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Retailers offering free shipping. (Source ComScore via Business Insider).
Retailers offering free shipping. (Source: ComScore via Business Insider).

If same-day delivery is the future of retail, then the present is all about free shipping.

Free shipping continues to gain in importance, hitting an all-time (non-holiday) high in the first quarter at 58 percent, according to ComScore. Free shipping in the fourth quarter, which is the busiest period for e-commerce, hit an even more impressive high at 67 percent.

But apparently, free shipping is not the end game — speed is, with retailers promising to get packages to consumers within 24 hours or sooner.

googledeliveryIn addition to the comScore findings, Kleiner Perkins General Partner Mary Meeker said at the Code Conference today that Instacart and Amazon Fresh are two examples in the same-day delivery category, which are “re-imagining” an everyday activity, like grocery shopping. The Wall Street analyst turned venture capitalist said about 47 percent of online transactions use free-shipping vs. 35 percent five years ago, and that “same-day shipping is the next big thing.”

Many start-ups are playing within the sector, but the three players in these so-called delivery wars are eBay, Google and Amazon.

Google launched Shopping Express last year, starting in the San Francisco Bay Area. It lets shoppers purchase items from established retailers, including Target, Staples, Walgreens and Costco.

Separately, Amazon has been expanding its Amazon Fresh delivery service, focused on groceries and items available stocked in nearby warehouses. The service started off in Seattle, and then went to San Francisco and Los Angeles last year. It’s expected to hit New York City soon.

EBay Now is also offering fast delivery, promising orders to arrive within one to two-hours hours in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Dallas for from Macy’s, Best Buy, The Home Depot and others for $5.

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