USA TODAY - Can’t make that quick run to Costco, or Whole Foods, or PetSmart today? Google added 13 more states Tuesday to the list where deliverers will do it for you, for a fee.
Google Express lets people buy online or through an app and have items delivered from local stores the same day, overnight or within two days, depending on where you live and the time you order.
They’re not delivering frozen or refrigerated items yet, but you can get other kinds of groceries.
It's another example of how the home delivery wars are heating up. E-commerce behemoth Amazon is Google’s largest delivery rival, but a newer crop of startups are trying to stake claim in the category by delivering food, groceries and even gas.
The expansion Tuesday included Alabama, Kentucky, Utah, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Wyoming and Washington, according to Google.
“At Google Express, our job is to make people’s lives easier. What we really are trying to do here is make it easier to shop from merchants you love,” Google Express General Manager Brian Elliott said in an interview with The Tennessean.
Google Express is an online marketplace that connects shoppers with select retailers. The 11 merchants available on the Google Express platform in one of the states being added, Tennessee, include Costco, Whole Foods Market, Kohl’s, PetSmart, Road Runner Sports, Sur La Table, Fry’s, Walgreens, L’Occitane, Payless ShoeSource and Guitar Center.
Google Express has more than 50 merchant partners nationwide, and Elliott said the plan is to grow that network.
“We think of ourselves as a technology platform because that’s what we’re really good at. We’re trying to build a platform that lots of merchants can participate in,” Elliott said.
Consumers can shop for nonperishable groceries, health and beauty products, electronics, pet products, home decor and more via the Google Express website or mobile app. Users can search for specific products, view by retailer or search by category. The prices listed on the Google Express website are set by the stores.
Products are then delivered the next day or in two days, depending on the specific market and the order. The company works with delivery services such as OnTrac, FedEx, UPS, Dynamex and Lasership.
Google Express offers same-day delivery in a few major U.S. markets, but Elliott said Tennessee shoppers won’t have that option. He said it could expand to the state’s metro areas eventually, but it’s “not in the short-term plan.”
Google Express customers have two payment options: opt for a membership for $10 per month or $95 per year and receive free delivery when an order meets the per-store minimum, or choose the pay-as-you-go delivery option starting at $4.99 per store for eligible orders. New customers can have a three-month pretrial to test a membership before they pay.
Per-store minimums using Google Express are usually $15, but some merchants require an order of at least $35, according to the Google Express website.
The expansion in the Northwest and Southeast comes after Google Express launched in 2013, later rolling out to major metro areas including Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. As of Tuesday, Elliott said, the service covers more than 90 percent of the U.S. population.
The company tested a pilot program for fresh and frozen groceries in San Francisco and Los Angeles, but Elliott said the program isn’t scalable.
“… We really wanted something where we can make sure we have a nationally scalable product that can reach everybody,” Elliott said.
Google’s launch of its home delivery service comes 11 months after Amazon expanded its one-hour delivery service, Prime Now, to the Middle Tennessee market.
Amazon Prime members pay $99 a year for free two-day shipping and access to Amazon’s video streaming service. Prime Now gives customers free two-hour delivery on tens of thousands of items and one-hour delivery for $7.99.
Both companies are changing consumer patterns, diverting shoppers from brick-and-mortar retailers as people demand convenient shopping and speedy delivery.
Google Express and Amazon Prime Now are just one component of the burgeoning on-demand technology sector. Consumers can get groceries, a ride, lawn services, alcohol and restaurant food delivered to their doorsteps with the touch of a finger.
Follow USA TODAY reporters Lizzy Alfs and Brad Harper on Twitter: @lizzyalfs and @BradMGM
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