Google & Walmart partner up to allow buying groceries with voice commands - what this means for you

Walmart announced that it is collaborating with Google to allow Walmart shoppers to order groceries through Google Assistant. This is a tell-tale sign for your organisation in 2 ways: convergence...

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April 3, 2019

In a surprising but logical move, Walmart announced that it is collaborating with Google to allow Walmart shoppers to order groceries for home delivery as well pickup as through Google Assistant. Walmart also suggested that voice shopping might be available with other partners in the future.

How it works

'Walmart Voice Order' will officially launch over the next few weeks on the Google Home devices along with other Google Assistant-enabled devices including Android smartphones and iPhones. Customers can turn the feature on by saying "Hey Google, talk to Walmart". The can then ask the virtual assistant to add items to their Walmart Grocery cart and check out when they're done shopping.

Why it's happening

The Everything Store Amazon is a significant competitor for both Walmart (in terms of online (voice) shopping) and Google (in terms of smart speakers) and it's an incredibly smart move for them to combine their respective strenths in order to wipe out their own weaknesses.

What this means for you

Join the Great Convergence

We're only at the dawn of the Great Convergence. Chinese giants like Alibaba have already shown the way, by creating these huge platform ecosystems that organically converge all their products and services into a single ultraconvenient point of contact like the Ali customer ID. Ironically, Alibaba is called the Amazon of China, but there is one HUGE difference between the two. To quote Jack Ma: “Amazon is more like an empire, but we want to be an ecosystem”.

In other words: the asset heavy Amazon has a direct sales business model and it wishes to own and therefore control the entire supply chain, right down to the warehouses and the logistics. The underlying idea is “what you do yourself, you do better”. Just to give an example: they did not just collaborate with Whole Foods, but acquired them. Alibaba, on the other hand functions as a network that empowers a group of businesses with the tools and platform they need to thrive. Alibaba’s Big underlying idea is: if you help others grow, you’ll grow with them. And that's precisely what Walmart and Google are aiming at: becoming bigger by helping each other grow. This type of convergence into large ecosystems will only increase over time, and it's not a bad idea to scan your own industry and other (adjacent) sectors to find those players whose weaknesses are your strengths so you can keep your customers from fleeing to the single platform players.

Give your brand a voice

'Voice' is often underestimated, especially in Europe, but this move from Walmart and Google is one of the many tell-tale signs that it might become the interface of the future. It's one of the most natural interfaces for the moment, not bothering us in any way with the confinement of bothersome glasses, buttons or monitors. And once brands will finally start to move beyond the (now often) gimmicky voice feautures - like Nestlé's GoodNes Alexa skill, which can offer recipes and nutritional information for a specific meal - this might completely transform our lives, as well as how we perform marketing.

It's really important to think about your voice (marketing) strategy now. Because once your customer will start ordering and shopping through voice, you are at risk of disappearing behind a very powerful filter. After all, how many customers will keep asking for "toilet paper from brand X" instead of just requesting "milk"? And how will you convince them of changing from their regular brand to yours, if the direct lines of communication between you and them disappear? No time like the present to think about a voice strategy.

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Laurence Van Elegem
Laurence Van Elegem
Laurence has more than 10 years of experience in marketing, communications and disruptive innovation. Passionately curious, she is fascinated by the impact of technology and science on the way we work, consume and live our lives.
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April 3, 2019