Walmart is stepping up its game and bringing new functionality for Google Assistant users with a new service that will take advantage of the company's data centers for a more intuitive, intelligent take on voice shopping called Walmart Voice Order. The company says the service, acting as a virtual shopping cart, works in conjunction with its grocery delivery and pickup services. Users can add items to their cart via voice and then complete the order via either, wherever available.
Accessed "this month" on any Assistant-enabled platform, users simply need to ask Google's AI helper to "talk to Walmart" to get started. Users can then ask to add items to their cart via voice as needed, whether all at once or over the course of days. Once the list is ready to be ordered users can complete the order via either deliver or Walmart's in-store pickup services, wherever available.
Walmart hasn't provided details about where exactly its Voice Order service is available right now but it will continue to spread to available areas over the next few weeks.
Leveraging a partner for a head start
Walmart's decision to partner with Google likely comes down to how practical the move is. The retail giant's database systems are already robust and it could probably build out its own assistant for the task. There's even talk that Walmart may be exploring its ability to compete with Google with a streaming gaming platform because of its prior tech investments.
Prior to that, the company has launched pickup centers and grocery delivery options for shoppers, the ability to scan items for purchase while shopping in-store, and a plethora of other tech innovations.
Companies such as Google and Amazon are currently dominating the market for voice assistants, far exceeding the reach and often the capabilities of even large rivals such as Apple and Microsoft. So building out its own AI would be a gamble for Walmart while depending on established services offers a safe bet that customers will be reached and use will be more widespread.
Because Amazon is a direct competitor in the grocery space, launching the service on Google's voice assistant is the obvious choice. Walmart might extend its services to other platforms in the future too, indicating that it's interested in and dedicated to building 'across platforms' with partners 'like Google' to help shoppers everywhere use its new tool.
More convenience …eventually
A voice-activated shopping tool or digital shopping cart is, in its own right, already a much more convenient option than pulling out a smart device or physical list and jotting things down. Users will be able to add items to their lists as the need arises, such as when they run out of milk, eggs, or some other product. Walmart isn't stopping at that initial convenience though.
As Walmart shoppers continue using the Walmart Voice Order platform via Assistant, the company will also leverage the information it already holds on a given customer and machine learning to make things even easier. For instance, the system will learn specifically what brand and type of milk customer buyers, Walmart says.
That means shoppers won't always need to specify those things when using voice controls to add an item to their cart. Instead, they'll be able to simply tell Walmart to 'add milk' and the appropriate item — or at least the most frequently purchased one — will be added. That system will get better over time and with more use.