Walmart Adds Google Voice Capability for Online Grocery

Two months after dropping out of the Google Shopping Actions platform and the Google Express same-day delivery service after a year-long test, Walmart is adding Google’s voice ordering capability for online groceries as it continues to wage war with Amazon.

Branded as Walmart Voice Order, customers can speak to any Google-powered device, such as a smart speaker, phone or watch, and place their order. Using analytics from order history and machine learning, the system will get smarter over time and know specific items regularly shopped for.

“It’s cross-platform, which means customers can use any device utilizing Google Assistant, and allows for items to go directly to a customer’s shopping cart, making this capability one of a kind,” Walmart said in a blog post announcing the capability. “We’re kicking off the work with Google, adding others to the mix as time goes on. Over the next few weeks, the service will roll to more and more customers.”

With so much investment and focus on the online grocery wars, given the huge market opportunity – $17.5 billion spent in 2018, hitting an estimated $30 billion by 2021, according to Statista – Amazon is the clear leader but its lead is shrinking.

Nearly three-quarters of U.S. consumers cited Amazon as their prime online grocery destination in 2017, with Walmart at just 5%, according to RBC Capital Markets. But in 2018, Amazon’s figure had dropped to 38%, RBC reported, while Walmart rose to 15%, significantly narrowing the gap.

Walmart was one of several marquee brands announced as partners when Google Shopping Actions was launched in March 2018, along with Target, Ulta Beauty and others. Its departure was seen as a blow to the program, while some speculated Walmart was working to integrate Google’s voice technology into its platform.

MCM Musings: Walmart, Amazon and Target are all tackling fulfillment of online grocery orders by a combination of curbside and store pickup and delivery through partners like Instacart and Postmates. The main thing is offering different checkout options to suit the convenience of shoppers. Clearly the pickup options are a cost winner for retailers, even if picking can prove a challenge, and customer response has been positive. But some, especially urban dwellers, prefer a delivery service. Yet given the broad adoption of smart devices, voice ordering is clearly the future for all flavors of ecommerce.

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