Walmart and Google partner on voice-powered shopping

The deal aims to help the retail giant close the gap on Amazon's early lead in voice.

Walmart and Google have announced a deal that will make products from one of the world’s largest retailers available for order with a simple voice command.

Beginning next month, Google Express users will be able to order products from Walmart through the Express website, app or any device equipped with the AI-powered Google Assistant, like mobile phones or Google Home.

The Google Assistant integration is the most attention-grabbing part of the deal, as it will give Walmart a point of entry to compete with Amazon in the emerging voice market. The deal will also give Google Express its largest product selection from any single retailer, adding it to a platform that already includes Target and Costco and helping it further compete with the offering available to Amazon Prime members.

The partnership combines both companies’ consumer data sets, giving them the ability to offer greater personalization and convenience when consumers order using voice commands. For example, a simple statement like “add coffee” will add a user’s most frequently-purchased brand, size and variety to their cart.

Michael Levine, VP of marketing at Photon, says that voice represents a faster and more engaging way for consumers to place online orders compared to traditional methods. This deal gives Walmart a foothold in an emerging ecommerce platform that Amazon threatens to otherwise dominate.

“Walmart recognizes they are missing the AI-first shift with voice, and partnering with Google Assistant opens many new avenues of play and enables voice both in the home and on mobile,” he says. “It’s a great first step in reclaiming territory lost to their arch rival.”

Google had been charging Express users an annual subscription fee in order to offer free two-day shipping, similar to Amazon Prime. That subscription fee has now been dropped, with individual retailers setting a minimum price threshold for orders to be eligible for free, fast shipping.

Google Express is currently only available within the U.S. First tested in 2013, the service only reached full coverage of the country late last year. The Google Home speaker came to Canada in June, while the mobile version of Assistant began its roll out to non-Pixel phones the month before.