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Google Express is not exactly new, but this may be the channel for retailers looking to expand their digital touchpoints.
The idea for Google Express was first announced back in 2013. That was right around the time Amazon exploded in popularity (and money). Google Express (also briefly known as Google Shopping Express) was tested for some time in California, going through a few iterations and alterations before being rolled out across the U.S. and, now, the American shopping service looks ready for the big leagues. The service differs rather fundamentally from both Google Shopping and Amazon, putting retailers first and acting, in theory, as an essentially neutral marketplace.
Google Express may only be currently available in the U.S., but Google has already begun quietly collecting retailers from around the globe, starting with the largest and most recognizable. However, we can expect much more growth and expansion in the future.
For shoppers, Google Express is another chance to buy products at twenty-first century speeds. For retailers and brands, it signals a much bigger opportunity. It is a chance to compete online, at scale, and without overextending on resources.
So what makes Google Express different? Where should you list your products, and will this all end in a blood feud? Let’s start with an easier question.
“We have this range of merchants that people really love, so they don’t think about this as ‘online shopping’…They just think of this as shopping. We want to bring a lot of the stores that people need to shop at on a regular basis into one easy-to-use service that makes it worthwhile.”
Brian Elliott, Google Express General Manager, Business Insider
Google Express is a marketplace where shoppers can use the Google Express app, website, or the Google Home voice assistant to browse and make purchases. Yes, that means shoppers can buy directly from the platform, everything processed and cared for by Google. Note that this is in contrast to Google Shopping, where shoppers find and compare items before being directed to a third party website to purchase.
Think of it this way: If you were a shopper looking to compare a dozen different high-value, top-notch headphones, you will probably be using Google Shopping. But are you, instead, looking to make purchases from your favorite or local store? In this case, Google Express might make more sense. If you are that favorite store, you win big time with this type of marketplace.
|Channel||Amazon||Google Express||Google Shopping|
|Payment model||Varies by plan: can include per-item, monthly, and referral fees||Commission on sales||Merchants pay per click or engagement|
|Purchase completed on||Amazon||Google Express||Merchant’s website|
|Shipping||Varies, as short as 2 hours||1-3 days||Varies, depends on merchant|
|Key usage||Aggregated products, shop by item||Shop by retailer||Aggregated products, shop by item|
Popular retailers found on Google Express:
Google Express also offers a little something special: voice. Sure, Alexa can be leveraged to order certain products on Amazon. However, this requires an Alexa-enabled device, Amazon Prime membership, Amazon account, and the desire to purchase from the limited, eligible items. On the other hand, Google Express leverages the subscription-free model. Not to mention, Google seems to be branching beyond voice-dedicated products. For example, the new Google Assistant for their smartphone is expected to drive sales through voice on handheld devices in the near future.
Thus, while voice-purchasing between Google and Amazon has yet to really diversify, we can expect that to change. Okay, Google, we are curious.
To the surprise of basically the entire retail industry, WalMart and Target have chosen to walk the same path: they have both partnered with Google Express. Not only have these two been avoiding Amazon for years, they have been avoiding each other. However, in order to take on the problem of loyalty in the digital retail space, WalMart and Target are both betting on Google Express. This is largely because Google Express leaves the power in the hands of retailers.
Google Express offers three major selling points to retailers:
Google Express is able to support a more “neutral” relationship with their vendors. As Google is not looking to sell or market their own products, there is much less tension between the marketplace owner and vendors. Third party sellers on Amazon hand over their data and must always, at some level, compete with Amazon itself.
In short: Google Express wants to be an enabler for retailers, offering a big, neutral olive branch to businesses who want to expand their digital touchpoints in a scalable manner.
Finally, the Google Express teams train participating retailers for the job, sometimes even offering temporary on-site help. That means retailers can keep doing what they do best–sell.
“Brands and retailers need to scale their audiences in order to compete against Amazon online, and Google can offer them that.”
