Google’s failed online shopping service Google Express is closing in a few weeks, as its features will be merged into a revamped version of Google Shopping, Google says in an email sent to its customers this week. The company had already announced its plans to shutter the Google Express brand, as part of a wider redesign of how it approached online shopping. This included new advertising options for brands and online sellers, as well as a universal shopping cart across its platform of services, like Search, Shopping, Images, and even YouTube.
While Google is characterizing Google Express’s closure as an “integration,” it’s really more of a sunsetting of a failed brand.
Google Express was Google’s high-profile attempt to compete with Amazon for online shopping clicks and ad dollars buy creating a virtual mall on the web filled with top retailers’ products. Because Google is not a retailer itself, it did what it knows best — it organized information. At Google Express, you could find products from thousands of retailers — including big names like Walmart, Target, Walgreens, Best Buy, and others. And you could shop through a dedicated online storefront on the web, a Google Express mobile app, or even Google Assistant.
In the latter case, Google Express partnered with retailers like Walmart and Target for deep integrations for voice-enabled shopping. As direct competitors with Amazon, these retailers didn’t want to offer third-party skills for Echo users or others on Amazon’s Alexa platform. Google represented a safer third-party platform for their experiments with voice commands and personalized shopping.
But even several years after launch, Google Express had failed to offer any real threat to Amazon. Its retail partners, meanwhile, were building out their own fulfillment businesses for their customers’ online orders — like Walmart Grocery’s curbside pickup and delivery, for example, or Target’s Shipt, Drive Up, and Restock.
Not too much later, Target and Walmart were pulling out or pulling back from Google Express, it was being reported. (Target says it continues to invest in the platform. Gizmodo had previously reported on how Target reshaped its relationship with Google Express after launch.)
Google tried to downplay the news of Google Express’s demise by including it as just another part to the larger Google Shopping revamp. After all, it’s not a shutdown, the company implied. Its features were simply becoming a part of Google Shopping! Nothing to see here! Just a rebrand!
But clearly, Google Express had been unable to establish itself in consumers’ minds as its own dedicated shopping destination and brand. If customers wanted an online mall, they already had one with either Amazon or Walmart and their vast third-party marketplaces where you could find just about anything you’d need. Nor had Google innovated (or acquired) across key areas like warehousing or logistics, while others like Amazon, Target, and Walmart had been spending billions.
With Google Shopping, Google goes back to its search engine roots. It aims to simply capture consumers’ clicks, ad dollars and now conversions no matter where they are on Google’s sites — whether that’s shopping from Merch shelves under YouTube videos, browsing photos in a Pinterest-y manner on Google Images, or through more traditional Google searches for products where ads become shoppable, and shopping carts follow you around Google’s part of the web.
In an email to Google Express shoppers that was sent this week, Google says Google Express will be integrated with Shopping in a few weeks’ time.
The redesigned Google Shopping will then be available across the web and through apps for iOS and Android later this month. At that point, the Google Express apps will automatically update to become Google Shopping, if you already had them installed.
The full email about Google Express’ closure is below:
As expected, Google disputed the Google Express brand’s demise as a “shutdown.”
“Google Express is now Google Shopping. The same stores and products, free delivery options, and easy checkout offered by Google Express will now be available through ‘Buy with Google‘ across surfaces,” a spokesperson said.