Expanding its rivalry with Amazon, Google on Wednesday started offering same-day delivery to California residents in and around San Francisco and San Jose.
Google started testing the service, called Google Shopping Express, in March and is now opening it to interested participants in the Bay Area.
"This new service brings the speed of the Web to the real world by helping you shop your favorite local stores online — in a single place — and get what you need delivered the same day," said Tom Fallows, product management director of Google Shopping Express, in a blog post.
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Google Shopping Express is available on the Web and through Android and iOS apps. The service allows users to purchase goods at participating local stores through Google and to set one of three possible delivery windows to receive the goods: between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. for orders placed before 9 a.m.; between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. for orders placed before noon; and between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. for orders placed by 4:30 p.m.
Participating stores include a mix of national, regional and local retailers: American Eagle, Blue Bottle Coffee, DODOcase, L'Occitane, Lucky, Guitar Center, Office Depot, Palo Alto Toy & Sport, Photojojo, Raley's Nob Hill Foods, REI, Staples, Target, Toys"R"Us/Babies"R"Us, Walgreens and Whole Foods Market.
A trial membership in Google Shopping Express, free for the first six months, requires a Google Wallet account that's associated with an active credit card. Those who do not wish to become program members can still order goods through Google, but there's a $4.99 charge for delivery.
Google says that after the trial period expires, trial participants will have the option to enroll as paying members. Google hasn't said how much it will charge for the service, but the fee is likely to be close to what Amazon charges for its Prime service, $79 annually.
It isn't just Google aiming to get into same-day delivery. Since Amazon began offering its Local Express service in 2009, now available in 11 metropolitan markets, merchants like eBay and Walmart have begun testing similar services. E-commerce website Kozmo says it will re-launch soon with same-day delivery, something also available through online services like Postmates, TaskRabbit and UrbanFetch. Fashion website Planet Blue also offers same day delivery to its clients in Los Angeles.
In November 2012, the Messenger Courier Association of America, a trade group representing same-day delivery service businesses, said same-day delivery is becoming increasingly important to retailers, and it noted in its 2012 Industry Survey that 58% of its members reported rising revenue compared to a year earlier.
Nonetheless, local delivery doesn't always work as a business. Amazon had a same-day grocery delivery service called AmazonTote that it piloted and then discontinued in 2011. The service was managed by Amazon subsidiary AmazonFresh, a same-day grocery delivery service that's currently operating in Seattle and Los Angeles.
Amazon's effort to provide an alternative to delivery at customers' homes and offices, through Amazon Lockers located at other stores, also appears to have run into some headwind. Staples and RadioShack recently reversed their respective decisions to offer floor space to Amazon Lockers, evidently having realized that they had invited a Trojan horse onto their property.