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Wal-Mart to offer voice-activated shopping

23 August 2017

Wal-Mart is foraying into voice-activated shopping, but unlike Amazon not on its own.

Wal-Mart said today that it is working with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items from laundry detergent to Legos for voice shopping through Google Assistant. The capability will become available in late September.

According to commentators, the move marks Google's biggest retail partnership and the most personalised shopping experience it will offer to widen the reach of its voice-powered assistant Home speaker.

It also underscores Wal-Mart'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 behaviour," said Marc Lore, chief executive of Wal-Mart's US e-commerce business, Associated Press reported.

Voice-activated devices are becoming more common and even Apple has one coming out this year. According to Wal-Mart Google's investment in natural language processing and artificial intelligence will help make voice-activated shopping even more popular.

Lore added that the personalisation of the partnership meant people can shout out generic items such as milk, bread and cheese, and Google Assistant will know exactly the brands and the size that the user wants.

According to commentators, if voice commerce gained traction and shoppers actually started searching for products by speaking to a device, Wal-Mart would be the only retailer in the US to offer the breadth of Amazon's product catalogue.

''More competition, more choice is great for consumers,'' Google's commerce and ads chief Sridhar Ramaswamy told Recode in an interview when asked about Amazon's own voice-shopping capabilities.

According to commentators, shoppers will be able to link their Walmart account to Google Home to receive personalised product recommendations, on the basis of purchases they had earlier made on and in Walmart stores.

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