Fearing Amazon, Target and Other Retailers Team with Google
One week after unveiling new home speakers to be used with its intelligent assistant, Google yesterday announced it will offer voice-activated remote shopping with Target. Earlier this month, a similar Google service went live with Walmart.
These and other partnerships with Google all appear to point at one conclusion: that some of the world's largest brick-and-mortar retailers are worried about Amazon's increasing encroachment on their traditional turf.
Already the planet's 800-pound gorilla of online retailing, Amazon has been taking a number of steps into the world of regular storefronts. In 2015, the company began rolling out physical sites for delivery, pickup, and return services on college campuses across the U.S. And this June, Amazon inked a $13.7 billion all-cash deal to acquire Whole Foods Market, a transaction expected to close before the end of the year.
Coming Soon: 'Quick Re-Order Experience'
Under the partnership announced yesterday, the Google Express shopping service that originally launched in 2013 will be expanded to enable purchases through Google Assistant at Target stores across the U.S., with the exception of those in Alaska and Hawaii. The service will also be available to users through Google Assistant on their smartphones.
More than 50 retailers now provide shopping services through Google Express. And those services are increasingly supporting voice-enabled buying with the help of smart speakers like the Home Mini and Home Max unveiled by Google last week.
In a Google blog post about the new arrangement with Target, retail and shopping president Daniel Alegre and Google Assistant vice president Scott Huffman said the companies plan to add even more features in the coming year. Those features are expected to include discounted shopping for users with a Target payment card, personalized shopping recommendations, and "a quick re-order experience based on past Target purchases."
That last capability clearly resembles the service offered by Amazon's Dash Buttons, which allow one-click re-ordering of frequently purchased household items.
"The expansion of Google Express follows Target's successful trial of the home delivery shopping service in California and New York City," Target said in a news announcement yesterday. "By expanding Google Express nationally, more guests will be able to shop Target's assortment, including exclusive brands that are only available at Target. And since items are shipped from a nearby Target store, guests will receive their orders in just two days."
Google Assistant-Alexa Battle Heats Up
Last week, Walmart announced it had gone live with a personalized shopping service developed in partnership with Google. That service enables voice-activated ordering through Google's smart speakers and intelligent assistant.
Like Target, Walmart is clearly launching such capabilities with an eye firmly on Amazon, which has promoted hands-free shopping, online browsing, and other voice-enabled services through its smart Echo speakers and Alexa intelligent assistant.
Other retailers that have partnered with Google for Express shopping services include Costco, Giant Food, PetSmart, Staples, Treasure Island Foods, Walgreens, and -- for now, at least -- Whole Foods.
In September, Amazon unveiled the newest generation of its smart speakers, along with a number of new capabilities for Alexa devices. Among the other new products it announced was the Echo Connect, a device designed to enable hands-free calling through a landline- or VoIP-based home phone.
As the tech titans and retail giants take sides, it will be interesting to see not only which side wins -- Google or Amazon -- but what effect these mega-merchants will have on smaller retail stores.