Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Google are teaming up to put themselves in a better position to take on Amazon.com Inc.
Google says Walmart, No. 3 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500, will begin selling on Google Express shopping and delivery service late next month. Shoppers can browse the Google Express marketplace to shop for products from at least 40 retailers and receive free, 1-3-day shipping if they spend more than the minimum set by each merchant. Walmart shoppers can order using the Google Express website, app or Google Home option.
Google added commerce capabilities to Google Home devices in February. Walmart becomes the latest and largest retailer to sell its products via the voice-activated devices. Other major retailers include Costco Wholesale Corp. (No. 9), Bed Bath & Beyond Inc. (No. 68) and PetSmart Inc. (No. 365).
Google also is dropping membership fees and requirements from Google Express, instead making it free to all users. Google had previously charged consumers $95 a year or $10 per month after a three-month free trial period for new shoppers. Google makes money off Google Express in the form of commissions paid by merchants on each purchase made through the site.
Walmart’s decision to sell on Google Express is designed to allow shoppers to buy via voice-enabled Google Home devices, as Amazon does with its Alexa-enabled Echo devices.
“When it comes to voice shopping, we want to make it as easy as possible for our customers,” Marc Lore, president and CEO of Walmart U.S. e-commerce writes in a blog post that went live just after midnight Eastern. “That’s why it makes sense for us to team up with Google. They’ve made significant investments in natural language processing and artificial intelligence to deliver a powerful voice shopping experience.”
Walmart will make hundreds of thousands of products available for shoppers to purchase using Google Home. To make it easier for consumers to search for products and buy via voice, Walmart will let shoppers link their Walmart account with Google Express so that Google Express can access a shopper’s online and offline Walmart purchase history.
“One of the primary use cases for voice shopping will be the ability to build a basket of previously purchased everyday essentials,” Lore writes. “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.”
Amazon already offers voice-based ordering through its voice-enabled Echo, Echo Dot and Tap devices, all of which use Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant software. In order to buy via an Alexa device, a shopper must have an Amazon Prime membership (typically $99 a year or $10.99 a month) as well as payment and shipping information stored in her Amazon account. Amazon doesn’t specify how many products it offers through its Alexa devices.
Lore acknowledges that the comparison between Walmart’s new offering through Google and Amazon is inevitable.
“We know this means being compared side-by-side with other retailers, and we think that’s the way it should be,” he writes. “An open and transparent shopping universe is good for customers.”