Pulling into the Retail Station: It’s Google Express
Like 39.2% of consumers, I start most of my shopping journeys with a Google Search. (DigitalCommerce360) For products big or small, Google is an exceptional resource; helping me with brand discovery and recommended retailers, all the way down to finding specific products I am interested in. This is no surprise. It’s how EVERYONE uses Google.
However, over Labor Day Weekend, that all changed. For the first time ever, Google’s new shopping platform, Google Express, became the place I ultimately purchased the products I was looking for.
News has been circulating about Google’s intention to take back search market share from Amazon. Retail Dive reports that “the two tech giants switched places with Amazon growing from 46% to 54% and Google declining from 54% to 46%” of product search impression share. It’s true that many consumers are skipping the Google search and starting their journey directly in Amazon’s search bar. Can you imagine replacing the verb “Googled” with “Amazoned?” Google search is a part of our lexicon and their recent strategic move shows that they won’t go down without a fight. To win back search market share and compete with Amazon on the shopping side, Google has revamped their shopping platform, Google Express.
“Google Express is a delivery service powered by Google where you can shop from retailers— all from the Google Express app. Select what you want in the app and where you want to buy it from, pay for the items, then wait for your purchases to show up on your doorstep within one to three days.” (Digital Trends)
So, what is Google Express and what does it mean for retailers?
Let me take a step back and set the stage for exactly how I came to be a Google shopper. This story starts with a Wedding. I am a big fan of the new format registry sites like Zola and BabyList. The genius behind these registry platforms is that they are changing the entire wedding and baby shower industries, and I believe for the better. And home furnishings retailers might agree.
Weddings and baby showers are significant life moments for a furniture and décor purchase; from an entire first home to furnishing a nursey. These new registry platforms allow the bride or mom-to-be to add products from any retailer across the Internet to their Wishlist. In theory, this gives more retailers a chance to make it onto a registry, whereas before a few key retailers monopolized the registry game. This could be a real advantage in local markets.
Over Labor Day Weekend, I was browsing the registry for a friend’s upcoming bridal shower and had narrowed down my selection. I left the registry platform and went to Google to check to see if my choice was a good one. I compared reviews across a few websites and searched for the best price. I was surprised when the best option to complete my purchase was through Google Express.
The items I had chosen from the registry were a comforter and pillow shams, sold as two unique SKUS. The game changer is that I was able to add the items into my Google Express Checkout from two separate retailers, on one order. Google Express operates like a marketplace, but with the fulfillment, in this case, occurring from two different large-scale retail operations.
So why did I decide to purchase from Google Express? The first reason that can’t be overlooked is the price incentive I received: 20% off my first three items purchased on Google Express. I don’t always shop with price as the motivator, however, this was an item already chosen by someone else. Product selection wasn’t driving my decision making, getting the most value and putting together a great gift was. The incentive from Google is important to note because it shows that Google is investing marketing dollars into this platform. Google is clearly looking to introduce the Google Express platform to the world and motivate browsers to become converting customers.
That brings me to another point. I and most consumers trust Google. This is a huge hurdle that new retailers and eCommerce platforms alike must overcome. But Google has the advantage of being an established brand. Even more conveniently, I didn’t even have to make an account, having already had a Google account.
The one initial setback upon ordering was that I was given an anticipated delivery date about 14 days out from the purchase date. Even though this was a long delivery period, I decided to complete the order for experiment’s sake. Fast forward and I was very surprised when I found the two products I bought on Google Express at my doorstep only three days after my purchase; substantially earlier than the anticipated arrival. I was genuinely surprised by the quick fulfillment of this new platform.
So, what does this mean to you as a home furnishings retailer? It is yet to be determined the impact of Google Express, but there are key takeaways. First and foremost, there is yet another tech giant impacting retail and making a statement in doing so. The competition retailers are facing from Amazon is well documented. However, a faceoff between Amazon and Google will inevitably bring further shifts to the customer shopping journey.
Google Express is going for ease and convenience just as their name “expresses.” Let’s recap. I didn’t even leave the search engine, bought two items at incredible prices, and had them at my door in under three days, without even creating a new website account. That’s a lot of value from a first-time shopping experience.
The next thing to note is that there are already many retailers signed up for the platform, including Wayfair, Pier1, Overstock, and big-box stores that sell home furnishings. Google Shopping Ads have long been a successful digital marketing tool for retailers and this feels like the natural next step. Just like customers trust Google, retailers do too. The least retailers should do from here is put Google Express on their radar. For those that have found success in Google Advertising, using this extension as a marketing channel may be worth investigating to see if it’s an appropriate step for your online strategy. Further, it will be important to determine how to strategically approach Google Express from a competitive angle.
While this blog offers my personal experiences and observations on this shopping experience with the new Google Express launched in the Spring of 2018, Google has been evolving its shopping platform for almost 5 years. For a deep dive into the difference between Google Express and Google Shopping Ads, as well as more details about the platform’s history, I suggest reading this great article from Acquisio.
Written by Caitlin Jascewsky. Caitlin writes STORIS’ educational content and manages STORIS.com, focusing on how retailers can use technology to enhance their customer experience. A graduate of the Fashion Institute of Technology, Caitlin worked in retail for 7 years before joining STORIS.