The Home Depot on Wednesday said that it’s joining Google Express this fall, adding Google Assistant’s voice shopping ability for customers via the the Google Express website and app.
Last month Walmart similarly announced its partnership with Google to bring voice shopping to Walmart customers.
Some 35.6 million Americans will use a voice-activated assistant device at least once a month this year, according to research released in May from eMarketer. If that forecast proves correct, it would be a 129% jump in voice engagement with virtual assistants over last year.
Amazon's Alexa so far is edging out Google when it comes to market share in the voice assistant space, but the fight is on. Amazon devices like the Echo and Dot speakers, along with apps in mobile devices, could provide some $10 billion in revenue by 2020 and be a "mega-hit," according to a note published this spring by investment bank RBC Capital Markets, though Google has been working hard to add features that Alexa doesn't have and enjoying a wide-open ecosystem.
Google is beginning to enjoy partnerships with various retailers, stoking competition in the space. "You’re definitely going to be seeing [some] jockeying for position. What you’re seeing right now [is] the big players to some extent opening up their systems, and that third-party will simply lead to more adoption," Maya Mikhailov, co-founder and CMO of GPShopper told Retail Dive. "When you have a closed ecosystem — that not everyone can play on — that inevitably leads to less adoption unless that party already has tremendous momentum. I think there’s a reason you see so much excitement around the connected home. For retailers it has to be a very interesting place to play in because as a retailer, you have to be everywhere."
The battle is just getting started and will be fueled by the upcoming holiday season, according to Luke Starbuck, VP of Marketing at customer care automation platform Linc, who notes that the perception of voice assistance as futuristic has become a reality. A huge majority (87%) of retailers expect to be using AI for customer service and engagement within the next 24 months, while 41% are using it or experimenting with it already, according to Linc's research.
"This increasing popularity, coupled with retailers’ desire to partner with voice platforms, will continue to snowball until voice platforms are the norm and an essential asset for any brand,” Starbuck told Retail Dive in an email. "Especially following the announcement of the Walmart’s partnership with Google Home just a few weeks ago, [Home Depot's] latest move indicates that there will be an ongoing battle for market control between Amazon Alexa and Google Home, especially as we head into the 2017 holiday sales season."
A major catalyst for the growing emphasis on voice assistants is recognition by brands of the importance of a customer-centric purchase and service journey, and of building stronger relationships that lead to future purchases, according to Starbuck. "By giving customers more ways to order and track shipments (via voice, chatbots, etc.) shoppers will be more willing to buy again following a fluid and streamlined buying process," he said.