Google bring­ing its an­swer to Ama­zon to Md.

Google Ex­press shop­ping, de­liv­ery plat­form opens in 13 more states to­day

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - By Sarah Gantz sarah.gantz@balt­sun.com twit­ter.com/sarah­gantz

Aim­ing to mus­cle into e-com­merce gi­ant Ama­zon’s turf, Google is ex­pand­ing its on­line shop­ping and de­liv­ery plat­form into Mary­land and much of the East Coast.

The ex­pan­sion is part of a push to make Google Ex­press avail­able na­tion­wide by the end of the year. The ser­vice, which launched in se­lect cities in 2013, ex­panded to 16 states ear­lier this year and to­day adds 13 more.

“Our mis­sion, broadly, is to con­nect cus­tomers with mer­chants they love and vice versa,” said Brian El­liot, gen­eral man­ager of Google Ex­press.

The move comes as Ama­zon Prime, with its mem­bers-only ben­e­fits and same­day de­liv­ery, gains pop­u­lar­ity and draws away shop­pers — and ad­ver­tis­ers — from Google, an­a­lysts said.

“They’re try­ing to pro­tect their ad base, of course, be­cause they’re get­ting crushed by Ama­zon,” said Howard Davi­d­owitz, a re­tail an­a­lyst and founder of Davi­d­owitz & As­so­ci­ates Inc. in New York City.

Google’s search en­gine used to be the first stop for peo­ple surf­ing the web for a good deal. But as Ama­zon Prime so­lid­i­fies the re­tailer’s rep­u­ta­tion for can’t-beat of­fers, more shop­pers are turn­ing di­rectly to Ama­zon to search for prod­ucts, he said.

With Google Ex­press, Google aims to win back shop­pers, though it won’t be easy.

“At the end of the day Ama­zon has many more prod­ucts to choose from, a much broader se­lec­tion and they give more perks,” Davi­d­owitz said. “I’m not say­ing peo­ple won’t use it — of course they will — but I don’t think this is go­ing to be a threat to Ama­zon at all.”

Google Ex­press works with a lim­ited num­ber of re­tail­ers — 14 in Mary­land and the other states where ser­vice ex­pands to­day. Those re­tail­ers in­clude Costco, Kohl’s, PetS­mar­tandW­holeFood­sMar­ket.

The com­pany plans to add more re­tail­ers in the com­ing months, El­liot said.

Sim­i­larly to Ama­zon Prime, Google Ex­press is ac­cessed through a mem­ber­ship — ei­ther $10 a month or $95 a year. Mem­bers pay noth­ing more for de­liv­ery on or­ders of at least $15, while smaller or­ders in­cur an ex­tra charge.

Non-mem­bers can shop through a “pay-as-you-go” op­tion that starts at $4.99 per or­der.

The ser­vice will be avail­able statewide. Google Ex­press con­tracts with de­liv­ery com­pa­nies to pick up items from the re­tailer and de­liver them to cus­tomers within two days. Same-day ser­vice and overnight de­liv­ery are pos­si­ble de­pend­ing on a re­tailer’s prox­im­ity to the de­liv­ery ad­dress. Dur­ing check­out, shop­pers will see which de­liv­ery op­tions are avail­able for their spe­cific or­der and choose.

While Ama­zonFresh will de­liver fresh food to your doorstep in some cities, in­clud­ing Bal­ti­more, Google Ex­press is stick­ing with non-per­ish­able food items.

El­liot said Google Ex­press isn’t try­ing to be Ama­zon. Rather, its ap­proach is to con­nect shop­pers with brands in­stead of spe­cific prod­ucts.

“We don’t think of it as be­ing in com­pe­ti­tion with any­body,” El­liot said.

The ser­vice’s strength is its tech­nol­ogy plat­form, which is in­tended to ap­peal to both shop­pers and re­tail­ers, El­liot said.

Google Ex­press de­lib­er­ately part­nered with re­tail­ers with loyal cus­tomers. Some, such as Costco, have their own mem­ber­ship pro­grams.

The ser­vice could be an as­set to these com­pa­nies, by help­ing them at­tract new cus­tomers and in­crease sales among ex­ist­ing ones, El­liot said.

Google Ex­press may never eclipse Ama­zon as the go-to place for on­line shop­ping, but likely will be pop­u­lar among re­tail­ers re­gard­less, said Dan Ko­gan, CEO of 1Dig­i­tal Agency, a Philadel­phia con­sul­tant for on­line re­tail­ers.

“A lot of peo­ple don’t want to put all their eggs in one bas­ket and are look­ing for other ways to sell,” Ko­gan said.

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