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Walmart Inc. is no longer participating in Google's shopping service, and so far no one is saying which company made the decision, or why.

A spokesman for the Bentonville retailer said in an emailed statement Friday that Walmart and Google "remain committed to our strategic partnership." She did not address Walmart's disappearance from Google Express, but she did say the retailer is developing a "Walmart-specific action" for the voice-controlled Google Assistant device.

Google Express posted a tweet Tuesday that said, "Walmart is no longer on our website, sorry for any inconvenience this may cause." Walmart did not appear Friday among the hundreds of merchants listed on the marketplace.

The world's largest retailer joined the Google Express shopping pantheon in September 2017. The move was seen by some industry observers as a joint salvo in the battle against retail giant Amazon.com.

Carol Spieckerman, a retail consultant and president of Spieckerman Retail, said Walmart's partnership with Google is a classic example of what she calls "platform partnerships." She said retailers increasingly are "operating more like technology platforms and partnering with other platforms in order to build scale or quickly ramp up specific capabilities, particularly in the digital space."

But some of these partnerships aren't meant to last forever, she said, "and in fact, some become precarious as retailers develop their own capabilities."

Walmart has invested heavily in its online business over the past few years, and Spieckerman said it no longer needs Google Express. Further, she said, Walmart "would surely rather not let Google have data that could actually benefit Google itself or competitors that also work with Google."

"Google's ambitions extend far beyond search and, just as has been the case with retailers using Amazon's platform, growing discomfort can eventually lead to a break-up," she said.

Google said in its statement that it works with retailers "in many different ways to help users discover and purchase millions of products across platforms." The company expressed its support for Walmart's work with Google Assistant, and said, "Walmart remains a strategic partner across multiple businesses including Google Ads."

When the retail and technology giants joined forces in 2017, they worked together to integrate Google-based features with Walmart's inventory and customer service. U.S. e-commerce chief Marc Lore said at the time that "hundreds of thousands" of Walmart items would be available for voice shopping using Google Assistant.

Also using Google Assistant, customers could place orders based on previous purchases made through Walmart's Easy Reorder feature. Easy Reorder saves shoppers' in-store and online purchases to their purchase history.

These initiatives created more competition for Amazon, which offers voice-command shopping capability through its Alexa personal assistant device.

Business on 01/26/2019

Print Headline: Walmart off Google shopping service

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