Okay Google, how can you help grow Walmart’s online grocery business?

Discussion
Source: Walmart
Apr 03, 2019
George Anderson

Walmart is going all-in on its online grocery business with store pickup options (inside and out) as well as delivery. Yesterday, Walmart announced that it was looking to make ordering groceries online even easier by enabling its customers to place their orders by voice on any device that uses Google Assistant.

To get started placing orders, Walmart customers just need to say, “Hey Google, talk to Walmart.” Customers who use Walmart Voice Order should find the process made easier due to their past purchasing history.

“For example, 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,’” wrote Tom Ward, senior vice president, digital operations, Walmart U.S., in a post on the retailer’s blog.

Beginning later this month, Walmart Voice Order will be available at 2,100 of the chain’s stores for store pickup and at 800 others for home delivery. Walmart plans to continue expanding the scope of the program to other voice platforms and store locations over time.

Introducing: Walmart Voice Order​

Can you say, “Hey Google, talk to Walmart”? Yes? Then you’ve already mastered our newest tech to make #GroceryPickup easier. Introducing Walmart Voice Order.

Posted by Walmart on Tuesday, April 2, 2019

By teaming with Google, Walmart gives itself a sizeable starting platform to begin competing with Amazon’s Echo devices. Today, voice orders remain a small part of retail purchases overall, but many experts believe that consumer adoption of the technology for shopping purposes will continue to expand.

“The Voice Assistant Adoption Report” from Voicebot, PullString and RAIN shows that 19.7 percent of adults in the U.S. owned a voice-enabled smart speaker system last year. That percentage is expected to rise to around 30 percent by the end of 2019.

Amazon currently holds a nearly 65 percent share of the speaker market with Echo, but Google has been making inroads with Home and now accounts for nearly 20 percent of installed devices.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see adoption of voice-ordering picking up in any substantial way in the next year or two? How receptive do you expect customers to be to the Walmart Voice Order system?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Walmart is smart to jump in on voice ordering capabilities and to partner with a widely-used platform to make it happen."
"Voice grocery ordering will only really scale when the consumer can speak an entire list and then edit final selections with the aid of a screen that displays their cart."
"While product discovery is no picnic via voice, replenishment shopping via voice is the “killer app” in voice-assisted retail."

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18 Comments on "Okay Google, how can you help grow Walmart’s online grocery business?"


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Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

While I have no doubt that voice ordering will become an increasingly important channel, it still has a long way to go. For those Walmart customers who are interested in voice ordering the new service will be well received, but I suspect that this will be a very small number initially. I expect that Walmart will be taking the long view on this initiative and so short-term uptake is of less concern.

Herb Sorensen
BrainTrust

Bear in mind that Stop & Shop had a major hand held “smart device” deployed in stores, since around 2001. It was also seen here and there across Europe. It’s a L – O – N – G way from technology to the shoppers’ everyday, functional minds. (Also, it is the habitual, subconscious mind that must be reached.)

Carol Spieckerman
BrainTrust

Walmart is smart to jump in on voice ordering capabilities and to partner with a widely-used platform to make it happen. The key to adoption will be two-fold: getting the word out/driving awareness and succinctly articulating ease of use. As Walmart attacks convenience on every front, clearly delineating benefits will become more important.

Ben Ball
BrainTrust

This puts Walmart on even footing with Amazon in a key part of digital growth. Voice ordering is a natural evolution of the “shopping list” — already one of the most used features of voice assistants. The transition to ordering has already been made in my house for some time now. The pain is having to remember to “call our brands” so we don’t get Amazon Basic if we don’t want it. Tapping the Google Assistant is the one way Walmart could match Amazon out of the gate on this feature. Having the assistant remember my preferred brand selection is a big plus.

Jon Polin
BrainTrust

This current iteration of voice ordering is cute, but ultimately not convenient for buying more than one item. Consumers will not have patience to have to agree to selected product by brand and price for each item. Voice grocery ordering will only really scale when the consumer can speak an entire list and then edit final selections with the aid of a screen that displays their cart visually.

Mohamed Amer
BrainTrust

In the coming years, conversational commerce will become as natural as clicking through a website or app. For the near term business horizon of 1-2 years, I expect a doubling of voice capable smart speakers in use and continued improvements in capabilities.

Walmart is smart to infuse speed and agility in their strategy by partnering with a well funded and established platform in the race to redefine customer convenience and value.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Commerce continues to evolve, and voice ordering is scaling up with Amazon’s Alexa offering, and now with Walmart’s partnership with Google. As with any technology innovation, it takes a significant amount of time to scale to the point where the customer experience is intuitive, relatively seamless, and proves to be more efficient than typing in, or scrolling for your order. I do agree with the panelists that this Google/Walmart collaboration will represent a smaller segment of grocery customers.

David Naumann
BrainTrust
David Naumann
Vice President, Retail Marketing, enVista
3 months 20 days ago

There is no doubt that voice ordering is a growing trend, but it is still in its infancy. Consumers are becoming more comfortable with using smart speakers for music, seeking answers to questions and controlling home systems. In fact, we are building a home and most home builders are including smart speakers in the price of the home and integrating them with the temperature, lighting and security controls of the home.

While smart speakers are still a small share of product ordering today, it is smart for Walmart to refine this technology and be available for early adopters of this technology.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Voice ordering will pick up next year and the year after and continue to grow. I am not sure when it will reach the tipping point, but the tipping point may be something entirely different.

