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Product Innovation

Walmart Builds on Omnichannel Growth with Voice-Assisted Grocery Shopping

Walmart Voice Order furthers retailer’s pursuit of delivering frictionless shopping to consumers across all channels

Walmart aims to build on the momentum it’s established for online grocery shopping by adding voice-assisted grocery shopping to its digital line-up. Walmart teamed up with Google to create a new integration with Google Assistant that allows consumers to voice order groceries online for pickup or delivery without fiddling with a phone or a browser.

The new Walmart Voice Order lets the consumer add to a voice-enabled online grocery cart over time—in much the same way someone naturally builds out a grocery list the old-fashioned way.

“We know when using voice technology, customers like to add items to their cart one at a time over a few days – not complete their shopping for the week all at once,” says Tom Ward, senior vice president of digital operations for Walmart U.S. “So, this capability aligns with the way customers shop.”

The rollout of the grocery voice order service reflects Walmart’s commitment to unify the customer experience across all channels and to reduce friction for every kind of shopper. According to Janey Whiteside, chief customer officer for Walmart, these are the fundamental tenets in Walmart’s strategy to thrive in the face of disruptive market forces.

“The ultimate piece here is the recognition that there is only one customer. There isn’t an in-store customer and an online customer,” Whiteside says. “The more we can treat you as one customer and make sure that you’re having an interconnected experience, the better we can serve you as a customer.”

Executing on that core mission to deliver frictionless shopping, Ward’s team developed Walmart Voice Order to simplify the process of getting exactly the item customers want into their cart. The service uses machine learning capabilities that consider prior purchase data to identify the specific types of items consumers normally buy for a particular type of product.

“If a customer says ‘add milk to my cart,’ we’ll make sure to add the specific milk the customer buys regularly,” Ward explains. “Instead of saying ‘1 gallon of 1% Great Value organic milk,’ they’ll simply say one word: ‘milk.’”

The partnership with Google pushes Walmart’s voice-assistant grocery shopping out to a billion devices across numerous platforms like home hubs, TVs, smartphones, and smartwatches. Ward says the firm will continue to add more partners to its voice ecosystem as the initiative moves forward.

Even before launching voice capabilities, Walmart’s omnichannel strategy has been driving a surge in grocery sales for the organization.

Last year Walmart nearly doubled the store locations offering grocery pickup of online orders, which now stands at 2,100. It’s also now providing online grocery delivery services out of 800 locations. As a result, the firm reported that it saw its best grocery sales numbers in nine years in 2018. Executives say this uptick contributed significantly to building Walmart’s 40 percent growth in online sales last year.

“We continue to see new customers coming into the family through online grocery pickup. We’re also absolutely seeing a migration of customers who were shopping in-store moving to pickup as well,” Whiteside says. “It’s a combination of both, and we’re seeing a deepening of engagement and a broadening of the basket for customers that are engaging with us.”

Walmart still remains among the few retail organizations that are executing on fully fleshed out omnichannel strategies. According to a report by Dimension Data, fewer than 9 percent of organizations have managed to connect all of their channels and the industry is riddled with “fragmented and disjointed tracking of customer journeys, user behavior, and channel performance.”

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