Walmart, Google in voice shopping deal

walmartWalmart is diving into voice-activated shopping with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items for voice shopping through Google Assistant.

The capability will be available in late September.

It’s Google’s biggest retail partnership – and the most personalised shopping experience it offers – as it tries to broaden the reach of its voice-powered assistant Home speaker. It underscores Walmart’s drive to compete in an area dominated by Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo device.

“Voice shopping is becoming a more important part of everyday shopping behaviour,” said Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart’s US e-commerce business.

The voice-activated devices are becoming more mainstream as they become more accessible. Walmart has said Google’s investment in natural language processing and artificial intelligence will help make voice-activated shopping even more popular.

Lore said the personalisation of the partnership means people can shout out generic items like milk, bread and cheese, and Google Assistant will know exactly the brands and the size that the user wants.

Google introduced shopping to Home in February, letting people use voice to order essentials from more than 40 retailers like Target and Costco under its Google Express program. But that was far behind the Echo, available since late 2014.

Walmart, which has more stores than any other retailer and the largest share of the US grocery market, is also working hard to close the gulf online between itself and Amazon.

To be more competitive, Google Express is scrapping the $US95 ($A120)-a-year membership starting on Wednesday, allowing shoppers to get free delivery within one to three days on orders as long as the purchase is above each store’s minimum.

Walmart says it will be tapping its 4,700 US stores and its fulfilment network next year to offer more kinds of customer experiences using voice shopping. For example, shoppers can tell Google Assistant they want to pick up an order in a store.

Lore said the company wants to make voice shopping as easy as possible.

“That’s why it makes sense for us to team up with Google. We know this means being compared side-by-side with other retailers, and we think that’s the way it should be,” he wrote in a corporate blog post.

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