On the heels of Walmart’s recently-announced partnership with Google, Walmart customers can now shop more than two million Walmart.com items via voice through the Google Home and new Google Home Mini devices, according to a Walmart blog post.
Walmart also announced that customers who buy a Google Home or Google Home Mini from Walmart can receive up to $25 off of a Walmart order if they link their store account to Google's shopping platform, Google Express. Doing so allows customers to save time as they voice shop, while the company also claims to deliver customers with personalized product recommendations based on their past purchases.
The confirmation came as Google unveiled the $49 Google Mini, an answer to Amazon's Echo Dot, as part of a batch of other announcements Wednesday. Walmart did not immediately respond to Retail Dive's request for more details.
Walmart and Google are both trying their best to beat Amazon, and to a great extent, it makes sense that they recently joined forces to do so: Walmart brings the inventory, the retail know-how and the customer base, while Google brings device hardware and some advanced search and shopping technology in the form of Google Home products, Google Assistant and Google Express.
A voice shopping link from Google-operated homes directly to Walmart.com is a big step for Walmart, and brings it a step closer to the path paved by Amazon and Alexa. Increasingly, through its e-commerce acquisition binge and its efforts to bring new capabilities, like Scan & Go, to the market, we are seeing a Walmart that is intent on going toe-to-toe with Amazon.
Many voice-activated virtual assistants are now available to consumers, and even more are planned. In addition to those we know about, many retailers have surely tested voice shopping capabilities in one way or another. However, aligning with Google may have given Walmart the fastest, most scalable way of getting there.
"You’re definitely going to be seeing 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 about the voice market in general. "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."
Still, it would be interesting to know if the arrangement with Google precludes Walmart from developing its own virtual assistant and in-house voice shopping capability. Amazon can claim that its own virtual assistant helps customers shop its own site without a third party involved or a need to link two different accounts from two different companies. Walmart, on the other hand, is working with Google, which presumably doesn't care where people shop and doesn't want to alienate anyone who prefers to shop elsewhere.
Not that Amazon really needs to do much to defend its turf: Earlier this year, eMarketer predicted it would capture more than 70% of voice-assistant users. Nevertheless, the company recently revamped the Alexa-powered Echo to better compete in the market. And there are still many shoppers that haven't tried shopping through a voice-activated virtual assistant. How many of them will try Walmart-Google and not Amazon?
With this move, Walmart should find out if its own loyal customer base is ready to do some voice shopping of its own — and whether they mind doing it with Google's help.