Amazon’s purchase of Whole Foods not only shook up the supermarket market, pardon the redundancy, it was also a wake up call to its rivals, showing what the retail giant is capable of or willing to do to get an edge. Google and Walmart are definitely not taking things sitting down but rather than hit Amazon separately, they’ve decided to join forces to deliver a more powerful punch. Starting next month Walmart becomes the third but also the biggest store accessible from Google Express, combining Walmart’s supplies and Google’s machine learning to try and outdo Amazon.
So here’s how it will go down. Starting September, Google Express shoppers can choose Walmart when buying items, in addition to Target and Costco. This means that users can simply speak out their shopping list to Google Home or pick out items from the Google Express website and have those delivered in two days, mostly free of charge. But, as they say, the devil is in the details, and that’s where things get a bit more interesting.
For one, Google is dropping is membership fee, which costs $95 a year, for free two-day shipping. Instead it will use each store’s shipping requirements as the basis. In Walmart’s case, all transactions costing $35 or more is eligible, so that’s pretty much a done deal.
Walmart’s partnership with Google isn’t just about shopping by voice either. Google’s machine learning and artificial intelligence will play an important role in differentiating it from competing services. In a nutshell, when you ask Google Assistant to add an item to your shopping list, it will remind you of the last time you bought that item, suggesting how many you might want to buy this time.
It’s hard not to see this as the two companies’ response to Amazon’s growing power. The ubiquity of Alexa-enabled devices definitely gives Amazon the upper hand. We have to wait until September and beyond to see whether a pinch of artificial intelligence will be enough to turn the tides.