Move over, Alexa. Walmart is going high-tech in its fight against Amazon.com.
Beginning next month, shoppers will be able to buy Walmart products by speaking to their Google Home devices. The retailer is the latest - and largest - to make its goods available on Google Express, the company’s e-commerce and delivery platform.
The companies announced the partnership in separate blog posts on Wednesday.
“We’re thrilled to partner with one of the most popular stores in America to help make your shopping faster and easier,” wrote Sridhar Ramaswamy, a senior vice president for Google.
“This is just the beginning,” added Marc Lore, president of Walmart U.S. eCommerce. “We will continue to focus on creating new opportunities to simplify people’s lives and help them shop in ways they’ve not yet imagined.
The partnership, which brings together the world’s largest retailer with the world’s largest search engine, is the latest effort by Walmart to chip away at Amazon’s online dominance. (Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)
“Walmart and Google make for strange bedfellows, but it actually makes a lot of sense,” said Krista Garcia, an analyst for eMarketer, a market research firm in New York. “Walmart has been really trying to increase their online presence in the last year - they’re trying to raise their digital IQ, so to speak - and what better way to do that than with Google?”
An estimated 55 percent of Americans begin their online shopping trips on Amazon, according to a survey conducted last year. And Amazon shoppers tend to spend more, too: An average of $157 each month, compared with $27 at Walmart, according to a 2016 survey.
Now, analysts say, the company is trying to narrow that gap - not just by selling through Google, but also by embracing voice-activated commerce, which is still in the early stages and dominated by Amazon’s Alexa-powered devices.
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“Voice-activated ordering is still in its infancy,” said Craig Johnson, present of Consumer Growth Partners, a retail research and consulting firm in New Canaan, Connecticut. “Not very many people use it yet, but that means there’s also a really strong potential for growth.”
Walmart joins a number of other big-box retailers on Google Express, including Target, PetSmart, Costco and Whole Foods Markets (which is being acquired by Amazon for $13.7 billion).
Walmart - which last year had $486 billion in revenue, more than three times Amazon.com’s $136 billion - has spent the past year aggressively expanding its online reach. It is now the second-largest online retailer, behind Amazon.com, following its $3.3 billion acquisition of Jet.com last year.
In recent months, the retail behemoth has bought up a number of other online companies, including ModCloth, ShoeBuy, MooseJaw and Bonobos. It is also beefing up its website: Walmart.com now offers more than 67 million products, a 30 percent increase since the first quarter of this year.
Now many of those products - hundreds of thousands of them - will be available through Google Express. Existing Walmart customers can link their online accounts to Google to easily reorder items they’ve bought before online and in stores, said Ramaswamy of Google.
“For example, if you order Tide PODS or Gatorade, your Google Assistant will let you know which size and type you previously ordered from Walmart,” he wrote. “We’re thrilled to partner with one of the most popular stores in America.”