Cooper Smith, L2 Director of Amazon research, AdWeek
There are two keywords for Google Express: brands and retailers. While Google and Amazon will, no doubt, continue to thrive as competitors and contemporaries, their paths are not going to be the exact same. It is easy to compare subscriptions plans or speed of delivery, but the real quest to be consumer’s one-stop-shop has as much to do with how people shop as logistics.
It is never easy to master one-day delivery. It took Amazon and manufacturers some time to make it happen, and even they are constantly shifting to keep up. With the growing emphasis on speed and expediting last-mile delivery, the average retailer is falling behind. When a shopper opts for a digital marketplace, would they visit the WalMart website? The PetSmart website? Perhaps, but they would first weigh all their options, surf around for best sources and deals. This can be bad for retailers and exhausting for shoppers.
Still want to list on Amazon? Check out our introduction to selling on Amazon.
Yes, Google Express did offer fast, fresh deliveries for a time, making it a strong competitor with Amazon Fresh and other quick-turnaround services. However, this is no longer the case, and Google Express has cut perishables from their offerings. It is clear Amazon and Google must compete, to an extent, on daily items. Still, Google does not seem to be going head-to-head with Amazon on this matter. If you are looking for fresh fruit within the next two hours, that would be Amazon Fresh. Cutting perishables has allowed Google Express to move forward and expand their market in other ways. At least for now.
Being newer, Google Express naturally makes you wonder: who’s really using it? Is there some anti-Amazon niche that wants only Google? In reality, many folks on Google Express are just ordinary people looking for an easier way to shop.
It seems the divide between Google Express and Amazon users isn’t as huge as one would think, and users of one are actually very likely to pop over and use the other whenever it becomes practical. This is because the two fulfill fundamentally different buying mindsets.
Exactly how this Google Express vs. Amazon game will play out depends largely on which if these giants is more correct. Do shoppers need a marketplace like Amazon or a retailer-powered hub like Google Express? Or is it a combination of column A and column B?
That’s why Google’s greater ecommerce plans (which we can slowly see unfolding) are far more important than “which one of these platforms will deliver me canned beans faster?”
We keep hearing about the smart fridge that orders us milk when it’s empty and the lights that turn themselves off when we exit the room. There are a number of hyped up expectations about how people of the future will shop. Google Express seems a humble enough platform now (especially with constant comparisons against established giants like Amazon), but it’s doing something much more important than just shaking up how we shop; it’s showing us where Google is placing its bets. This comes in combination with a number of other initiatives.
For example, Google Shopping Actions.
The recently rolled-out Google Shopping Actions initiative is focused on making it easier for shoppers to buy and pay fast. Practically, this means powering up voice-shopping done through Google Assistant and search.
“We see this in our data: mobile searches for “where to buy” grew over 85% over the past 2 years. Moreover, 44% of those who use their voice-activated speaker at least weekly say they use the device to order products they need like groceries and household items at least once a week.”
It seems Google has been looking closely into where and how customers are taking their product searches. Ivan Tchakarov, director of operations for Google Express, suggested that they expect up to 30% of all search queries to be conducted through voice—that includes commerce. If this is true, Google will have already succeeded by laying the groundwork for voice-based shopping anywhere you use your smart devices.
As of now, consumers are still wary of doing all their shopping via voice. But this is part of the process. Users are highly invested in service providers that deal in consumer packaged goods like perishable foods. Google Shopping Actions and Google Express are two decisions that are pushing to make ecommerce faster and easier than ever before.
The end goal is a buying process that is completely integrated into users’ daily lives and their space. Once a user has started purchasing from Google Express, they’ll be increasingly excited about placing orders through their Google Home, phone, or anywhere else Google will grow. Because all of this will be hosted through Google, it’s a one-stop-shop with easy-transaction.
The concept of Google Express is interesting enough. But what about its future? How will Express integrate with Shopping? What does this mean for PLAs and advertisers? With the power Google already wields, it will be crucial that retailers, brands and manufacturers keep on top of Express trends. For the love of your products, keep on top of this trend. More importantly, expect long-reaching changes in everything from AdWords to Amazon.
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