Wal-Mart collaborates with Google’s voice assistant to provide voice-shopping

In 2018, it will capitalize on this further by enabling voice Google powered shopping across its 4,700 brick and mortar stores.

In a development that marks the opening of a second front on Wal-Mart Stores assault on Amazon.com Inc, the company is teaming up with Google to enter the nascent voice-shopping market that is at present dominated by Amazon’s Alexa.

The development assumes strategic significance since the move is aimed at tapping Google’s Android software that runs the vast majority of the world’s smartphone. In a blog post, Marc Lore, Walmart’s head of e-commerce wrote on Wednesday that the move will help consumers access hundreds and thousands of Wal-Mart items on Google’s Assistant.

As per Lore, Wal-Mart’s offerings provide the widest ever selection in comparison to its peers on this platform.

Currently, Amazon’s voice controlled Assistant Alexa, allows consumers to shop from the retailer and it dominates in the U.S. voice-controlled device industry. Amazon’s Echo devices account for 72.2% of the market in 2016, with Google Home lagging behind at 22%, according to eMarketer, a research firm.

Even in brick-and-mortar stores Amazon’s dominance among its peers is significant.

Wal-Mart is fighting back by offering aggressive discounts to customers who buy online but pick up their wares in-store. Customers can avail a free two-day shipping with purchases of $35 or more. This strategic move even forced Amazon, which rarely imitates its peers, to lower the threshold for free shipping.

“One of the primary-use cases for voice shopping will be the ability to build a basket of previously purchased everyday essentials,” said Lore in an interview.

He went on to add, that in 2018, Wal-Mart is likely to introduce voice shopping on its 4,700 U.S. stores to “create customer experiences that don’t currently exist within voice shopping anywhere else.”

Consumers may use voice shopping to either pick up a discounted order in-store or buy fresh groceries across the country, said Lore.

To boost its sales, Amazon has started offering Alexa-only shopping deals.

“We’re still in early days, but shopping isn’t yet one of the big uses of the devices,” said Victoria Petrock, principal analyst at research firm eMarketer. “Obstacles to people using the devices to shop are cost and privacy. A little more than six in 10 people are concerned that these virtual assistants are spying on them.”

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