Alphabet Inc. has added commerce capabilities to its voice-activated Google Home devices.
The company announced the rollout of the feature in a blog post last week. Shoppers need only to go to their Google Home app on their smartphone, which is available for both iOS and Android, and enter their credit card and delivery information under settings to start shopping through the devices. Google Assistant product manager David Wang and Google Shopping product manager Larry Adams write that retailers including Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (No. 67 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide), PetSmart Inc. (No. 340) and Costco Wholesale Corp. (No. 8) are among the more than 50 retailers selling through the devices. The retailers also are part of the Google Express program, where customers can shop the Google Express site for products from participating local retailers. Google then gets those products from a retail store and a courier delivers the order to the consumer.
“Today is just the beginning of what’s possible for shopping with the Google Assistant,” Wang and Adams write. “Over the coming months, we’ll continue to add new features and enable purchases for other apps and services.”
Google Home launched in May. The device costs $129. A Google spokesperson says the company does not release overall Google Home sales figures. In its blog post, Wang and Adams write that Google won’t charge shoppers an additional fee to order through the device until April 30, but it’s unclear as to what, if any, additional fees will be attached after that date. Google Express offers a free three-month trial period and then charges members $10 per month or $95 per year for annual members. This includes free delivery on eligible orders. Non-members are charged a minimum of $4.99 on orders from each store.
Google has some catching up to do. Amazon.com Inc. (No. 1) introduced its voice-activated digital assistant Alexa, which runs on its Echo speaker devices, more than two years ago to play music and search the internet. Alexa later was able to reorder products consumers had previously ordered on Amazon, and in June 2016 the device was updated to enable shoppers to order almost any product Amazon sells. Amazon does not release Echo sales figures, but a recent estimate from securities research firm Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) estimates the number of shoppers in the U.S. that own one of the devices at 8.2 million. That data is based on a survey of 500 shoppers who bought on Amazon at least once during the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31.