Google Express expands, now reaches 90 percent of U.S.

Only a month after Google expanded its home delivery serviceGoogle Express, across a wide part of the Northeastern U.S., the company is today bringing its Amazon competitor to a number of new states in both the Southeast and Northwest. As of today, Google Express is launching in portions of Alabama, Kentucky, Utah, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington.

With these added regions, Google Express will now reach 70 million more people, the company says. Combined with the markets where the service was already live, Google Express today covers around 90 percent of the United States.

The service aims to challenge Amazon, and in particular Amazon Prime Now, the online retailer’s same-day delivery service that’s live in major cities around the U.S. for Amazon Prime customers.

What makes Google Express different is its retailer lineup. In most cases, it’s partnering with national retailers who either haven’t yet figured out e-commerce, or only offer delivery through more traditional means – not one-day delivery.

While the retailers will vary by region, some of the brands working with Google include Costco, Whole Foods, Kohl’s, PetSmart, Sur La Table, Fry’s, Road Runner Sports, Walgreens, L’Occitane, Payless ShoeSource, and Guitar Center.

One exception to that list, in terms of same-day delivery, would be Whole Foods – the store currently offers delivery through Instacart’s online grocery shopping service. But Google Express ditched its plans to delve into grocery delivery as part of a shift in strategy earlier this year. By distancing itself from the more costly handling of fresh and frozen goods, the company is able to take its service nationwide.

The other key difference between Google Express and Prime Now is the pricing.

While Amazon makes same-day delivery a perk for its Amazon Prime members, that requires customers to subscribe to Amazon’s $99 per year membership program. Google instead lets shoppers choose between buying a $95 annual membership, or paying a delivery charge of $5 (or more, at times.)

Google Express shoppers also have to abide by store minimums, which are typically around $15 but can be as high as $35.

Customers can place an order in Google Express, then choose their delivery window. Most orders can be delivered in one day, though not necessarily same day. Others will be delivered in two days, which means Google Express will also rival Amazon Prime. This, too, will vary by region.

Google’s interest in entering online retail may seem curious, but it’s tied to the fact that Amazon has become the top destination for shopping searches. A recent survey found that more than half (55%) of U.S. online shoppers now begin product searches directly on Amazon, while search engines like Google and Yahoo saw declines. Only 28 percent are now starting shopping searches on Google, down from 34 percent the year prior.

By year-end, Google says it plans to have the entire continental U.S. covered by Google Express.