The world’s largest retailer has teamed up with Google’s smart-home assistant, Google Home, to allow customers to order groceries using only their voices. Launched on April 2, Walmart Voice Order will add items directly to customers’ online shopping carts following the instruction: “Hey Google, talk to Walmart.”
In a statement announcing the new feature, Walmart’s Senior Vice President of Digital Operations, Online Grocery and Last Mile Delivery, Tom Ward, said that by using information from previous purchases, each customer’s preferred items would be learned over time.
“If a customer says ‘add milk to my cart’, we’ll make sure to add the specific milk the customer buys regularly,” Ward said. “Instead of saying ‘one gallon of one percent Great Value organic milk’, they’ll simply say one word: ‘Milk.’” However, USA Today has reported that the feature will only be available to customers near a Walmart that offers store pick-up or delivery services.
Walmart Voice Order will add items directly to customers’ online shopping carts following the instruction: “Hey Google, talk to Walmart.”
Walmart is currently working to build on its delivery capabilities: in January, the retailer added four companies to its delivery team to help expand its online grocery shopping network. At the time, Walmart Grocery delivery was only available in around 800 of the company’s 5,000-plus stores. Walmart aims to add delivery offerings to a further 800 stores in 2019.
Online grocery shopping has been slow to take off in the US. A survey by consulting firm Bain & Company found that just three percent of grocery spending in the US currently takes place online, while just four percent of shoppers said they had used voice assistants for grocery planning. Over the next decade, however, the report expects the US to experience a major increase in online grocery shopping, with e-commerce penetration expected to at least triple.
The partnership between Google and Walmart dates back to August 2017, when the pair first announced they would work on voice-activated grocery shopping. But earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that the company had quietly withdrawn from Google’s shopping and delivery services.
Amazon is currently miles ahead of Google in the voice-ordering e-commerce space. According to Consumer Intelligence Research Partners, Amazon Echo devices accounted for 70 percent of all smart speakers installed in US homes as of December 2018. Google Home, meanwhile, accounted for less than a quarter of the market.
If Google hopes to claw back more of the growing smart speaker market, a partnership with Walmart, which remains the world’s largest retailer in spite of Amazon’s advances, will be an important step forward.