Walmart has agreed to acquire conversation design platform, Botmock, for an undisclosed sum to help scale its conversational AI efforts.
Cheryl Ainoa, SVP Core Retail Services & Emerging Technology at Walmart, states that the acquisition will enable Walmart to empower business users from across the organisation to create conversations across voice and chat, and to deploy them quicker.
Walmart has been bullish on voice and conversational technologies for a while. It partnered with Google in 2019 to create an action that enables customers to shop for groceries. It also created a Siri shortcut to allow Apple users to add groceries to their cart in 2019, and launched the Ask Sam app in 2020. Ask Sam is a conversational assistant that helps employees find item prices, product locations, store maps, sales information and more. And now, it would seem, Walmart is looking to scale.
Why acquire its own conversation design tools?
But why would Walmart acquire a conversation design tooling company, as opposed to simply licence and use the technology?
Buy vs build culture
Some organisations have a build culture. They prefer to build their own tools and have control over their capabilities. This is a way of Walmart acquiring a degree of control over their own destiny when it comes to the creation of CAI capabilities.
Having control over your tools means that you can take the product in the direction you need it to. It means that Walmart can develop the product roadmap as it sees fit, without needing to rely on change requests and the typical customer feedback routes of trying to get your desired features prioritised. It also enables the design tools to be integrated more deeply with the development tools and shorten the whole implementation pipeline.
Threat of acquisition
Although Walmart has likely been using Botmock for some time, what would happen if another company was to acquire Botmock? The conversational AI tooling market is rife with funding and acquisitions at the moment. If Walmart doesn’t acquire Botmock, then another company might, and Walmart would lose a crucial part of their workflow.
The trend of big companies developing their own tools
Walmart isn’t the only company that’s building its own infrastructure around conversational AI. Deutsche Telekom has been developing it’s own platform internally that it uses to develop its conversational capabilities. This can potentially be licenced to other companies who’re looking for AI capabilities in future.
We’ll be chatting to Angel Mario Castro Martínez, Lead Architect for Speech Technologies and NLP at Deutsche Telekom in January about this initiative (sign up here).
Botmock has gone from strength to strength over the last few years, positioning itself at the heart of the conversation design community. As the very first sponsor of our VUX World podcast back in 2018, I’ve always had a soft spot for Botmock, and it’s great to see the team having success.
For those of you Botmock customers in need of another solution, drop us a line and we can help you migrate to another platform.