Short answer? Probably No.
Let’s dig in. Amazon is the 800lb gorilla in the e-commerce world. They dropped the bomb of the Echo years before anyone could respond, and Google was the first at-bat with their Google Home. However, both companies have very different pedigrees and therefore are tackling the same problem – how to command more of their consumer’s wallets and kitchens/living rooms – two very different ways.
Foundations Set the Tone and Challenges
The battle for consumer’s homes is in full force. Amazon is now on their second version of their Echo in-home speaker, one with a screen, continues the push even more. Google responded, finally, in the last year with their own speaker. Both companies have been going head to head with features such as outbound phone calling, access to news and podcasts, and skills/actions galore. However, the root of the why each company wants to be in your house has to do with their core services – e-commerce and search.
For Amazon, they’ve always been about e-commerce. Whether it was becoming the marketplace that everyone compared prices to while in-store, to creating physical devices such as tablets and phones, it was always about content and purchasing that content. The creation of Prime just solidified their presence as a dominant e-commerce vendor. With the launch of the Echo and putting a direct ordering system in the kitchen of more than 11 million Echos according to Morgan Stanley at the beginning of 2017, it’s no wonder why everyone wants to catch up.
But Google’s history and money making are rooted in search and ads, not commerce. For Google to make money with their in-home speaker, it needed to have a different approach and needed to go head to head with the e-commerce giant. An uphill battle to say the least. Google made some smart choices when it launched to play catch up to Amazon. It didn’t focus on e-commerce out of the gate. It focused on its strengths — organizing the world’s information and delivering it via voice. Ask your Google Home anything related to information and it would beat out an Amazon Echo and Alexa the majority of the time. But searches don’t’ make money.
How Do You Beat a Giant? You Partner With Others
I wrote earlier about my dissatisfaction with Google trying to beat Amazon when they moved their “list building” from Google Keep to Google Express. While I knew Google had to figure out a way to make money, I didn’t think the time was right to move one of the key functions I found most valuable of the Google Home. While my list couldn’t order and deliver goods to my door, I really just wanted the convenience of building my grocery list with my family. It wasn’t until recently that I even tried to order some goods from Costco via Google Express. The experience wasn’t as nice as I would have liked. More on that later.
Then Google announced they were partnering with Walmart to take on Amazon. Amazon had since acquired Whole Foods and again, everyone is fighting for the kitchen and the home. At first, I will say I wasn’t thrilled. Walmart? Really? Maybe it is personal preference on where I shop, but my initial reaction was why not Target? It took me about a day and some conversations at work for me to realize it isn’t about any opinions or personal feelings I had about Walmart or shopping there in person because I wasn’t going to be “shopping” there in person. It is about distribution, access to masses of goods, both grocery and textiles and electronics. Google doesn’t have the logistics network that Amazon does. Google doesn’t have the huge inventory of goods that Amazon does. If Google was going to compete with Amazon at the e-commerce level, it couldn’t rely on all the niche stores in Google Express. It needed the next best e-commerce retailer in their corner…and Walmart, is it. Walmart needed Google because they couldn’t innovate fast enough and needed to get direct access to their Google Assistant. Oops, did I just say Google Assistant vs. Google Home? Yes, because that’s really what Walmart wanted access to. The millions of devices that will have the Google Assistant on board which is not just Google Home, but Android devices.
It’s Game On
So it’s game on in the hunt for the voice-driven e-commerce world. Digital assistants like Google Assistant and Alexa are going to go head-to-head for a long time. Both Google and Amazon are taking hardware and software routes to get to the most consumers possible. The reality is that Google is fighting an uphill battle as it relates to e-commerce. The partnership with Walmart was a smart one. Amazon is fighting an access battle. While Google and the Google Assistant is not just in a Google Home, but third-party speakers and millions of cell phones, Amazon’s phone attempts have failed. It is only with a recent partnership with Motorola that Alexa is getting baked into handsets with the MotoZ2. It’s going to be an interesting next 18 months as the Walmart/Google relationship gets off the ground. Did Google have a different choice of who to partner with? Not really. Currently, Amazon is #1 according to the National Retail Federation of top e-commerce websites. Walmart is #4 and Target is #26. Enough said.