Google has teamed up with Wal-Mart in its biggest even retail partnership to challenge Amazon in the online shopping marketplace and combat the proliferation of its Alexa-powered Echo device as a means of facilitating voice shopping.
The move is expected to have a significant impact on the retail supply chain within the United States as well offering customers a whole new way of purchasing goods.
As Forbes analyst Kevin O’Marah puts it: "It signals an acceleration in the shift from store-based retail supply chains to a hyper-personalised, smart consumer supply chain.
"The dynamics of this new supply chain will be brutal for consumer brands accustomed to shelf-centric demand."
The new partnership marks the first time that world’s largest retailer is offering products outwith its own website in the US. It announced this week that it’s going to offer a huge array of items through Google’s online shopping platform, Google Express, and eventually through its virtual assistant, Google Home.
Wal-Mart is hoping that it can integrate its large network of stores with its digital business thanks to the new partnership.
Anyone who is looking to shop online is more likely to search within Amazon than Google so Google Express has scrapped the $95-a-year membership, allowing shoppers to get free delivery as long as the purchase is above each store's minimum, in an attempt to compete with Amazon, which sells hundreds of millions of items.
Mark Lore, president and CEO of Wal-Mart US e-commerce, said: "Voice shopping is becoming a more important part of everyday shopping behaviour.
"It makes sense to team with Google. They have made significant investments in natural language processing and artificial intelligence to deliver a powerful voice shopping experience.
“We know this means being compared side-by-side with other retailers, and we think that is the way it should be: an open and transparent shopping universe is good for customers.
"It will enable us to deliver highly personalized shopping recommendations based on customers’ previous purchases, including those made in Wal-Mart stores and on walmart.com.
“We are trying to help customers shop in ways that they may have never imagined.”