Denizens of Manhattan and Los Angeles, those new Google trucks aren’t mapping. They’re the fleet for Google Shopping Express, a same-day delivery service that has now expanded into your areas — and which may be pointing to retailing’s next evolution.
“Each store [becomes] a distribution center,” researcher Steven Kirn told VentureBeat.
“Whether you’re in need of some pretzels or a game of Monopoly, Google Shopping Express offers convenient same-day delivery from some of your favorite local stores, delivered to your door in a matter of hours,” general manager of operations Jenna Owens noted today on the Google Commerce blog.
Kirn is head of the Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research at the University of Florida, and he suggested that as brick-and-mortar stores fight to stay relevant in the age of online retailers and showrooming, many of them may evolve into becoming distribution centers as well as normal shopping outlets. In Google’s service, a team at the store collects and then buys the ordered items from the same shelves that walk-in customers see.
The service is offering “six months of free, unlimited deliveries” for those who sign up, and there’s a $10 spending bonus to encourage newbies. Instead of signing for the six-month membership, customers can choose to pay $4.99 per order per store, regardless of how many items are purchased.
Shopping Express allows residents to choose a product from selected stores in the online catalog and select a delivery window (9 a.m. to 1 p.m., 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., or 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.). Delivery windows have a limited capacity, and may sell out for a given day. Customers can order through the web, or via apps for Android or iOS devices.
Kirn related a rumor going around that Amazon, which also is testing a same-day service, might be interested in buying Kmart/Sears. This would add customer-facing sales to Amazon’s chain of warehouses and, with same-day delivery, could turn Kmart/Sears into distribution outlets.
A Google spokesperson told us there’s “no pricing model yet,” but a subscription is expected. The spokesperson also said Google does “get a commission from the transactions from the retailer,” but declined to go into details.
Prices are supposed to be the same as in the store, there’s no minimum purchase amount, and users can employ their in-store discounts and add to their store loyalty points.
Shopping Express opened last year in the San Francisco Bay Area and has been tested in Santa Monica. Areas covered in this expansion in Los Angeles include Culver City, Inglewood, Marina Del Rey, Santa Monica, Venice, West Los Angeles, and Westwood. Retailers are Costco, Guitar Center, L’Occitance, Smart & Final, Staples, Target, Toys “R” Us, and Walgreens.
For New York, the service area is the entire island of Manhattan, and stores are Babies “R” Us, Costco, Fairway Market, L’Occitance, Staples, Target, and Walgreens.
(For those who have not lived in Manhattan or a similarly dense city, where keeping and using a car is a major undertaking, delivery services can seem like a kind of divine intervention. Additionally, free delivery for six months from the amazing Fairway is something one might expect in heaven.)
Google will be expanding into Queens and Brooklyn next and into other cities in the L.A. area.
Same day delivery services are experiencing a new wave, with Amazon, eBay Now, Walmart, and Instacart also in this space. Amazon announced Friday it is now offering same-day delivery service to Amazon Prime members in L.A. as well. Non-Prime members pay an additional $9.98 for the first item and 99 cents for each additional item. Amazon’s same-day service is already available in some sections of San Francisco, Phoenix, and Seattle.