Home » Google and Wal-Mart Partner Up for Voice-Activated Shopping

Google and Wal-Mart Partner Up for Voice-Activated Shopping

Google and Wal-Mart are joining forces in a partnership that includes enabling voice-ordered purchases from the retail giant on Google’s virtual assistant. This is to challenge rival Amazon.com’s grip on the next wave of e-commerce.

Wal-Mart said on Wednesday that next month it will join Google’s online-shopping marketplace, Google Express. While the deal will add hundreds of thousands of Wal-Mart items to Google Express, it will also give Wal-Mart access to voice ordering. The deal won’t alter how consumers receive their orders, because Wal-Mart will fulfill purchases made through Google Express.

Consumers will be able to order Wal-Mart goods from the retailer’s stores by speaking to Google’s virtual assistant, which sits in phones, Google’s voice-controlled speakers and soon other devices. Wal-Mart said it will share consumers’ purchase history with Google to enable users to quickly reorder items, a primary function of voice-controlled orders for commodity shopping.

“How do you help people who are going to be interacting more and more with devices get their weekly shopping tasks taken care of?” asked Google Express chief Brian Elliott. The increasing importance of voice shopping suggests Wal-Mart and Google, part of Alphabet Inc., need each other to compete against Amazon. Voice-controlled ordering is a small but rapidly growing share of online sales, analysts say, and one of the top uses of Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa and its Echo speakers.

Google has “made significant investments in natural language processing and artificial intelligence to deliver a powerful voice shopping experience,” Marc Lore, Wal-Mart’s head of e-commerce. Amazon effectively invented voice shopping, which allows users to easily order goods, like toilet paper and diapers, thanks to Amazon’s vast data set on customers’ past purchases. A significant portion of online shopping is made up of consumers reordering the same staples. That is well-adapted to voice ordering because a device can recall the preferred brand, size and type, without requiring shoppers to scan through different product listings.

“When I buy a product that I don’t care about, it is actually a pain for me to go to a website and find an item and check out,” said Forrester analyst Brendan Witcher, a former retail executive. “If I can simply say, send me dishwashing soap…and you send it, that’s much easier on me as a consumer.” To make voice shopping easier, Wal-Mart said it will allow users to link their Wal-Mart accounts to Google Express, so a Wal-Mart shopper who asks the Google Home for more toothpaste will get the same brand she bought last time.

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