Walmart in deal with Google to offer voice-activated shopping
Walmart is determined not to cede any ground to Amazon.
In a partnership that takes direct aim at the online giant and its Alexa voice-controlled device, Walmart is teaming up with Google to offer hundreds of thousands of items available for voice shopping via Google Assistant, the search giant's online shopping platform that lives on its smart speaker Google Home and other smart devices. It will be the largest number of items currently offered by a retailer through the platform, according to Walmart.
The service is another bulwark in the defenses Walmart is building up against its biggest rival. It will be available in late September.
The deal with Walmart is Google's largest retail partnership to date. While other retailers, including Target, Kohl's and Ulta, sell on Google Express, no other company currently offers the depth of products Walmart will be offering. In related news, Google Express said it will now offer free delivery across its retailers as long as the order is above each store’s minimum threshold.
"When it comes to voice shopping, we want to make it as easy as possible for our customers," said Marc Lore, president and CEO, Walmart U.S. eCommerce. "That’s why it makes sense for us to team up with Google. They’ve 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’s the way it should be. An open and transparent shopping universe is good for customers."
In another key distinction from the other retailers that sell via Google Express, Walmart will allow shoppers to link up a pre-existing user account with Google Express on the back-end. The discounter will integrating its Easy Reorder feature, which has data on customers' store and online purchases, into Google Express. Shoppers who want to reorder their favorites can link their Walmart account to Google Express.
"This will enable us to deliver highly personalized shopping recommendations based on customers’ previous purchases, including those made in Walmart stores and on Walmart.com," Lore said.
Lore said that Walmart will roll out increased voice shopping capabilities in 2018.
"Next year, we will also leverage our 4,700 U.S. stores and our fulfillment network to create customer experiences that don’t currently exist within voice shopping anywhere else, including choosing to pick up an order in store (often for a discount) or using voice shopping to purchase fresh groceries across the country," he said.
To see a blog post from Google on its new partnership with Walmart, click here.
H&R Block taps former Target and Uber exec as CEO
The man who resigned from the number two position at Uber after six months on the job has been named chief executive of the nation's largest tax preparer.
H&R Block named Jeffrey J. Jones II president and CEO, effective Oct. 9, 2017. He will succeed Tom Gerke, who will continue to serve as interim president and CEO until then. Gerke will remain general counsel and chief administrative officer.
Jones resigned as president of ride sharing at Uber in March. In a statement at the time, he commented that "the beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber."
Prior to Uber, Jones was executive VP and chief marketing officer at Target Corporation from 2012 to 2016. He served as a key member of Target’s executive leadership team and helped lead the brand and business back from the 2013 data breach, launching a variety of major initiatives that drove traffic, brand affinity and loyalty.
Prior to Target, Jones held executive and leadership roles for The Gap, The Coca-Cola Company and Leo Burnett where he served General Motors, MillerCoors and Procter & Gamble, and founded Burnett’s subsidiary company, LB Works, which focused on technology solutions.
“One of our core corporate values is ‘We Do the Right Thing,’” said Robert A. Gerard, chairman, H&R Block. “There are few people who embody this more than Jeff. He is a transformational leader, one who deeply understands today's consumer and knows how to drive results in large-scale operations. Given his proven record of success in innovation and change management, the board is confident Jeff is the right person to evolve and grow our business in the years ahead.”
Sears inks new licensing agreements for two top brands
Sears Holdings is expanding the distribution of two of its iconic brands.
Cleva North America will manufacture vacuum cleaners and floor cleaning accessories under the Kenmore and Kenmore Elite brands. The company will be able to sell the products to retailers around the world.
Lighting products-maker Dorcy International, which already makes DieHard batteries and flashlights, will be able to manufacture an expanded range of products and sell them in more places under the new agreement. Dorcy's DieHard products will be distributed in the U.S., Puerto Rico, the Caribbean and Latin America and some locations in the South Pacific.
"Both of these agreements are examples of our expansion strategy to unleash the power of these iconic brands internationally," stated Tom Park, president of the Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands at Sears Holdings. “We will have direct and active involvement in building the business with our licensing partners and we're confident that both Cleva and Dorcy will maintain our high quality standards."
The new agreements are in line with Sears' recent moves to leverage its brands to generate more cash, including the sale of Craftsman to Stanley Black & Decker. Most recently, Sears started selling Kenmore products on Amazon.