said that through April 30, the voice shopping capability is being offered without additional service or membership fees. Before shopping, first-time users can go to the Google Home app, navigate to “More settings” and then scroll down to “Payments” to set a default credit card and delivery address.
The Internet giant indicated it plans to add more new features in coming months, and also is planning to enable voice-driven purchasing via Google Assistant through other applications and services.
That first sentence above mentions Google no fewer than four times, but that should drive home the point that the company is trying to own the voice-activated shopping ecosystem in the same way that Amazon already does through Alexa. Google is not exactly a David trying to go up against Goliath, either. It already has the Google Home device, the wherewithal to partner with major retailers and, most importantly, an established virtual assistant (though not one as imaginatively-named as Alexa.)
Google has done a number of things already to pursue Amazon's mantle as the giant of e-commerce giants, but it's always been doing just that — pursuing Amazon, with the latter clearly in the lead. It's not clear what took Google so long to take this particular step -- perhaps it took a while to come to mutually acceptable terms with the retailers involved? — but in any case, it's about time.
Speaking of those retail partnerships, Google has gathered a pretty impressive list of merchants to participate in this program, and that should help draw owners of the Google Home device to start using the capability. Still, it's unlikely that Google will be able to allow users to voice-shop the breadth of products they can buy through Alexa at Amazon.
For the retailers themselves, partnering with Google seems like a fine opportunity to pursue an angle on the emerging voice-driven shopping trend. None of the retailers involved are likely to develop their virtual assistants or Google Home-like devices any time soon. Let Google be the one to chase Amazon, and other retailers may reap the benefits of its efforts — if it can catch up to Amazon. Google still has a long way to go in making up ground, and Amazon has made clear in recent months that Alexa will not stand still and wait for the competition to close in, continuing to expand its own ecosystem around Alexa. If Google is going to bring Google Assistant voice shopping capabilities to other services and devices, it needs to get going.