Google plans same-day delivery expansion

One year after Google began quietly testing its same-day delivery service in the Bay Area, the tech giant is preparing to bring Shopping Express to more cities across the country.

The move signals Google’s confidence in its ability to tackle one of the most challenging retail services — getting purchases from a store to the customer just hours, or minutes, after they are ordered online.

Reuters reports that Google is planning to roll out Shopping Express in New York, and will enter more cities. The news service also reported on Thursday that Google is experimenting with ways to deliver perishable groceries — right now it offers grocery delivery only for non-perishables, such as cereal, snacks and condiments, from Whole Foods and Nob Hill Foods.

Amazon last year expanded its Fresh grocery delivery service, which includes perishables, from Seattle, where it had been in testing mode for years, to Los Angeles and San Francisco. And Instacart, a San Francisco startup that delivers groceries from several big-name supermarkets, has been aggressively expanding and is in 10 cities in the Bay Area, plus Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C. and Philadelphia.

Google started testing Shopping Express in March of 2013, trying the service first just on Google employees. It then began offering the service to users who had to apply and be approved, slowly ramping up the program. Shopping Express at last made its public debut in the Bay Area in September, and in January Google brought the service to Southern California.

eBay launched same-day delivery delivery in San Francisco in 2012, and has since extended its service across the Peninsula and to New York,  Dallas and Chicago. eBay Now — which promises deliver in one to two hours — said it plans to add scheduled delivery service. eBay uses bike messengers in New York City — what sort of vehicles Google opts for remains to be seen.

eBay and Google deliver from a lot of the same retailers, although eBay does not offer groceries. Also, eBay uses couriers who drive their personal cars to the store and do the shopping for each individual customer. Google, though, has a fleet of Priuses, whose drivers make stops all over the Bay Area based on algorithms that Google has created to calculate the quickest delivery routes, predict product departure and arrival times and track store inventory. A customer may receive their order in small batches from a few drivers over the course of three to five hours.

Photo: Google Shopping Express driver, Ashley Beach, picks up packages of merchandise from Sofe Ring, operations manager, at Palo Alto Sport Shop & Toy World in Palo Alto, Calif. on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013. (Gary Reyes/Bay Area News Group)

Heather Somerville Heather Somerville (205 Posts)

Heather Somerville is a business reporter covering venture capital and startups for the Bay Area News Group.