(Bloomberg)—U.K. online grocer Ocado Group Plc is teaming up with Amazon.com Inc. to let shoppers top up their baskets using the U.S. e-commerce giant’s voice-recognition system.
The Hatfield, England-based company, No. 22 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Europe 500, has developed an app for Amazon’s Alexa that allows customers to add items to their digital shopping lists, keep track of orders and ask for product recommendations simply by speaking. The service is available immediately, the British company said in a statement Tuesday.
As Amazon, No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2017 Top 500 and the Europe 500, brings its logistical prowess to its newly acquired Whole Foods stores, pressure is rising on other grocers to make shopping more convenient. Industry giants Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (No. 3 in the Top 500) and Tesco Plc (No. 5 in the Europe 500) have moved into voice-ordering by partnering with Google.
Ocado hasn’t been able to translate healthy sales growth into material profits due to the high costs of building distribution centers and delivering groceries to shoppers’ doors. The company, which runs Wm Morrison Supermarkets Plc’s online business, is seeking to license its logistics technology beyond the U.K. It announced an agreement with an unidentified regional European retailer in June but has yet to strike a deal with a global heavyweight.
Amid investor skepticism about Ocado’s prospects, 17.3% of the shares were sold short as of Aug. 25, making it one of the most-shorted European consumer-industry stocks, according to IHS Markit Ltd. data.
Ocado has long been seen as a potential takeover target for Amazon. The U.S. company is seeking to build scale in the U.K. grocery market, where its Fresh service has less than a 1% share, according to researcher Kantar Worldpanel. Amazon Fresh already offers shopping via Alexa.
The Whole Foods purchase probably increases the odds that Amazon might bid for Ocado, London Capital Group analyst Jasper Lawler said in June.