An online shopping service that provides same-day delivery of food and other products. That's the basic idea behind a new service now being tested by a veteran and somewhat unlikely Internet brand -- Google.
The service, called Google Shopping Express, is being tested among a small group of consumers in the San Francisco Bay area. Google has declined to say how many customers are involved in the trial or what the membership pricing might be. If the test is successful, the company plans to roll out the service to other markets.
The pilot program provides a free, six-month membership for unlimited same-day delivery. Members browse local stores online in the Google service, select a window of time for delivery, and then receive their purchases. Prices for products are the same as in the store. Participating stores include Target, Walgreens, Staples, American Eagle, Toys"R"Us/Babies"R"Us, Office Depot, Bay area stores Blue Bottle Coffee and Raley's Nob Hill Foods, and Palo Alto Toy & Sport.
Working Out 'Kinks'
EBay and Amazon offer same-day delivery service in some markets, on a per order basis.
In a posting on the Google Commerce blog, Shopping Express Product Management Director Tom Fallows said the company was "still working out our long-term pricing plan" and that the service would expand into other markets after it worked out the "kinks." Courier services have been hired to make the deliveries, using Google-branded vehicles and uniforms.
Given Google's central role in driving e-commerce traffic through its huge search engine user base and accompanying contextual ads, its move into real-world commerce could be a major game changer. Potentially, the ability of online users to shop their nearby stores without leaving their homes, and receive those goods on the same day at the same price as they would normally, could have a profound effect on bricks-and-mortar shopping. This assumes that the membership fee is modest and does not significantly burden the convenience.
The service could also take another step toward merging online shopping with real-world shopping, which is already taking place on a variety of fronts. Some stores, such as Target, will match better online deals for the same products, and consultants everywhere are pitching the idea that user experience and inventory awareness/management should be consistent regardless of whether a visits a retailer through the Web site, via mobile, or in person.
The service could also add another dimension to in-person shopping. For instance, a Shopping Express member could conceivably go into a store, select products, and then, via a mobile device, select the desired items for purchase and choose the delivery window, and then have them delivered for free via the service.
Additionally, the delivery service would also likely lead to an entirely new wave of advertising by bricks-and-mortar retailers promoting their in-store products, possibly with daily sales for same-day delivery.