DIGITAL POV: Google and Walmart Partner for e-commerce
Google has partnered with Walmart to sell hundreds of thousands of products on Google Express and Google Assistant, Google’s voice-enabled artificial intelligence (AI) platform integrated into Android phones and Google Home. Google has also created Purchase on Google (POG), an umbrella organization to streamline the enablement and expansion of shopping across Google’s previously disconnected platforms and products—Google Express, Assistant and Search.
Details and Implications:
The partnership between two of the world’s largest companies is a clear move to defend against advances from Amazon, which has taken an aggressive position to win-over customers by making shopping experiences seamless, ubiquitous and personalized.
Through the development of new digital products and media services, the accumulation of personal data and refinement of shopping user-experiences, and more recently, the construction and acquisition of physical retail footprints through its WholeFoods and Amazon Books divisions, Amazon has leapfrogged Google and is now nipping at Walmart’s revenue heels.
To compete, Google and Walmart will now share data and attempt to reduce shopping friction for users and consumers of both companies when shopping from mobile and voice-enabled devices. Users can now link their Walmart account with Google so that they receive more personalized shopping recommendations, something that Amazon Alexa customers already enjoy. Google Assistant users will also now be able to buy products with free shipping on Walmart, as long as they meet the company’s $35 threshold.
Unfortunately for Google, the deal changes little. Amazon has already captured 75% of the growing IoT device market and has a plan for dominating the voice market by making Alexa ubiquitous -embedding the technology into home appliances and cars to make Amazon products and services sticky. While Google may delight shoppers with Walmart’s assortment and commitment to everyday low prices, the change will be only incremental; Purchase on Google platforms were already integrated with other large value retailers in the U.S., such as Target and Costco.
Moreover, the deal does not reflect a renewed focus on honing the e-commerce fundamentals at Google that have made Amazon a relevant shopping powerhouse. There is no apparent integrated Google-retailer strategy for customer service, no improvements in shopping navigation and only minor improvements made to the Purchase on Google shopper experience to incorporate purchase history and personalized shopping data. In terms of voice shopping, Google Assistant mobile voice searches still do not surface Google express products.
Having said all of this, pairing the reach of Google’s Assistant enabled device market (which far outnumbers that of Alexa devices globally) with Walmart’s large global e-commerce and retail footprint, will one day revolutionize customer experiences and provide scalable new opportunities for brands looking to reach potential consumers via voice. That day is not today, but brands must prepare for it. It is predicted that by 2018, nearly 30% of technology conversations will be connected with smart devices; and by 2020, over 200 billion searches per month will be conducted via voice. To win in the voice-first world, brands must begin to include audio and voice-led strategies into their larger marketing plans, experimenting with content and paid search experiences as they emerge.