Remember the days of yore when you could have groceries or other items delivered to your home? Well, Google has announced that it plans on rolling out a similar service.
No, I'm not referencing an era when TV was in black and white and sets used a cathode ray tube. I'm talking about the late 1990s and first year or two of the millenium.
As the internet was truly blossoming into an interactive shopping and entertainment phenomenon, a few startup companies, primarily in larger American cities, experimented with home delivery of groceries. Google thinks that with the always-connected nature of many consumers, that people wilil embrace online ordering and delivery of not only groceries, but also apparel, toys and assorted products from stores in their area.
Yes, I'm aware that in some communities, a few stores continue to offer home delivery services, but it is far from a widespread offering. Instead, most Americans make a periodic trip to the local bodega, grocery chain or mega-store to stock up on their necessities.
And home delivery of prepared food has certainly never gone away, whether pizza, Chinese food or sub sandwiches. Seamless.com has recently taken meal delivery a step further, allowing people in many markets to order from all kinds of restaurants that wouldn't normally deliver. Their sevice is a combination of online ordering, home delivery, catering and even good accounting management, allowing business users to set up spending limits that vary by user, and providing detailed transaction records for expense management.
Google isn't alone in the idea of bringing back direct home delivery of goods that aren't based on using FedEx or UPS for shipping, either. Amazon and eBay have started doing the same, as has Wal-Mart. But since these three companies are retailers themselves, Google's step is somewhat unique, and allows shopping from a variety of outlets, not just one.
Initial testing of Google's Shopping Express started today in the San Francisco Bay area, allowing users to order and have same-day delivery to their home or workplace. The world's biggest search engine isn't limiting the service to just groceries, either.
Google is partnering with large retailers like Walgreens, Staples, Target, Toys R Us and even American Eagle, as well as local businesses such as sporting goods stores, specialty food retailers and boutiques. The delivery will be made using Google-branded vehicles and either Google employees or contractors.
Currently, the program is only being tested in the Bay Area, and with an unknown, but small, number of consumer testers. These beta testers are able to choose a delivery time, and the goal is to make the delivery within four hours.
The company plans to deliver goods directly from local store inventories, not from large distribution centers. For stores with limited inventory stock on-hand, this could be a trying experience. But for brick and mortars who see mostly in-person sales, this could be a simple opportunity to enter a hybrid of online and local commerce.