A mix of national, regional and neighborhood merchants are enlisting in Google Shopping Express. The best-known names on the list include Target and Walgreen. All the merchants in the Google program will sell certain items through a central website. Google has hired courier services to pick up the orders at the merchant stores and then deliver them to the customer’s home or office.
Right now, Google Shopping Express is only in a pilot phase, and it’s not clear yet if it will be profitable enough to scale nationally. But there are plenty of competitors out there trying to make this model work. Take Indochino, a site that lets you order customized men’s suits tailored to your measurements and then delivers them to your door no later than five weeks after purchase.To the extent that these companies find ways of making online shopping even easier and faster than it currently is, there will be less and less demand for big, one-size-fits-all stores. If same-day delivery becomes a routine part of online shopping, it’s lights out for Big Box Store America.Where we’re likely headed is more efficient, personalized online shopping mixed with boutique bricks-and-mortar shops for those who still want the in-person, face-to-face experience. Farmers’ markets and local bookstores, for example, may be able to survive alongside online shopping in a way that factory outlets, malls, and big box stores can’t.Some chains see this future coming and are working furiously to guarantee that they will be able to thrive in it. Right now, Walmart is expanding its e-commerce business. And it’s considering crowd-sourcing delivery by giving in-store customers discounts if they deliver items purchased online to other customers. In the future, Walmart could exist only as a series of warehouses that tomorrow’s milkmen use to restock their cars.This is good news for all of us, and for the environment. Between promoting safer, more efficient Google cars and helping consumers cut down on wasteful, time-consuming shopping trips for life’s necessities, Google’s profit-seeking activities could end up doing more to help the environment than all the green activists in the world.[Image of Milkman Courtesy of Shutterstock]