In a bid to take on Amazon, Google has joined forces with Walmart to widen its ‘Express’ programme.
The collaboration will allow users to order hundreds of thousands of items through Google Assistant – a voice-activated smart assistant.
Google Express will include Walmart from late September in the US, although it is unclear if it will be available in further countries at a later date.
In a bid to take on Amazon Prime, Google has joined forces with Walmart to create a new ‘Express’ programme. The collaboration will allow users to order hundreds of thousands of items through Google Assistant – a voice activated smart assistant
The collaboration marks Google’s biggest retail partnership as it tries to broaden the reach of its voice-powered assistant Home speaker.
And it underscores Walmart’s drive to compete in an area dominated by Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo device.
‘Voice shopping is becoming a more important part of everyday shopping behavior,’ said Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart’s US e-commerce business.
Walmart has said Google’s investment in natural language processing and artificial intelligence will help make voice-activated shopping even more popular.
And Mr Lore said the personalisation of the partnership means people can shout out generic items like milk, bread and cheese, and Google Assistant will know exactly the brands and the size that the user wants.
Google introduced shopping to Home in February, letting people use voice to order essentials from more than 40 retailers like Target and Costco under its Google Express program.
But that was far behind the Amazon Echo, available since late 2014.
Walmart, which has more stores than any other retailer and the largest share of the US grocery market, is also working hard to close the gulf online between itself and Amazon.
It has overhauled its shipping strategy and is expanding store-curb pickup for groceries ordered online.
But it’s also had to look beyond itself and form partnerships.
Walmart also announced earlier this week that it’s expanding its grocery delivery service with ride-hailing service Uber.
Google Express allows you to shop at a variety of popular stores including Walmart, Costco and Whole Foods Market on the app, the Express website, or by voice
Amazon generally has been building its network of services on its own, using its Prime membership with same-day and even one-hour shipping options to develop loyalty.
It’s also been drawing in customers with its Alexa-powered devices.
Amazon doesn’t give sales figures for Echo, but Consumer Intelligence Research Partners estimated that it’s sold more than 10 million Alexa-powered Echo devices in the US since late 2014.
The collaboration marks Google’s biggest retail partnership as it tries to broaden the reach of its voice-powered assistant Home speaker
To be more competitive with Amazon, Google Express is scrapping the $95 (£74)-a-year membership from today, allowing shoppers to get free delivery within one to three days on orders as long as the purchase is above each store’s minimum.
Walmart is also integrating its Easy Reorder feature – which has data on both store and online purchases – into Google Express.
Shoppers who want to reorder their favorites have to link their Walmart account to Google Express.
With other Google Express retailers, personalization takes time as the assistant learns shoppers’ preferences, says Brian Elliott, general manager of Google Express.
So the quick personalisation with Walmart should make voice-activated shopping more attractive, he says.
Walmart says it will be tapping its 4,700 US stores and its fulfillment network next year to offer more kinds of customer experiences using voice shopping.
Mr Lore said: ‘That’s why it makes sense for us to team up with Google. We know this means being compared side-by-side with other retailers, and we think that’s the way it should be.’