Google and Walmart: More Than a Super Saver Special?

August 23, 2017

I read “Walmart and Google Partner on Voice-Based Shopping.” The main point of the write up is that talking to a device is the way people will buy nylon shirts, dog food, and giant bottles of fizzy drinks. The write up points out the smart Google features and the allure of having a person (a Googley electric vehicle putting the packages in front of a house. (Package poacher alert.)

I noted this passage:

Google Express is also today ditching its membership fees, and now promises free delivery across its retailers in one to three days, as long as customer orders are above each store’s minimums… Google believes its fees were limiting adoption and were particularly cumbersome when it came to enabling voice shopping.

Google may not be as much believing as reacting to data which may suggest that the approach was as tasty as off brand cat food to a persnickety feline. Google. Data. Remember?

The notion of the Google bubble providing a boost to Walmart’s mobilization against Amazon is threaded through the write up.

From my vantage point in Harrod’s Creek, I thought about three issues:

  1. Amazon is a far greater threat to Google than just product search. Amazon is winning in this particular category if the data I have collected are accurate. A three to one gap seems to loom for the GOOG. I think of the dropped ball with Froogle, and the rest is Amazon’s history.
  2. Google is thinking less like the bold imitator it was when it needed to generate revenue and the Yahoo, Overture, GoTo approach was so darned juicy and semi-available. Now the teaming is a response to a genuine business threat. Yep, Amazon again. Google is reacting in a way that reminds me of a small business that finds itself watching a larger outfit changing the rules of the game and threatening the small business as collateral damage. “We have to do something big, significant” echoes in my mind.
  3. Neither Google nor Walmart are particularly fast moving. The companies share other similarities: Neither has figured out Act 2 in their corporate dramas. Neither believes that what happened to Endeca or Sears can be allowed to happen to them. Neither has been able to spin gold from acquisitions. Are there other parallels? This is a question worth considering.

Net net: The tie up is less about a leapfrog of Amazon and more about what big companies sensing future distress do to come up with a “significant action.”

Stephen E Arnold, August 23, 2017


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