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September 28, 2016 5:30 PM, EDT

Quick Delivery Shopping Competition Heats Up With Entry of Google Express

Google Express
Google launched its Express online shopping service in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic on Sept. 28, as the search engine giant continues to expand the program across the country. 

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company is joining rivals such as online retailer Amazon in the push to get goods into the hands of online shoppers more quickly.

Google Express aims to connect customers with fast delivery from big name retailers such as Whole Foods, Costco, PetSmart and Sur la Table. The idea is to make it “easy for shoppers to get the things they need in one convenient place, from multiple stores,” the company said. Deliveries can be overnight or two-day shipments. 

Google estimates that about 70 million more people will now be able to use Express — a calculation based on population and zip codes.

“About 75% of the U.S. population will have access,” after the Sept. 28 roll out, said Brian Elliott, general manager of Google Express. “We expect to bring it to the rest of the continental U.S. in a couple of months.”

Google first launched its delivery service in 2013, putting it in competition with Amazon Prime and Prime Now, the Seattle-based online marketplace’s speedy delivery service.

Amazon Prime offers two-day shipping, along with access to movie and TV streaming, for $10.99/month or $99 for the year. Prime Now offers members same-day deliveries in select metro areas from grocery and home stores and restaurants, in addition to what is offered at Amazon.com.

For Google Express, membership costs $95 for the year or, for those who want to pay as they go, $4.99 per order.

In the meantime, Google has shelved plans for a similar service that would deliver fresh groceries, a program that it experimented with on the West Coast in February.

“We’ve been testing a lot of types of services,” Elliot said. “It worked well, but we can’t really scale that to the entire United States.

“What we’re trying to accomplish is to create a platform that will be available to everybody,” he said. “That’s hard to do with refrigerated and frozen goods, for a lot of reasons, including the packaging and the service being too expensive for some customers.”

So far, Google Express-affiliated merchants include Costco, Kohl's, L'Occitane, PetSmart, Stop & Shop, Giant, Sur la Table, Ulta Beauty, Payless, Adorama, Road Runner, Vitamin Shoppe and Whole Foods.

The company plans to add more merchants, Elliot said, and make the service available to smaller retailers and independent merchants over time.