If you sell products online, one of the most important goals you should have is to be wherever people are looking for what you sell. At this point, you’re probably well aware that selling on Amazon is a big part of that. But now, Google’s trying to compete with Amazon with their own online marketplace: Google Express.
1. What Is Google Express?
Google Express is an online marketplace that brings together products from a number of different stores into one online interface. While Google Express has technically been around for a while, it’s only recently become available throughout the continental U.S., making it a viable competitor to Amazon. Many big-name stores are part of Google Express, including:
- Costco (although customers have to purchase a membership to buy from Costco through the platform)
- Home Depot
- Ace Hardware
- Whole Foods
As you can tell from that list, consumers can find a wide variety of products on the website, from groceries to electronics to clothes. Consumers can search all the stores at once, or browse the products on sale from a particular store.
For vendors on the platform, Google charges a commission for each sale. Stores on the platform can choose to handle their own shipping, or they can have Google Express take care of packaging and delivery.
2. How Is Google Express Different from Amazon?
The similarities are obvious. Both platforms bring a large number and variety of product types into one place with one interface and checkout process – no matter how many vendors the customer makes purchases from. Both offer fast, affordable shipping (although with some differences in details, outlined below). And both position one of the biggest companies in the world as the solution to all your shopping needs.
But as clear as the similarities are, the differences between the two platforms are notable and important for vendors to be aware of.
A “Neutral” Marketplace
This is Google’s big selling point in comparison to Amazon. Many vendors on Amazon are in direct competition with products that Amazon itself sells. And, those that aren’t now know there’s a chance that could change at any moment, as the company continually expands into new markets.
Google can assure vendors that it won’t be selling any products on the platform itself. If you join, you’ll only be in competition with other vendors. And, unlike Amazon, Google Express allows for a more branded experience in terms of how people interact with your store on the site. Shoppers can easily identify the different stores accessible on Google Express and can choose to shop by vendor, rather than just keyword and product type.
On Amazon, people generally don’t have a relationship with the specific seller they make their purchase from. Amazon works hard to make sure that, at the end of the day, the consumer’s buying experience is associated with the Amazon brand above all. On Google Express, though, a shopper can seek your store out specifically and keep coming back if they like your products.
As of now at least, Google Express only includes a select number of vendors. The emphasis currently seems to be on big-name retail chains with physical locations. For vendors considering the platform, that potentially means less competition, although you’d still be competing with big brands that boast name recognition.
Different Shipping Options
Everyone’s familiar with Amazon Prime’s 2-day shipping, and many regular Prime customers are well aware various other shipping options they offer – including same-day shipping and even Prime Now’s 2-hour shipping for many products.
Google Express is definitely working to be competitive with Amazon’s shipping options. They offer free same day delivery for many products and next-day delivery for many others, but which shipping options are available to customers depends on the stores they choose to buy from.
Shipping options are determined by each store – meaning a consumer will get a better deal buying several items from one store versus buying one item each from a number of stores and paying individual shipping fees for each. Some stores provide fast free shipping, some only provide free shipping over a certain dollar amount, and others have shipping times of a week or more.
Google doesn’t have its own warehouses, so vendors have to take care of keeping items stocked and available at their own stores or warehouses. You can choose the shipping terms you prefer and decide whether or not to handle all the shipping and packaging yourself, or have Google Express do that part for you.
Simpler Product Pages
While Amazon puts some limitations on what you can include on your product listings on the site, through features like A+ Content and Enhanced Branded Content they do give vendors a little room to add some extra information and personality to a listing.
On Google Express, the product pages stick with pretty basic information: basic descriptions, product details, a few pictures, price and shipping info, and reviews.
You don’t get a lot of room here to dress your listings up with great copy and images, which means most customers will be making decisions based on price, shipping speed, or brand recognition.
While Google Express listings don’t show up in the list of natural links on the search engine results page, they do sometimes show up alongside the ads that are displayed above the natural results. Google Express results are especially prominent on mobile, though, where Express results dominate the screen for product-specific searches.
Being on Google Express alone wouldn’t nab you that top ad spot, but it sure seems to increase your chances of product visibility on Google, especially for users on mobile.
At this time (and probably for some time to come), Amazon still dominates in this category. A lot of people use Amazon. But Google Express doesn’t require a membership for users like Amazon Prime does, meaning that people can get some of those choice shopping deals without the annual fee they have to fork over to Amazon (a fee that’s increasing this year, again).
And Google is a pretty well-liked brand – 88% of respondents in one poll said they viewed the company favorably. Amazon doesn’t fall too far behind at 77%, but criticism of the company is growing from both sides of the political aisle for a number of issues ranging from their labor conditions to the hefty tax breaks they get, to antitrust concerns. While so far, none of those criticisms seem to have put much of a dent in their user base, Google Express could potentially snap up some of the customers unhappy with Amazon.
Google Express has a ways to go before it can expect to see anywhere near the number of users Amazon enjoys now, but if Google works to make the site more attractive to customers over time, that may change.
3. Is Google Express Right for Your Brand?
Frankly, the bigger question you have to get past is whether Google thinks your brand is right for Google Express. To participate in Google Express, you have to join Google’s Shopping Action program. And to do that, you have to not only offer the right types of products, but you also have to pass their safety, trust, and data quality tests.
If you do qualify, though, Google Express could give your brand a new place to reach your potential customers. Google Express can offer you visibility, give your customers a reason to buy more products from your store specifically (rather than spreading their purchasing around whatever vendors win the Buy Box that day), and may increasingly appeal to customers trying to shift away from Amazon for moral reasons. You’ll have to figure out for yourself whether or not that makes it a good choice for you.
For now, most vendors have more reason to be on Amazon than on Google Express. More of your audience is there and the barriers to entry are lower. But, Google Express did grow 33% from Q4 2017 to Q1 2018 and is expected to keep seeing success. If Google’s marketplace grows in popularity as predicted or it becomes easier for new vendors to participate, then there’s a good chance you’ll want to establish a presence on both Amazon and Google Express.