The ordering system of the future may not even be terribly interactive with the shopper. The Samsung refrigerator makes a list of what in the refrigator needs to be replenished. Will the kitchen cabinets do the same?

The development and understanding of these technologies all revolve around one word — “convenience.” Anything that makes the process more convenient (after the learning curve) for the shopper will win in the end.

Dave Bruno
BrainTrust

I could not agree more with this strategy: get in early and make it easy for customers to form habits on voice platforms. While product discovery is no picnic via voice, replenishment shopping via voice is the “killer app” in voice-assisted retail. A simple activation skill like “Hey Google, talk to Walmart” is easy to remember and the shopping commands are also simple – two critical points of friction that must be removed for voice to gain traction. I applaud this investment and believe it bodes well for Walmart.

gordon arnold
Guest

The problem for Walmart is to keep up with Google’s direction and software updates. This issue over time will lead to the creation of a buy or bring in-house and investment planning program. On the Google side there will be dollars spent to keep up with Walmart needs and at the same time focus on market strategies and trends. As pressure mounts from the consumer and competition to update and maintain core business investments and opportunities the obvious attractions may become luxury investments that erode slimming profit margins. There are no end game strategies for successful retail growth.

Verlin Youd
BrainTrust

Simple answer, yes. Conversational commerce is set to grow very quickly as consumers continue to use voice capabilities to talk to their technology be it their phone, their Roku remote, their car, and their smart speakers. I would expect it to grow at rates similar to mobile commerce in the early days.

Conversational commerce is also invading the store for the use of store employees. Drop into any Container Store, Home Depot Canada, Neiman Marcus Last Call and a number of other well known retailers and you’ll see store associates using conversational commerce enabled by an AI driven personal digital assistant to better serve customers by connecting to each other and enterprise systems.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
Voice ordering will continue to grow year over year, but it’s not there yet. The majority of voice assistant owners are using these devices to play music and check news and weather. It’s still too difficult to navigate too many options within a product category, like “milk,” to truly claim this is more convenient than other digital alternatives. However, re-ordering can be made quite convenient. If Walmart is integrating this service with the customer’s online ordering for groceries, thus eliminating that awkward first time ordering process, then this could definitely be a good jump start for many consumers to embrace the technology. I would also recommend Walmart work quickly to create an Alexa skill to enable the same service on Amazon’s home turf. No reason they should leave those users out of the mix. My impression is that Alexa users are more inclined to try these types of services than Google users. While I have to admit knowing very few Google Assistant users (compared to most people I know using Echo devices), the majority of… Read more »
Trevor Sumner
Guest

Voice ordering is still non-existent. The advantage Amazon has is direct insight into ordering and replenishment cycles. The integration right now is light and I think it will be quite some time before this becomes meaningful more than just a press release or an exploratory exercise.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

It makes great sense from Walmart’s point of view to partner with Google on voice as it lets them gain access to a wider user base. Customers may also feel more confident about using Google’s set-up because it’s familiar to them, and then of course there’s the hope that it will also work well because of who is behind it. One of the big things that could put off customers is if their experience isn’t good and I think Walmart has been wise to side-step some of those issues with this partnership.

I also love the idea of Walmart training the service to know a customer personally. If we expect people to use voice, then it has to be more convenient than, say typing. Having to specify the type of milk you want is not more convenient. Being able to say “milk” and know you’re getting exactly what you want just might be. I think it’s definitely worth Walmart giving the voice game some time and attention, especially if voice starts to take off more.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

No earlier than 3 years out. Jon Polin hit the real challenge with conversational commerce on the head — especially for grocery and regularly consumed goods. People can’t remember long lists and they don’t have the patience to have the device recite their lists back to them. Even small setbacks in a list such as a stock-out of a common brand will make it challenging. This whole idea of add one, take one off only works when you know what’s on it.

Maybe other folks have great memory, but I won’t have a clue what’s on my list after a day at work, nor will I have the time to listen to it recited. Lists are visual devices and hence this is not the way into conversational commerce. For Walmart it’s setting the stage for the future, and making sure they jump in the right bed, which for them is not Amazon’s.

Herb Sorensen
BrainTrust

Retailers of the future — and their suppliers — will be seamlessly connected with shoppers through Artificial Intelligence (AI), robots (mobile and otherwise), and throughout the supply chain. As has been said, “Telling the future is hard. Particularly the part about saying what will happen!” And I might add, “and when it will happen.”

Retail is the nexus between production and consumption, and bricks stores will certainly be a part of that. But AI and robots are the new frontier, that links bricks and clicks! 😉

Carlos Arambula
BrainTrust

I don’t see voice-ordering picking up for Walmart in the next year or two. This is an early adopter service and — I could be wrong on this, Walmart’s core consumers do not fit that profile.

However, there is value in promoting the service since it does provide a technology frontrunner halo to Walmart and eventually it will gain wider acceptance.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Walmart is smart to jump in on voice ordering capabilities and to partner with a widely-used platform to make it happen."
"Voice grocery ordering will only really scale when the consumer can speak an entire list and then edit final selections with the aid of a screen that displays their cart."
"While product discovery is no picnic via voice, replenishment shopping via voice is the “killer app” in voice-assisted retail."

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