Google Express set to launch deliveries in Boston area
Google Inc. brings its same-day delivery service to Greater Boston Tuesday, allowing customers to browse the offerings of local merchants online, order, and get the items within several hours.
The service, called Google Express, will be available in parts of Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Chelsea, Somerville, Arlington, Everett, Malden, and Medford. So far, eight companies have partnered with Google: Babies R Us, Barnes & Noble, Costco, Guitar Center, L’Occitane, Staples, Stop & Shop, and Walgreens.
Google said it expects more retailers to participate and may expand its delivery areas. Customers will have a choice of how to pay for the service. If they commit to $95 a year or $10 a month, delivery of orders over $15 will be free. Alternatively, customers can pay a $4.99 delivery charge for each order.
“We’re going to help connect merchants with their existing customers. said Brian Elliott, Google’s head of shopping partnerships. “Our merchants have been seeing growth, and it saves time and effort for customers.”
Tuesday’s launch increases the competition between Google, the online search and advertising giant, and Web retailer Amazon, which began offering same-day delivery around Boston in 2009. Subscribers to Amazon’s Prime service pay $5.99 per order; non-subscribers pay $8.99 per order plus 99 cents per item.
The operations of these same-day services differ, however. Amazon delivers from its network of warehouses, while Google Express relies on stores.
When a customer places a Google Express order, employees at a local retailer receive notice on an Android smartphone, pick the items off a shelf, and put them into a Google-branded bag. Third-party courier services hired by Googledeliver them. Google declined to name the delivery firms. The Ford Transit and Toyota Prius vehicles used to deliver orders will be wrapped in Google branding. Couriers will wear Google uniforms.
Google’s same-day service has been available in parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, where Google is based, since last year. In May, the service expanded to parts of Los Angeles and New York. Google Express also launches in Chicago and Washington this week.
Google will offer customer data to retailers. Elliott said retailers will only see aggregated data — meaning individuals can’t be identified — unless customers explicitly give permission to share more information.
Google declined to give financial details about the program, including how much retailers pay to participate.
In addition to generating revenues from data and delivery, the Express service could boost the number of people using Google’s search engine to find products and, as a result, the company’s ad revenues, analysts said. Amazon now dominates Internet product searches.
Jeff Wisot, a vice president at Guitar Center, a national chain of musical equipment stores with headquarters in California, said Google Express is off to a modest but promising start at the company’s three participating California stores. Musicians still prefer to buy expensive items such as guitars in person, he said, but customers who need guitar strings, a microphone stand, or drumsticks increasingly use the service.
“It gives us an edge, because we’re able to beat programs that offer two-day or very expensive one-day delivery with a reasonable price,” he said. “We’ll always have people walking into our stores, but we see a lot of potential here.”
For now, Elliott said, Google Express will make deliveries the old-fashioned way, rather than employing more advanced technologies Google is researching, such as drones and driverless cars.
But, he said, “if it makes it easier for users, then anything is possible — long term.”