Wal-Mart and Google Partner on Conversational Commerce

by Raymond Pucci 0

 Alexa, how do I access Google Express? That may not elicit a direct response from Amazon’s popular personal assistant. As the following article reports, Wal-Mart and Google are preparing to go head-to-head with Amazon on voice ordering.

Google and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are joining forces in a partnership that includes enabling voice-ordered purchases from the retail giant on Google’s virtual assistant, challenging rivalAmazon.com Inc.’s grip on the next wave of e-commerce.

Wal-Mart said 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.

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 reasons to use Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa and its Echo speakers. 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.

Amazon’s Alexa has received favorable reviews from most early adopters, and is now gaining more mainstream household users. Both Google and Apple have been late to this party and are trying to play catch-up. Meanwhile Wal-Mart has been beefing up its e-commerce chops and sees virtual assistants as a way to sell more merchandise. Consumers will be winners here as all three competitors will offer more discounts plus faster shipping to attract market share.

Overview by Raymond Pucci, Associate Director, Research Services at Mercator Advisory Group

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