Walmart announced Tuesday a partnership with Google to bring voice-activated grocery shopping to customers using Google Assistant, reports CNBC. The feature will launch this month, and will be available on any device with Google Assistant, including Home Hub, Android phones, iPhones, watches, and more. Consumers will be able to add products to their Walmart grocery cart by saying the voice command, "Hey Google, talk to Walmart." As customers use voice shopping, the device will learn their favorite products from their purchase history. Walmart also hinted that this partnership with Google will be the first of many cross-platform initiatives.
Total Retail's Take: Walmart takes another stab at Amazon.com by dipping its toes into voice commerce. Amazon already offers voice-activated grocery shopping through its Alexa assistant, and Walmart's partnership with Google will allow both companies a chance to compete more heavily with the e-commerce giant in both the grocery and smart speaker spaces. Fang Cheng, CEO of Linc Global, comments, “Walmart is taking a step further into leveraging voice to reduce shopping friction for its customers. Moving forward, we expect that more and more retailers will invest in smart voice assistance, especially for grocery, beauty and health categories, as these categories involve frequent re-ordering and consumption needs are often realized at live moments where hands-free interaction is much more preferred."
However, voice grocery shopping isn't without its challenges. For example, the device needs to account for nuances in language and be able to correctly identify the item shoppers are requesting, even if the request is complicated or different than what they may have ordered previously. "In the case of Walmart, while the retailer may have its product listed as ‘Milk,’ the customer may ask their smart device for ‘a dairy-free milk brand, or the best milk for baking a cake,’" says GroupBy CEO Roland Gossage.
This is where search relevancy comes into play as it offers an additional level of personalization and convenience for consumers entering the discovery and research shopping phases." Mercatus Director of Product Management Kevin Kidd adds, "it's both idealistic and short-sighted to think you will always have the single answer to someone wanting ‘milk’ added to their cart. First, you don’t know everyone’s preferences, and even if you thought you did, people change. Secondly, you lose the opportunity to upsell." Walmart will need to continually work towards improving its voice offerings if the retailer hopes to delight, and not frustrate, its customers.
Kristina Stidham is the digital content manager at Total Retail and sister brand Women in Retail Leadership Circle. She is passionate about digital media and handles social media, video, and podcast production for both brands, as well as contributing articles and attending events. Kristina holds a B.A. in Media Studies and Production from the Temple University Klein College of Media and Communication in Philadelphia.