M-Retailing

Walmart fires starting gun on voice commerce proper in trial with Google – with much more to come says CEO

Walmart is set to give Amazon a run for its money in the voice commerce stakes, partnering with Google to let shoppers in the US buy hundreds of thousands of items through Google Assistant.

According to a Walmart blog post, the retailer is opening up to voice commerce in September, but promises much more in the coming months.

Says Marc Lore, President and CEO, Walmart US eCommerce: “One of the primary use cases for voice shopping will be 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. 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.”

He continues tantalisingly: “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.”

The announcement has been greeted enthusiastically by analysts who see the move as not only a real challenger to Amazon, but also in firing the starting gun proper on voice commerce.

According to Walker Sands’ 2017 Future of Retail report: One in five consumers (19 percent) have made a voice purchase through Amazon Echo or another digital home assistant, and another third (33 percent) plan to do so in the next year, while, nearly a quarter of consumers (24 percent) own a voice-controlled device like Amazon Echo (16 percent) or Google Home (6 percent). Another 20 percent plan to purchase one in the next year.

Brennan Wilkie, SVP Customer Experience Strategy, InMoment comments: “Walmart is already making waves for its experimentation with facial recognition technology. As the retailer navigates its new partnership with Amazon, Brennan can explain why keeping the customer experience top of mind is crucial in ensuring the program’s success”

Igor Gorin, CEO of Astound Commerce, adds: “While Google Home and Google Assistant were initially more in the business of information and convenience, they’ve now entered into the commerce game with this partnership with Walmart. The introduction of voice as a commerce channel – just like online, mobile and brick-and-mortar- will present new challenges to Walmart when merchandising and marketing products. The unique user experience and interaction model through digital assistants will necessitate a new approach to product attribution, product descriptions and how sites and catalogs are structured to help people navigate and shop via this channel.”

Ed Kennedy, Senior Director of Commerce at Episerver concludes:  “It’s clear from Walmart’s strong Q2 earnings that focusing on e-commerce and in-store digital strategy was the right move. The retail giant has deep roots in brick-and-mortar, but has adapted to the growing need for digital commerce capabilities such as mobile payment options, click-and-collect and same-day pick-up perks and added inventory for online shoppers. Focusing on the digital customer experience and refining its already promising tech investments is what will lead Walmart toward success in the future.”

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