Google is now testing its fledgling Google Shopping Express same-day ordering and delivery service in the Los Angeles suburbs, starting with a new pilot in Santa Monica that's open for now only to Google employees.
The pilot test in Santa Monica follows a program that launched in March 2013 in San Francisco's Bay area and has been expanded several times so far. The new service push into the Los Angeles area was unveiled in a Jan. 23 story in The Los Angeles Times.
"The rollout may follow the pattern Google used with its Northern California launch," the story reported. "When the program began in March, only Google workers and a select group of applicants were allowed to participate. But since September, customers from San Francisco to San Jose have been able to use Google Shopping Express."
To start, six free months of membership are being offered for new customers in Santa Monica, the story reported. If successful in the Los Angeles area, it could be expanded to consumers across the area.
In the San Francisco area, the program began last year with same-day local deliveries for online orders from national chain stores such as Target, Walgreens, Staples, American Eagle and Toys 'R Us/Babies 'R Us, as well as smaller local retailers like San Francisco's Blue Bottle Coffee, the Bay Area's Palo Alto Toy & Sport and Raley's Nob Hill Foods. Later, additional retailers joined the service, including DODOcase, Guitar Center, L’Occitane, REI and Whole Foods Market.
Google has not yet announced which retailers will participate in the Santa Monica pilot, the paper reported.
When Google launched the San Francisco program, it also debuted new Google Shopping Express mobile apps for both Android and iOS so that customers could make their purchases and receive product deliveries even when they are away from their homes or offices, according to an earlier eWEEK report. To use the service, shoppers can browse the Websites of participating stores, make their item selections, provide personalized delivery instructions for the third-party couriers who will bring their packages and get their items delivered on the same day. Google continues to seek additional local retailers to join the program and add more shopping options for its online customers.
The Santa Monica pilot program will offer deliveries for $4.95 from each retailer after the free six-month trial period ends, The Los Angeles Times reported. Users can also instead pay for a membership that will offer unlimited same-day deliveries, according to the story.
In the San Francisco service area, product prices for the items ordered and delivered through the service are identical to prices that consumers will find in their local stores, according to Google. Shoppers can also add their retailer loyalty program numbers at checkout to take advantage of member prices.
Deliveries can be scheduled from early mornings until 9 p.m., according to that program's organizers.
Google jumped into the same-day delivery marketplace as a way for the search giant to expand more into the turf of online retailer Amazon.com.
Google certainly has been experimenting with e-commerce for a long time, with its Google Payments, Google Wallet and Google Checkout products. In February 2013, Google bolstered its online sales capabilities by acquiring Channel Intelligence, which lets consumers buy products directly through product pages on Websites. One of the company's products, its Buy Now app, shows potential buyers a dynamically updated list of online retailers that have an advertised product in stock, where the consumer can purchase the item instantly with a click.
Not all of those efforts have been successful, however. Last November, Google ended its Google Checkout service. Since its creation in 2006, Checkout had allowed customers to make purchases of services or physical goods from online vendors, but it apparently outlived its usefulness for the search giant because of a lack of satisfactory demand. Instead, Google has been expanding its related Google Wallet payment services that can be used for online apps and other purchases, but not for the payment of physical goods from Websites. The demise of Google Checkout came after the search giant wasn't able to make it as popular as the dominant online payment vendor, PayPal.
Same-day delivery service certainly isn't an invention of Google. In October 2009, Amazon launched same-day delivery services in seven major U.S. cities as it expanded its buying options for its customers.
This is not the first time that Google has dabbled with the idea of same-day delivery. The idea has at least been in discussions since late 2011, when the company began its Google Product Search service.