Walmart, Google team up to offer voice shopping with eye on Amazon

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In a recent move, Walmart and Google are teaming up to offer customers a new experience: to order the retail giant’s products by voice via Google Assistant, a big step for Walmart to stay competitive in e-Commerce age, analysts said.

Marc Lore, President and CEO of Walmart e-Commerce, said on Wednesday that the retail giant would be working with Google to “offer hundreds of thousands of items for voice shopping via Google Assistant” starting in late September.

With more and more consumers began to rely on devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home, traditional retailers are thrown into fierce competitions and Walmart is no exception. It doesn’t plan to be left behind, though.

Compared with the likes of Amazon’s Alexa, Walmart is a late comer, but manages to come up with some innovation. As mentioned by Lore, for example, one of the primary use cases for voice shopping is the ability to build a basket of previously purchased everyday essentials.

“That’s why we decided to deeply integrate our Easy Reorder feature into Google Express,” said Lore. “This will enable us to deliver highly personalized shopping recommendations based on customers’ previous purchases, including those made in Walmart stores and on Walmart.com.”

“To take advantage of this personalization, customers only need to link their Walmart account to Google Express,” Lore added.

Even though many retailers, such as Target, Costco and Whole Foods, have already worked with Google to sell their products, Walmart will be the first to offer such capability.

Besides, Walmart will be offering the largest number of items through the platform.
“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,” said Lore.

Walmart and Amazon have been neck and neck for years, as each giant tries to make its best to stay ahead of the other.

Walmart acquired e-commerce startup jet.com for 3.3 billion U.S. dollars last fall, and the merger boosted Walmart’s online sales for 60 percent during the second quarter 2017. The co-founder and CEO of Jet.com was Marc Lore himself.

Meanwhile, Amazon said this June that it would acquire Whole Foods Market, a grocery store chain, at a total cost estimated to be 13.7 billion U.S. dollars.

“It’s interesting to think about what Amazon strategy would be with Whole Foods,”J.P. Eggers, an associate professor of management and organizations in New York University, told Xinhua in a recent interview.

“I think there’s a recognition that the physical space that Whole Foods owned when Amazon makes the purchase is incredibly important both in terms of proximity to high-end consumers that are who Amazon is looking to attract, but also with the idea if they’re looking to do more fresh delivery options that the warehousing space in most of those stores,” he said.

“It is incredibly attractive as kind of a backup back-end opportunity for Amazon to do local deliveries around,” he added.

Whole Foods Market said Wednesday that the shareholders had approved its 13.7 billion U.S. dollars acquisition by Amazon.

The coming September will witness a new round of voice-shopping competitions, and this is just the beginning.

“Next year, we will also leverage our 4,700 U.S. stores and our fulfillment network to create customer experiences that don’t currently exist within voice shopping anywhere else, including choosing to pick up an order in store (often for a discount) or using voice shopping to purchase fresh groceries across the country,” said Lore.

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