Walmart Acquires Conversational Design Startup Botmock
— Obaid Ahmed 🤖 (@obaid) November 1, 2021
Walmart has acquired conversational design startup Botmock for an undisclosed sum. The startup’s technology will augment Walmart’s ongoing development of voice and chat-based commerce with Botmock’s suite of prototyping and deployment tools for conversational AI.
Botmock has built up a collection of no-code tools for setting up an AI to converse with humans. The drag and drop interface automatically develops code based on the user’s design. The complexity of conversational commerce means Walmart would need to make a huge investment in resources and time to match what Botmock brings to the table. As part of the arrangement, Botmock will shut down its existing platform, allowing current users a chance to finish or transfer their work beforehand.
“Our goal at Botmock has always been to create a powerful tool that enables teams — both technical & non-technical — to create exceptional conversational experiences,” Botmock founder Obaid Ahmed tweeted. “We will be fully sunsetting the Botmock product, so you will have the ability to download all your Botmock project data.”
The acquisition meshes with a recent flurry of conversational AI projects at Walmart. Conversational commerce vice president for Walmart’s Store Nº8 incubation division Dominique Essig has been a major booster for the retail giant’s investment in the concept. The company recently started working on a Text to Shop feature allowing shoppers to text their list to a chatbot. That follows years of partnerships with voice assistants, starting in 2017 when Walmart offered direct ordering through Google Home devices before switching to Google Assistant integration in 2019 and adding Siri. For employees, the Ask Sam voice app released last year answers questions for employees looking for information on product prices and locations, including maps. Former Walmart e-commerce chief Marc Lore has even begun a new conversational commerce technology startup called Wizard Commerce, which recently raised $50 million. Walmart sees Botmock as a shortcut to diving into conversational AI development far faster than would be feasible otherwise.
“By giving Designers, Merchants, Customer Service and other non-technical teams access to these tools, we can empower business owners from across our enterprise to easily create voice, chat and intelligent assistant experiences. With such a tool we can build natural voice and chat interfaces for our customers and associates faster and deploy them more rapidly,” Walmart senior vice president of core retail services and emerging technology explained in a blog post. “Building these options for customers in the past would require engineers to work with the Product and Design teams just to design a simple prototype. And depending on the complexity of the issue, it could take months to deploy. With Botmock’s technology, our teams can build and deploy the conversational experience in just a few days.”