Back in October, I wrote about trying out Google Shopping Express. It has slowly become a Bay Area staple for techies, and I began using the service regularly in the hopes that it would be able to replace my Amazon Prime account. I like to think that I had a bit of a hipster moment with GSE – I remember originally telling coworkers about it and none of them had tried it out – and for the first few months, the experience was extremely positive. Once or twice, I’d have bad luck ordering an item that was in limited stock, but for the most part, it was reliable and quick. I was poised to cancel my Amazon Prime account when Google made the service subscriptions available (given their history of canceling their services, I wanted to wait) and solely use Google Shopping Express for my delivery needs. Unfortunately, over the past two months I have grown to realize that their business has yet to show that the idea scales, and given my most recent experiences with the service, I will be sticking with Prime, and here’s why.
When you provide a service that is solely focused around delivery, there is a pretty straightforward way to keep customers happy: deliver the goods they buy. With Google Shopping Express, gaining popularity has resulted in a huge discrepancy between what Google shows on their site as available for purchase and their merchant’s inventory. I’ve been tracking my orders the past several weeks, and what I’m seeing is incredibly disheartening: the number of items that have been cancelled on me has increased. Today, I ordered a variety of items from different stores, and out of the six that I picked out today, three of them (as of now) have been cancelled. This is after several of my other past orders also were cancelled – now, just about every time I place an order, at least one of my items is cancelled by the store.
I highly doubt that I am the only one seeing this problem – the fact that Google bought Rangespan shows an increasing need to scale their ability to support the infrastructure of a massive courier service – and as of today, I’m officially back to using Amazon Prime as my go-to for goods. When the difference is a single day’s delivery, I think I can manage. It is an important lesson to show the importance of scaling for services, and that even big companies can really mess it up. When 50% of the items a customer orders in a day get cancelled, that’s a pretty bad track record for a service that is geared to suck people in to the Google ecosystem by preying on the collective business/laziness of our society and supporting the convenience of insta-delivery.
It will be interesting to see if the conversion rate of Google Shopping Express makes it worth keeping around – seeing as they are still in a pilot for the program and not charging for the service, I have a difficult time seeing how they might be profitable. The conversion does work – I signed up for a Gmail account to use Google Wallet – but unless there are some serious improvements to the reliability of Google Shopping Express, I question the validity of their attempt to compete with Amazon in this sphere.