Google Versus Amazon?

With everyone scrambling to get in front of the retail evolution, it was a pleasure to hear a talk at last week’s New York AdWeek by Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart eCommerce and Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google SVP Ads & Commerce. A shout out goes to Fortune Executive Editor Adam Lashinsky who did a terrific job moderating and asking some really excellent questions.

Marc was the founder of, the eCommerce site purchased by Walmart last year for $3 billion. He and Sridhar have been partners in creating an eCommerce response to Amazon. Although both Marc and Sridhar continually took the high road, it’s obvious that their venture is poised to have the clout, capital and drive to meet Amazon head-on. Google’s partners in grocery and other merchandise will not be limited to Walmart. Target and others will be joining forces with Google in this futuristic venture.

Basically, Google’s role in this is to provide customer insight for Walmart’s and other partner’s merchandising and logistics in this new world of groceries and beyond. At one point, Sridhar admitted that “Google knows as much about you as your mother.” While that’s a bit overstated, the point is that Google knows a lot about most of us, and Walmart and others want to tap into that knowledge in order to make consumer buying more intuitive and advertising more relevant. As one would expect, Google believes that the better they know you, the more likely they can serve you ads for products you’ll want.

The obvious question is, how objective will Google’s ad results be for a given product that they now sell through their various retail partners? Is there tension from Google trying to influence buyer preferences? Sridhar’s answer was that people are open to options beyond their normal preferences, especially in higher ticket items.

The good news is that as advertising becomes more one to one, the ads become more relevant. And as the long tail of products grow, the more options we all have that we would never have otherwise known. With Google watching and cataloging the history of our searching and buying and traveling and communicating, the more granular and targeted will be its product recommendations.

It was asked what will be the difference between Amazon and Google/Walmart? Amazon is basically an enormous catalog. Google will be facilitating customers with their Walmart and other brick and mortar retail purchases. Google believes it will provide them a giant consumer platform not limited by the Amazon “catalog”.

Walmart is experimenting with home delivery. But rather than pay for third party delivery services, they are paying associates to deliver products on their way home from their shift. Test have shown that any delivery works out to be less than a ten minute deviation from the associate’s commute home. They are also testing a pilot program where people have a four character electronic lock on their home so that deliveries can be made and groceries put away while the customer is out. Thinking that not many would allow such an intrusion into their home, Marc asked the audience if ten years ago, we would be taking rides and being picked up by strangers (Uber) or letting strangers stay on our homes for a week (Airbnb).

Then an interesting conversation ensued about retail’s the use of VR. Imagine shopping for camping supplies and placing yourself virtually right there on the campsite to judge what you’ll need and what size tent will fit. “Look at those two perfectly spaced trees. That reminds me, we should get a hammock.” We were asked to imagine walking into a giant 3-D store and choosing items for a virtual cart. Next, it was suggested that the consumer of the future could virtually travel to the factory in which the goods were being made in to confirm working conditions and inspect manufacturing processes. Imagine being able to place yourself in the Hong Kong factory and choosing the actual item you wish to buy right there on the factory floor. Now THAT’S transparency!

Is the grocery store of the future one which is only as far away as your VR headset? Put on the headset, walk the isles and touch the products that will load into your cart. 500 varieties of steak sauce or maybe just the three that Google (knowing you as your mother knows you) identifies to you based on your preferences. The doorbell rings 12 minutes later with the full delivery from a Walmart associate on their ride home from work.



About Mike Lake

Mike is the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Evergreen Trading. When not playing jazz trombone he is probably obsessing about writing content that will capture the attention and interest of business people and fellow learning junkies everywhere.

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