The discount chain announced in a blog post on Wednesday that beginning in late September, it will be making hundreds of thousands of items available for voice shopping on Google's voice assistant app, Google Assistant, in a bid to compete with Amazon's Alexa capability on its Echo devices and offer a service many competitors do.
Walmart is not quite pioneering on this front: the voice shopping feature, integrated into Google's smart-home suite earlier this year to fill a big gap in Google Home’s capabilities, already offers customers the chance to voice-shop at retailers like Costco Wholesale (cost) and Target (tgt), two of Walmart's biggest brick-and-mortar rivals. But Walmart will offer the widest assortment yet of any retailer selling on Google Assistant. (Google also announced it is eliminating its membership fee and shipping is free as long as a customer hits a given retailer's minimum threshold order, $35 in Walmart's case.)
"It makes sense for us to team up with Google. They’ve made significant investments in natural language processing and artificial intelligence to deliver a powerful voice shopping experience," Lore wrote in a blog post.
The partnership allows Walmart to offer customers a service they can get from Amazon and is yet another way it is adapting to how consumers shop now, following on efforts like online grocery order pickup and a discount for in-store pick up of digital orders. Walmart is also launching on Google Express, the search giant's fast-delivery online shopping app and site, next month.
Last week, Wal-Mart Stores, Walmart's parent company, reported digital sales rose 60% in the second quarter, the result of its acquisition a year ago of jet.com from Marc Lore, now its U.S. e-commerce CEO, the expansion of its third-party seller marketplace, but also of its efforts to beef up its digital muscle power.
One of main selling points of any voice shopping function is the ability to create reusable shopping lists, particularly for daily household items that need frequent re-ordering. That prompted Walmart to integrate its "Easy Reorder" feature into Google Express. Lore told reporters on a call last week that Walmart is already seeing "nice repeat" business from the new-ish "Easy Reorder" service. Current Walmart customers can link their account to Google and get personalized suggestions based on prior online and in-store orders to speed things up.
Lore said more was coming in Walmart's partnership with Google Assistant: in 2018, Walmart plans to use its 4,700 U.S. stores and network of distribution centers to offer shoppers services like the ability to choose to retrieve an online order at a store or buy fresh groceries across the country, capabilities not yet offered on voice shopping.