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In voice-activated shopping, it's all about "frenemies"

Smart home devices and privacy

Alexa, who's that getting bigger in the rearview mirror? Turns out Google (GOOG) is the object that may be closer than it appears. 

A growing number of retailers are in pursuit of or have formed voice-activated shopping through partnerships with Google Assistant: Walmart (WMT), Target (TGT), Costco (COST) and Home Depot (HD) among the most recent, UBS analyst Michael Lasser wrote in a recent note to clients dubbed "the frenemies narrative."

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"We think this is prudent -- as the ancient proverb says: the enemy of my enemy is my friend," Lasser wrote. "It shows retailers are getting more creative in finding ways to counter online disruption."

Expect to see more partnerships as retailers opt to use existing technology rather than develop their own, as Amazon (AMZN) has. That includes grocers, especially as Amazon works to integrate its Whole Foods purchase, the analyst said. 

Costco, Wegmans, HEB, Publix, Target and Aldi already have partnerships with Instacart. And Walmart has teamed with Uber, Lasser noted. And even though there could be some casualties, like Sprouts Farmers Market's (SFM) partnership with Amazon, the appeal to quickly grow business is strong, the analyst wrote.

Google Assistant might have an even bigger potential voice-activated audience than Amazon, even given Amazon's estimated 70 percent market share, according to eMarketer. That's in part because of the 2 billion monthly active Android devices, including smartphones.  

Meanwhile, Amazon has its own frenemy stratgeies. The online shopping giant recently announced an effort with Microsoft (MSFT) to allow Alexa to work with Cortana, the software giant's voice-activated assistant. 

"We envision a near future where voice shopping is possible on any device that is integrated with the AI assistants," Lasser wrote.

You may never have to leave the house again.