Silicon Valley tech companies like to move fast. Now they are trying to bring that high-speed innovation to the retail world and break the tradition of failed same-day delivery services.
Five months after Google Inc. unveiled an experiment delivering everything from Target bed sheets to American Eagle blue jeans to parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, the company is preparing to expand same-day delivery to more shoppers across the region. Google Shopping Express will add pressure to companies like eBay Inc. that are growing their own same-day delivery programs in what has become a fierce race between tech giants.
Google and eBay are jumping into the hypercompetitive brick-and-mortar retail industry to fend off Amazon.com Inc., the retail colossus that is forging ahead with its own same-day delivery tests. By offering their services to struggling retailers and capturing shoppers who buy everything from cars to toilet paper online and want it delivered to their front door within hours, Google and eBay may corner one of the few retail markets Amazon hasn't already taken.
"Amazon can get you almost anything under the sun in one or two days," said Matt Nemer, a retail analyst with Wells Fargo. "But Amazon doesn't have one- or two-hour delivery. This is an attempt to beat them to the punch."
Same-day delivery also opens the door to selling advertising and other technology to retailers, and building a loyal following of consumers who see Google or eBay as their daily shopping destination. For smaller merchants, the service may become a lifeline, as more people shop from desktops or smartphones instead of visiting stores.
Miguel Natario, general manager of Palo Alto Sport Shop and Toy World, said the store was struggling to create its own delivery service when Google invited it in 2011 to join the Shopping Express pilot. He expects a 10 percent sales increase from Google delivery.
"This is going to be absolutely necessary for small businesses," he said. "It's what we need to do as small business to compete with Amazon."
Google has spent months using its algorithm prowess and data horsepower to calculate the quickest delivery routes, predict product departure and arrival times, and track store inventory, said Tom Fallows, product management director of Google Shopping Express.
Some retail experts expect the service will open up a trove of data for Google -- what consumers like to buy, where they live and work, and even the hours they keep. For every sale that Amazon makes, Google is cut out of not just the revenue but also the valuable consumer data. Sebastian Cadenas has used the service five times to have tea and other small purchases delivered to his San Francisco apartment.
It's "pretty spectacular," he said. "Everything I have ordered on Amazon or eBay gets to the (building's) management office. However, what I ordered on Google Shopping Express got to the front door of my apartment."
The service, available by invitation only for now, delivers online purchases within a three- or five-hour window to 88 ZIP codes from San Francisco to San Jose, Calif.