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Will a Google Alliance Challenge Amazon?

by simon
Google joined forces with Walmart in August in what appears to be an effort to counter Amazon’s eCommerce dominance.

In fact, dozens of big retailers including Target, Costco, and Petsmart have signed on to Google Express. So will this “Google alliance” of big retail, big data, and home devices present Amazon with a real challenge?

While Google began to trial what became Google Express in 2013, it only recently began to seem like a direct challenge to Amazon Prime. What started as a pilot for same-day delivery in two limited markets grew to a kind of marketplace for big retailers. To be clear, these retailers have not joined a Google alliance to fight Amazon per se. However, its dozens of US retail chain partners may give Google Express the selection, pricing and (ad hoc) supply chain to compete with Amazon Prime.

From Local to Express

What started as same-day retail delivery in some local markets turned into a nationwide shopping/shipping service. In fact, Google Express today gives US customers what some call an Amazon Prime-like service, minus the $95 annual fee. However, unlike Amazon, while Google Express customers can get free delivery on purchases of a minimum value, both that value and the delivery time-frame vary, depending on the retailer. Thus, this Google alliance acts more like a federation, with retailers (not Google) managing delivery.

Google Alliance Goes Home

Walmart’s Google partnership announcement drew a lot of attention. First, as the world’s biggest retailer, Walmart news still makes a splash. Secondly, it christened the partnership in October announcing it would start to sell Google’s voice-shopping device. Customers can use Google Home and Home Mini to buy from Walmart via Google Express. This, of course, mirrors Amazon’s use of Alexa devices. Moreover, Google Express customers presumably will use them to shop at any partner retailers.

A Dynamic Channel

It will be interesting to see how Google Express plays out. Big retailers like Walmart bring Google Express a formidable supply chain investment. Thus, they presumably have the capacity to make fast delivery possible. Moreover, its dozens of retailers offer a broad range of products, to give Express customers ample choice. However, what remains to be seen will be if Google can amass customers the way Amazon has.

In the end, suppliers to the Google Alliance may enjoy a more dynamic channel than before. And if they use an inventory management solution built for trading with big-retail, they can handle whatever volume orders come their way.