Google and Walmart announced a partnership that will bring hundreds of thousands of items sold by Walmart onto the Google Express online shopping service so they can also be purchased by voice request using Google Home, much how Amazon Prime members can order with voice commands to Alexa on Amazon’s Echo or Dot.
Walmart will also be integrated with the Google Express Easy Reorder features, which are similar to how Amazon offers the option to Subscribe & Save on many items. For Walmart, this partnership helps them compete with Amazon in the battle for eCommerce retail market share. For Google this partnership is about competing with Amazon both with eCommerce and in the battle for the home.
Google Express, formerly Google Shopping, used to carry an annual membership fee ($95), similar to Amazon Prime, but did away with membership fees in August. Several well-known multi-channel retailers list products on Google Express, including Costco, Walgreens, Bed Bath and Beyond, Petsmart, and starting in September this will also include Walmart. Retailers offer free shipping for orders reaching various price points and shopping from Costco also requires their membership (or a fee with the purchase), but now there are no Google Express membership fees.
Amazon has been the largest eCommerce retailer in North America for several years, and Walmart is currently the third largest eCommerce merchant, according to Internet Retailer. To put Amazon’s scale in perspective, Internet Retailer estimates that 38 percent of all U.S. eCommerce sales were transacted through Amazon in Q2 2017 while Amazon was responsible for nearly half of total eCommerce growth that quarter.
Amazon is far and away the largest eCommerce retailer by volume in North America, but Walmart has been gaining ground, moving from the fourth largest eCommerce retailer in 2015 to the third largest today. Walmart has more sales than Amazon overall but most occur in-store as just 3 percent of Walmart’s total sales were online sales in 2016. Walmart has aggressively pursued the eCommerce market, including their $3.3 billion acquisition of Jet.com, and now this partnership with Google, which allows consumers link their Walmart.com and Google accounts for personalized features and suggestions based on both online and in-store purchases. Walmart is not only improving their eCommerce strategy, they are partnering with Amazon’s primary competitor in the battle for the home, which if Amazon wins could enable them to corner and keep an even larger eCommerce market share.
Amazon doesn’t just support recurring purchases (Subscribe & Save) and voice activated ordering from the home, they also provide Dash Buttons which allow consumers to re-purchase a common household item on-demand. Walmart’s partnership with Google allows their items to be purchased by consumers, directly from their households without opening their laptop or mobile devices, for instant integration with recurring purchases (Easy Reorder) and voice activated ordering through Google’s voice assistant in Google Home.
Google’s partnership with Walmart will massively increase the SKUs carried and that can be offered on Google Express and voice-purchased via Google Home. Walmart CEO Marc Lore stated they will be adding “hundreds of thousands of items for voice shopping via Google Assistant,” meaning Google Home can offer a voice-purchase and recurring order product catalog now at least comparable to Amazon’s. In many ways Google is the internet gateway, and having an extensive catalog in Google Express means consumers who may go straight to Amazon to price search a good today will start going to Google first instead. This partnership is both defensive in that it can help protect Google’s status as the internet gateway, and offensive in that it helps Google gain ground against first-mover Amazon, with many Echo and Dot owners entrenched with Amazon, in the battle for the home.
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