French Grocery Chain Carrefour Debuts Google Assistant-Powered Voice Shopping
Google and French retail chain Carrefour launched a voice-based grocery shopping service on Tuesday. Customers can use Google Assistant to search for and purchase groceries using their personal profile with the voice assistant.
Shopping for food from Carrefour using Google Assistant simply involves connecting Google to a Carrefour account and opening the voice app by saying “Ok Google, je veux faire les courses.” Google’s Voice Match feature identifies who is talking, and opens up the relevant shopping cart. The user can then ask Google Assistant to add products to a shopping cart. The requests can be specific about brands, but if the shopper uses broader terms like milk or cheese, the voice assistant will decide what to add based on the user’s Carrefour shopping history. While deciding what to buy, the customer can share their list with other people and allow them to add items to the list if they choose. Google Assistant compiles the final list, but to actually purchase the food, the user has to switch to the Carrefour website to confirm it’s what they want and set up the delivery time and method.
Carrefour and Google initially began working together in 2018 and the new voice experience is an extension of that agreement. The voice shopping arrangement is part of Carrefour’s larger e-commerce strategy, which includes investing €2.8 billion by the end of 2020. Partnering with Google helps both companies take on their shared rival Amazon, whose portfolio includes both retail and voice technology. Nearly half of France uses voice assistants and smart speakers in some form, a CSA and Hadopi study cited by Carrefour found, so now is an ideal time to set up a voice shopping option.
“The partnership developed with Google gives Carrefour a head start in terms of technology and customer experience,” Carrefour executive director of e-commerce, data, and digital information Amélie Oudéa-Castéra said in a statement. “Carrefour is the first retailer in the world to integrate with the new voice-based grocery shopping experience on the Google Assistant. This innovation, developed with Google, will further accelerate the trajectory of e-commerce at Carrefour.”
Carrefour’s voice shopping may require switching to a more standard format to complete, but there’s a possibility it could shift to a fully voice-based service. Google has just begun testing a program that uses Voice Match to allow people to buy things solely using their voice, and it has recently enhanced the setup process for Voice Match to make it more secure and accurate. On top of that, Google has just extended Voice Match to any Google Assistant-powered device, making it easier for Carrefour to include a purely audio shopping experience without limiting the types of devices where it would operate.
That voice shopping will become more competitive seems certain. And not just in France. Amazon has been rolling out voice shopping options beyond the U.S., adding the Alexa voice assistant to its Indian mobile app. India is also where Walmart, through its Flipkart subsidiary, has created a voice assistant for grocery shopping. Europe could be next for Amazon and other retailers to try out voice shopping. There are obstacles that could give Google a solid headstart, however. Voice Match’s security is a crucial facet of Google’s voice shopping system, not only for compliance with Europe’s GDPR privacy rules but to assure people that their data won’t be taken. As repeated surveys have shown, worries about privacy tend to limit people’s willingness to do their shopping by voice. Any company trying to add voice shopping as an option will have to contend with that reluctance.