Google wants to take the immediacy of online search and apply it to something a little more tangible: retail. Starting Thursday, a small pool of shoppers can begin to test out an experimental same-day delivery service for certain products bought online.
Google Shopping Express, which the company refers to as an "experiment," is currently only open to a limited number of people in the San Francisco Bay Area. Major participating chains include Target, Walgreens, Staples, American Eagle and Toys "R" Us, as well as local businesses such as San Francisco's Blue Bottle Coffee, Palo Alto Toy & Sport and Raley's Nob Hill Foods.
Credit: Zach Miners
Orders placed through Google's Shopping Express service are transmitted to the closest local store, where it's picked off the shelf for delivery.
The program could eventually become a larger service. "The pilot will expand as we work out the kinks," Google Shopping Express product management director Tom Fallows said in a blog post.
Shopping and Google may not be synonymous, but the same-day delivery plan is one of many efforts at the company to move beyond its core offerings in search. "Over the last few years, we've worked hard to bring the speed of the web to the real world," Fallows said.
Brick-and-mortar Google retail stores have even been reported to be in the works as the company develops other physical products like Google Glass and its line of Chromebook laptops and Nexus tablets.
Google is already active in multiple e-commerce channels with its online Google Store, its digital Play marketplace and Google Shopping, a product search engine that links users to outside stores. But Google Shopping Express will be separate from those outlets. Cut-off times for the same-day delivery will vary by store, but generally orders placed before 5 p.m. will be delivered the same evening.
Other players in the online retail space such as Amazon and eBay offer same-day delivery options. Google is positioning its service, meanwhile, as another way to make local shopping more convenient and fast for consumers.
Users must be 18 years or older to participate in the new same-day delivery shopping program, and can sign up for the pilot here.
"We'll be gradually inviting shoppers over the coming months and will contact you via email," was the message that appeared when this reporter signed up for the service Thursday morning.
The program's long-term pricing plan has not been ironed out yet, but it will be offered "at a low cost," Google said. Early testers will get six months of free, unlimited same-day delivery.
Google is defining Bay Area residents as anyone living in the city of San Francisco or the peninsula from San Mateo down to San Jose.