Walmart is upping the ante on its voice commerce capabilities by acquiring select assets of voice technology startup Botmock for an undisclosed amount. Cheryl Ainoia, senior vice president of retail services/emerging technology at Walmart, made the announcement in a LinkedIn post Monday (Nov. 1).
“Customers today are busier than ever and they’re looking for simple ways to quickly connect with Walmart whenever they need us. We’re seeing one of the easiest and most natural ways for customers to do this is through voice and chat, which is why we’ve built and deployed multiple conversational experiences and have plans to introduce even more,” Ainoia said.
Walmart did not respond to requests for additional information regarding the deal. Botmock launched in 2017 in Ottawa, Canada, and works with customers in 30 countries on voice technology applications. It is unclear if any of the Botmock executives will join Walmart or if they merely sold technology assets.
She said the acquisition accelerates Walmart’s conversations platform as the Botmock technology allows users to design, test and deploy conversational applications across multiple platforms. She said the Botmock, no-code platform will allow designers, merchants and customer service teams to create chat and intelligent assistant experiences. Ainoia said building seamless interactions for voice or conversational chat is a difficult design problem and Walmart is working to mitigate those challenges.
“For example, when a customer is building their weekly grocery cart using their voice, they might say, ‘add milk to my cart.’ The right action and the response to the customer depends on various factors, including if the customer has bought milk in the past, what their preferred type of milk is (e.g., 2% or non-fat, etc.), do they already have some type of milk in their cart, and if so, should we ask whether they want to change the quantity or let them know they already have it in their cart,” she explained.
She said building conversational options would require months to deploy under the present system, but by adding Botmock’s technology Walmart believes it can deploy conversation experiences in a few days.
The move comes on the heels of Walmart enabling voice shopping through Google and Siri and the internal use of the Ask Sam app that employees use to problem solve in stores and clubs. Walmart said it continues to enhance text-to-shop services recently announced.
“I’m excited about the many opportunities to integrate Botmock’s technology with our current conversational platform. Not only will the addition of this technology help us create more ways to serve customers, it will also help speed time to market and lower our costs. Stay tuned for more exciting things to come in this space,” Ainoia said.
Steve Wiideman, senior search strategist at Wiideman Consulting Group, told Talk Business & Politics in April that voice commerce was a wide-open frontier. He said Walmart is behind Amazon in this area. He said the think tank Review 42 recently reported 20% of mobile queries are done with voice search, nearly 40 million Americans own smart speakers and 58% have used voice search to find information about a local business. The report also said 72% of people who use voice search devices claim the technology has become part of their daily routine. As of March, Review 42 said 43% of smart speaker owners use the technology to shop.