With grocery shopping now becoming a global obsession (whether because it’s a key part of our survival or just because it’s one of the few things we’re still allowed to do) it seems like a good time to see what we can do to automating the grocery shopping experience. In a nutshell, what’s the easiest, most frictionless way of getting grocery items onto a checklist, into a shopping cart (physical or digital) and stocked into your pantry or fridge/freezer?

While the functionality of adding grocery items to the native Google Assistant Shopping List feature is very effective and intuitive the experience is sub-optimal when you actually get to the supermarket. Firstly, the shopping list feature is buried deep into the Google Home app so getting to it feels rather clunky. Secondly, there is no integration with supermarket apps that can match real products and then place those items into your shopping cart (digital cart for either delivery or pick-up). God forbid even getting to that next step of using ML-based learning to understand what products you’ve bought in the past. So when you say ‘add carrots to my shopping list’ Google will add it to your shopping list within your favourite supermarket app and know that ‘carrots’ for you means the 1kg bag of organic carrots that you usually buy. Is that too much to ask?

Well Aussie supermarket brand Woolworths has come slightly closer to that automation nirvana by integrating their Lists with Google Assistant. Just use phrases such as “Talk to Woolworths”, “Ask Woolies” or “Speak to Woolies Online” to get to the Woolies Action within Google Assistant. Once you’re there you can add items to a shopping list of the Woolworths app called “Google Home” (it creates one for you if it’s your first time). The action is passable albeit a little clunky compared to adding items to the native Google Shopping List feature. You can’t add a variety of items to the list (it will take the first item it recognises and ignore the rest) and if it doesn’t recognise an item as a product it will double-check if you want to add it. I asked to add “Rocket” (tried both “Rocket” and “Rocket leaves”) and it asked if I was sure I wanted to add Rocket.

While the interaction is somewhat passable (and will likely improve over time) where it really falls down is in the differing experience between the website and the app. Once you’ve added your items to your list you can either go to the Woolworths app or website and proceed to the List section. On the website you have the ability to “Find Product” essentially matching a Woolworths product SKU to the item on your list. Once you find the matching product Woolies will add it to the “Products” section of your list to which you can then add the items to your shopping cart and then proceed as normal.

All kind of acceptable, right? However in the Woolies mobile app there is no ability to match items in your list to Woolworths product SKUs and therefore you’re unable to move items to the Products section of the list. Essentially the objects in your shopping list are just dumb items. I assume then Woolies expects us to search for the items again within the app ourselves and either add them to the list or to the shopping cart. It makes the whole purpose of adding to the List pretty much redundant.

I can potentially see the benefit of using this service if you’re a regular user of Woolworths’s delivery or pick-up service. Seeing your list populated from Google Assistant and doing a quick match to Woolies product items is a nice feature. I only see a slight benefit in using the mobile app if you want to use this as your shopping companion in-store. It’s passable if you just want to use it as a check-off list of items to buy. It’s only slight better than using the native Shopping List action and at least there you can add multiple items in one sentence. But if you want to use the mobile app to automate your grocery shopping from list to order to delivery I suggest to use the website instead.

Let’s see how they go improving this service. Hopefully they can automate on.