Walmart doubles down on voice grocery shopping with Google Home

  •   August 23, 2019

Yesterday Walmart announced a simplified way for customers to order groceries using voice commands on any device that features the Google Assistant. That includes Google Home, Android devices and iPhones. The company said the capability will come to other platforms soon (read: Alexa).

Update of an existing partnership. Though being treated as an entirely new announcement, this is effectively an update or modification of what was previously announced in August, 2017. At that time Walmart announced grocery reordering through Google Assistant and a partnership with Google Express for local delivery. Walmart stopped using Google Express in January of this year.

Under the just-announced scenario, users initiate a shopping order by saying “OK Google, talk to Walmart.” They must first link existing Walmart accounts to their Google Home account and will be prompted to do so if they haven’t previously. Then they need select their default pick-up store, which can be done in several ways including using Google Home, which will select the closest store to the home address registered with Google.

Once those steps are accomplished, users can start adding items to a shopping cart, which can extend over multiple sessions. Ultimately groceries are picked up in store. Presumably they could also be delivered as well, which was part of the original 2017 announcement.

Focus on existing, loyal Walmart shoppers. While Walmart voice-grocery shopping works for both new and existing shoppers, it’s really designed as a loyalty play for regular customers. According to Walmart, “If a customer says ‘add milk to my cart,’ we’ll make sure to add the specific milk the customer buys regularly. Instead of saying ‘1 gallon of 1% Great Value organic milk,’ they’ll simply say one word: ‘milk.’

Adding regularly purchased items to a shopping cart — Walmart has shopping history and purchase data for its registered customers — removes a major obstacle for voice-based shopping: selecting among several products in a given category (e.g., milk, toothpaste, laundry detergent).

The expected use case is building a shopping list during the course of the week: “We know when using voice technology, customers like to add items to their cart one at a time over a few days – not complete their shopping for the week all at once. So, this capability aligns with the way customers shop.”

Users can also move between devices to add items to their shopping cards. According to Kantar, 12.6 percent of Google Home owners have ordered groceries via voice.

Why you should care. According to a recent retailers survey from RetailMeNot, retailers are very bullish on voice shopping. Just under three-fourths (74 percent) of senior retail marketers said that shopping on smart speakers would be a “main form of shopping within 3 years.” The number jumped to more than 90 percent for retailers with more than $1 billion in annual revenue. Walmart is clearly in that latter category.

With this updated Walmart voice shopping experience, we see a viable voice-commerce model taking shape: shopping list creation and product reordering. Several factors that make this viable are:

  • The fact that it’s multiplatform
  • It targets existing shoppers and existing purchases thereby removing uncertainty (which product to buy)
  • The simple user experience reinforces loyalty, taking a page from Amazon’s playbook

Over the past few years, Walmart has built out a sophisticated buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) experience that this relies upon. So when a user gets to the store to collect pre-ordered groceries, they’re ready for pick-up.