Seattleites have a new option for ordering items online, thanks to Google.
Google Express launched today in Seattle and across Washington, along with 10 other states. It’s part of a big expansion for Google’s home delivery service that originally debuted in 2013. Google Express now covers 90 percent of the continental U.S. following last week’s expansion across the East Coast.
Starting today, Google Express is also available in: Washington, Oregon, Montana, Idaho, Utah, Kentucky, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
Google partners with popular retailers like Walgreens, Target, REI, PetSmart, Kohl’s — and more recently Whole Foods and Costco — to deliver everything from household goods to apparel to electronics.
Google Express offers same-day, next-day, and 2-day delivery. In Seattle, only next-day and 2-day delivery are available for now.
For those using the service more than a few times, the $95 annual membership — or $10 per month — is the best way to go and gives customers free delivery.
For non-members, delivery costs start at $4.99 per order, per store. If members or non-members don’t hit store minimums, a $3 “small-order service fee” is added.
Google uses “common carriers” like UPS and FedEx to deliver the orders. A company spokesperson declined to provide a number when asked how many customers use the service.
Google no longer delivers perishable items like fruits and vegetables, a decision it made recently to help scale the service. That puts it at a disadvantage against other delivery companies like Instacart and Postmates.
Seattle-based Amazon, which also delivers groceries via AmazonFresh, is perhaps Google’s most formidable competitor in the delivery space. Amazon also does same-day and even 2-hour deliveries via its Prime Now service in more than 25 metro areas.
Prime members, who pay $99 per year or $10.99 per month, can get same-day and 2-hour delivery for free on eligible items. Non-members pay $8.99 per order for same-day delivery, plus $0.99 per item.
It’s become somewhat of a pricing war between Amazon and Google, dating back to 2014. They offer similar services, but Google Express gives customers a choice of different retailers. That spreads the costs of its service across multiple retailers, unlike Amazon, which must carry 100 percent of the burden.
But Amazon’s $99 Prime membership also offers plenty of other perks beyond the discounted same-day and 2-hour shipping costs. They include free 2-day shipping on millions of items; vast video, music, and book libraries; audio programming; cloud storage; and more. Plus, a study from July by Consumer Intelligence Research Partners (CIRP) estimated Amazon’s Prime program had reached 63 million members in the U.S. — that’s a number Google says it now reaches with Google Express.
The fight over how consumers search for products online is also noteworthy in regard to Amazon and Google. A recent survey found that more than half of U.S. online consumers begin product searches with Amazon, Bloomberg reported last month.
Even two years ago, Alphabet Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said that “our biggest search competitor is Amazon.”
“People don’t think of Amazon as search, but if you are looking for something to buy, you are more often than not looking for it on Amazon,” he said. “They are obviously more focused on the commerce side of the equation, but, at their roots, they are answering users’ questions and searches, just as we are.”
Other online grocery delivery competitors include Walmart, Jet.com, and more.