Google adds Walmart to its AI shopping service in a bid to rival Amazon
“I remember the great shopping wars of the early 21st century,” you tell your granddaughter, a far-away look in your eye, which your AI smart speaker takes as direction to book an optician appointment. “First Amazon bought Whole Foods, and then… well, then Google partnered with Walmart.”
Indeed, it’s hard not to see today’s announcement from Google and US shopping giant Walmart in terms of Amazon’s growing ambitions. That company’s shift towards wider food-based deliveries with the bid for Whole Foods, coupled with its current dominance in the AI speaker market with the Amazon Echo, has kicked its rivals into action – in the shape of a Google-Walmart delivery machine.
Announced today, Google’s Express delivery service will partner with Walmart, allowing customers to buy items from the retailer through the service’s website or app, or via the Google Home smart speaker using voice commands. An “easy reorder” system, reminiscent of Amazon’s, will make it simpler to top up household goods by calling out to your Google Home.
To sweeten the deal, Google Express is getting rid of its membership fees, which were previously $10 (£7.80) per month or $95 (£74) per year. The service will even forego delivery fees, as long as you meet the merchant’s minimum purchase requirements.
All of this points to Google ramping up the integration of its Google Assistant AI with big shopping chains, taking aim at Amazon’s own AI-based shopping service. The idea is that Walmart shoppers would link their accounts to Google, allowing the latter to leverage its data-gathering skills with voice-recognition technology to predict what users will want in the future.
Walmart joins a number of other American retailers on Google Express, including Costco and Target. The service is only available in the US, although Walmart does own the UK chain Asda, so an expansion onto these shores could potentially happen. Even with a sizeable shopping force in its ranks, Google is likely to dawdle behind Amazon. According to The New York Times, Walmart’s website sells 67 million items, which is up from ten million early last year, but well below the hundreds of millions on sale via Amazon.
“I am not saying Walmart is ever going to catch Amazon online,” Craig Johnson, president of retail consulting firm Customer Growth Partners, told the paper. “But instead of being embarrassed by Amazon, it can be a strong No. 2.”