Company / division: Target
Target and Google have announced a nationwide launch of their partnership to offer voice shopping from Target through Google Home (and eventually the Google Assistant on smartphones too). This follows on from Google’s earlier announcement with Walmart, and these partnerships feel very much like a new front in the escalating war between Google and Amazon. This also opens up potential new revenue streams for Google around voice, a medium far harder to monetize through advertising than its traditional businesses, and which Amazon is certainly going to leverage for e-commerce sales. On the other hand, an indirect relationship will make this a little more complex than a single-company solution – customers will have to train the Google Assistant to know which retailer to use for which items if they have several integrations set up. And of course for now shopping is still a minority use case for voice speakers, well down the list of actions people use regularly, though that may change over time.
Target has stunned its employees by suddenly shutting down two big innovation projects – Recode (Feb 2, 2017)
Amazon got lots of attention around its Amazon Go store concept a few weeks back, though it’s still an extremely limited pilot program. Target, on the other hand, seems to have just killed off its own similar initiative out of nowhere. It’s obviously tempting to view this as some kind of response to Amazon’s moves, but given Amazon’s tiny presence in physical retail it seems far more likely Target simply felt the project wasn’t delivering meaningful results and its innovation budget was best spent elsewhere. Having said that, if physical retailers can’t at least attempt to compete with Amazon in innovating on their home turf, it doesn’t bode well for their ability to stand up to it more broadly.