Walmart and Google are taking on Amazon and Alexa in the retail space, by bringing voice commands to the shopping experience.
Soon with the help of Google, Walmart’s customers will have the ability to order thousands of products via their voice. The news of this partnership is seen as critical in keeping up with Amazon’s disruptive plans for the retail market – based on the foundation of its voice enabled AI, Alexa.
From September, Walmart consumers can link their shopping accounts to Google Express and order — either through voice on Google Home or by shopping on Google Express.
Using the platform with Google behind it, it will be as simple as, “Google, buy orange juice.” Then, based on previous order history, Google will then suggest favoured brands.
“It makes sense for us to team up with Google,” said Walmart’s head of e-commerce, Marc Lore in a blog post. “They’ve made significant investments in natural language processing and artificial intelligence to deliver a powerful voice shopping experience.”
Hugh Fletcher, global head of Consultancy and Innovation at Salmon, commenting on the beginning of the next phase in retail, said that “With Walmart aligning itself with Google to enter the realm of voice ordering, it is further evidence that we, as an industry and as a society, are moving into an ‘interface-less’ society where shoppers will be making an increased number of purchases made through digital assistants and voice interfaces.”
“As we see these virtual ecosystems grow and become more widespread, we are likely to see a battle commence between the digital assistants such as Google Home, Amazon Echo and Apple HomePod, as retailers and brands affiliate themselves with one or the other. This technology is still in its infancy amongst retailers, but we will inevitably see a long line of them making the same decision as Walmart to offer its customers a voice-controlled service, removing the need for a cumbersome, physical interface and allow consumers to slot digital services into their lives with less disruption.”
“Although Walmart will now be promoting its sales through another retailer – Google – it’s a clear paradigm shift, with customers of Walmart accessing its products via Google. One thing that retailers and brands need to be wary of in a world without interfaces, is that consumers will have less exposure to a brand’s personality – the traditional model of visual advertising could very well become obsolete. As a result this could pose a risk to existing customer loyalty and brand equity that they possess with customers. While Walmart is undoubtedly right to get into this space and get in there early, for the sake of its future, we must hope that it has also considered its strategy for customer ownership, data ownership and Walmart brand loyalty, or face becoming a tier two retailer accessed via an interface which isn’t owned by them.”
Separately, according to reports, Walmart has also been testing a pilot delivery service with Uber. This is yet another way to address the disruption facing the retail industry.