Walmart Partners Google to Launch Voice-Activated Shopping

Walmart Partners Google to Launch Voice-Activated Shopping

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Walmart has partnered Google to allow buyers to order through voice
  • The voice-activated shopping capability will be available in September
  • Google Assistant will know exactly the brands and the size user wants

Walmart is diving into voice-activated shopping. But unlike online leader Amazon, it’s not doing it alone.

The world’s largest retailer said Wednesday it’s working with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items from laundry detergent to Legos for voice shopping through Google Assistant. The capability will be available in late September.

It’s Google’s biggest retail partnership – and the most personalized shopping experience it offers – as it tries to broaden the reach of its voice-powered assistant Home speaker. And it underscores Walmart’s drive to compete in an area dominated by Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo device.

“Voice shopping is becoming a more important part of everyday shopping behavior,” said Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart’s US e-commerce business.

The voice-activated devices are becoming more mainstream as they become more accessible. Even Apple has one coming out this year. Walmart has said Google’s investment in natural language processing and artificial intelligence will help make voice-activated shopping even more popular.

And Lore said the personalization of the partnership means people can shout out generic items like milk, bread and cheese, and Google Assistant will know exactly the brands and the size that the user wants.

Google introduced shopping to Home in February, letting people use voice to order essentials from more than 40 retailers like Target and Costco under its Google Express program. But that was far behind the Echo, available since late 2014.

Walmart, which has more stores than any other retailer and the largest share of the U.S. grocery market, is also working hard to close the gulf online between itself and Amazon.

It has overhauled its shipping strategy and is expanding store-curb pickup for groceries ordered online. But it’s also had to look beyond itself and form partnerships. Walmart announced Monday that it’s expanding its grocery delivery service with ride-hailing service Uber, and it’s been testing same-day delivery service with Deliv at Sam’s Club in Miami.

Amazon generally has been building its network of services on its own, using its $99-a-year Prime membership with same-day and even one-hour shipping options to develop loyalty.

It’s also been drawing in customers with its Alexa-powered devices. Amazon doesn’t give sales figures for Echo, but Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that it’s sold more than 10 million Alexa-powered Echo devices in the U.S. since late 2014. That includes the core $179 Echo as well as the less expensive and smaller Echo Dot and the portable Amazon Tap.

To be more competitive with Amazon, Google Express is scrapping the $95-a-year membership starting Wednesday, allowing shoppers to get free delivery within one to three days on orders as long as the purchase is above each store’s minimum.

Walmart is integrating its Easy Reorder feature – which has data on both store and online purchases – into Google Express. Shoppers who want to reorder their favorites have to link their Walmart account to Google Express.

With other Google Express retailers, personalization takes time as the assistant learns shoppers’ preferences, says Brian Elliott, general manager of Google Express. So the quick personalization with Walmart should make voice-activated shopping more attractive, he says.

While one of Walmart’s biggest advantages over Amazon is its massive number of stores, Amazon’s nearly $14 billion offer for Whole Foods could shake up the landscape.

Walmart says it will be tapping its 4,700 U.S. stores and its fulfillment network next year to offer more kinds of customer experiences using voice shopping. For example, shoppers can tell Google Assistant they want to pick up an order in a store. Lore said the company wants to make voice shopping as easy as possible.

“That’s why it makes sense for us to team up with Google. We know this means being compared side-by-side with other retailers, and we think that’s the way it should be,” Lore wrote in a corporate blog post.

Independent internet analyst Sucharita Mulpuru-Kodal, who was unaware of the Google deal at the time of the interview, says Walmart is going in the right direction, though it has a long way to go. She noted that partnerships with companies like Uber enable the discounter to get the business “up and running” and it will be able to learn a lot.

[“Source-gadgets.ndtv”]

Walmart Holds Open Call 2017, 500 Made in USA Companies Compete for Store Shelf Space

Walmart Open Call 2017 -- 500 Made in USA Companies Competing for Store Shelf Space

Recently, 500 companies — mostly small businesses and startups — went to Walmart (NYSE:WMT) company headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, to pitch their products to company buyers.

If they’re selected, they’ll get to sell their products at Walmart stores and on the retailers website. It could mean huge growth for those small companies. But there are challenges involved as well.

This is the fourth Open Call event Walmart has held.

Walmart Open Call 2017 -- 500 Made in USA Companies Competing for Store Shelf Space

This year, Walmart is specifically looking for American companies and is promoting American manufacturing. So companies that sell products that are made in America could have a good chance of getting their products placed in Walmart stores or even getting the opportunity to manufacture some of Walmart’s private label products.

Walmart Open Call 2017

Cindi Marsiglio, Walmart vice president for U.S. Sourcing and Manufacturing said in a statement, “While finding products our customers want is a year-round focus for our buying teams, Walmart’s annual Open Call is a special opportunity to connect our buyers with companies that are manufacturing products in the U.S. and to identify new and unique product solutions.”

Walmart Open Call 2017 -- 500 Made in USA Companies Competing for Store Shelf Space

American manufacturing has been experiencing a resurgence in some sectors. So this type of open call allows Walmart to potentially tap into some interesting new markets while also taking advantage of some of the positive public perception that often comes with supplying American-made products and supporting job growth and the U.S. economy.

But for the businesses in attendance, the opportunity could be even more significant.

Walmart is the world’s largest retailer. So getting products featured on store shelves or on Walmart.com could provide a huge sales boost.

Walmart Open Call 2017 -- 500 Made in USA Companies Competing for Store Shelf Space

And the significance of that opportunity was not lost on the small businesses in attendance, some of which went to extra lengths to put on a great presentation for their products.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

In fact, nearly 100 companies received deals on the spot. And dozens more will continue to have conversations with Walmart about future opportunities.

View image on Twitter

View image on Twitter

The companies that receive deals from Walmart could also gain some local notoriety and extra coverage for their participation.

Walmart Open Call 2017 -- 500 Made in USA Companies Competing for Store Shelf Space

Overall, this type of event provides a unique opportunity for small businesses, many of which face major roadblocks in getting their products in front of large retailers or corporations.

Of course, this also means that those small businesses that receive deals will need to step up production in order to meet that increased demand. But for the businesses that can take on the extra work, it’s a potentially huge opportunity.

[“Source-smallbiztrends”]