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Google Joins The Same-Day Delivery Crowd, But It’s Still Not Fast Enough

Written by Frank Hayes
October 31st, 2012

Now Google is testing same-day delivery, too. That isn’t likely to have Amazon, ebay, Walmart or any other quick-delivery wannabes quaking in their boots, because Google’s trial looks pretty much like all the rest. But there’s a question overshadowing all these efforts: How quickly do either E-tailers or brick-and-mortar chains have to do those deliveries?

For those few critical days before Christmas, any same-day delivery for last-minute orders could be a high-margin bonanza for retailers, as panicked shoppers are willing to pay full price. But for the rest of the year, the customers already know what they expect when they order something for quick delivery. And the benchmark to beat isn’t Amazon. It’s Domino’s.

Details of the Google trial in San Francisco are scarce. But according to a New York Times report last Friday (Oct. 26), its customers are limited to Google employees and hangers-on. The search giant has cut deals with existing delivery companies and with several national chains for the products to deliver. Google’s role is presumably to accept orders, handle the money and coordinate the deliveries.

In other words, it sounds a lot like ebay’s same-day delivery experiment, except that Google hasn’t committed to ebay’s one-hour delivery time—the Times story says Google will deliver “in a matter of hours.

(Some tech bloggers with overactive imaginations have also suggested that Google plans to use its experimental self-driving car for deliveries to cut out the cost of the driver. Um, no. Leaving aside the astronomical cost of insurance for that plan—what could possibly go wrong with a car piloted by Google Maps?—it would mean the customer would have to walk outside to the double-parked car, figure out how to retrieve her package while not stealing anyone else’s, and somehow securely sign for it. Someday, maybe. Today, a driver is definitely a better idea.)

The fundamental problem with all these quick-delivery trials is that they’re calibrating their efforts with an eye on Amazon. The thinking seems to be that if Amazon requires ridiculously early ordering and only offers a four-hour delivery window in the evening, that’s the minimum competitors have to meet.

Yes, that is same-day delivery. And for a few days of the year right before Christmas, when conventional delivery for E-Commerce orders becomes impractical, that type of same-day can be really profitable for last-minute orders from shoppers who are willing to pay for the privilege and wait around for the package to arrive. Right now, E-Commerce drops off dramatically on December 21. Any type of same-day delivery can recoup sales on those lost days.

But the other 360 days of the year, that’s not realistic. What is realistic is that lots of customers enjoy same-day delivery all the time, and they have for decades. They order a pizza and, in something less than an hour, it’s at their door for a small delivery charge. That’s what shoppers are going to expect from same-day delivery.

Not “order before noon.” Not four-hour delivery windows. Not even a long delay between ordering and delivery. Customers know they can have a pizza delivered in an hour. They know it’s no harder to deliver a Cuisinart or a pair of shoes or a sweater than it is to deliver that pizza. If Domino’s can deliver inside a 30-minute window, why can’t Walmart, ebay, Google and Amazon?

They don’t care that Amazon needs a long lead time because its few-and-far-between distribution centers are set up for shipping, not quick delivery. Or that Walmart’s use of UPS for deliveries means it’s stuck with UPS’s turnaround time. Pizza chains have set the standard: You have to deliver the goods before the food gets cold. And customers know it’s possible, because the pizza chains do it all the time.


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