Can Same-Day Delivery of Books Help Google Take on Amazon?

The search giant has added Barnes & Noble as a partner to its Shopping Express service.

Aug 10, 2014 at 12:06PM

While Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) has been slowly rolling out same-day delivery in select markets, Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) more quietly has been doing the same. Now the online search giant is partnering with Amazon's original rival, Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS), to add books to its fledgling Google Shopping Express.

The partnership brings the last major physical bookstore chain into the Google service, joining brands including Costco, Walgreen, Staples, and Target. The combination gives Google a mix of available items that rivals what Amazon can offer, without the expense of building warehouses. The deal could be good for Barnes & Noble, which saw sales slip and 63 stores close last year. Much of that can be attributed to Amazon, which has not only stolen sales from physical Barnes & Noble stores, but has thoroughly dominated the digital book market. The deal with Google offers the beleaguered bookseller a way to match Amazon's ability to offer same-day book delivery without any of the infrastructure costs.

Barnes & Noble CEO Michael P. Huseby told The New York Times that the deal was "a test" that he viewed as a way to increase the bookseller's online reach and improve sales from its physical stores. "It's our attempt to link the digital and physical." 

For Google, the arrangement is just another step toward building a list of retail partners that allow it to offer a comparable, if not better, collection of products for same-day delivery than Amazon. Entering the book market, however, is a symbolic shot across the bow of Amazon, which may have morphed into much more than a book store, but will always have books as a key part of its brand identity.

Why is same-day delivery so important to Amazon?
Reducing delivery times has been a major project for Amazon. The fact that customers don't get instant gratification has been the only negative for those who shop on the platform. For Amazon, same-day service has, in select locations, helped the online giant compete with physical stores that have the advantage of immediacy.

In most cases, if a customer buys something on Amazon, he has to wait at least two days -- unless he pays an added fee for overnight delivery. That might lead a buyer to purchase the item from a brick-and-mortar retailer -- even if the price is higher. Same-day delivery may not be quite as immediate as picking something up off a store shelf, but it's nearly as good, without  the hassle involved with leaving the house.

To accomplish faster and same-day service, Amazon has been pouring resources into a number of projects. The company has built a network of warehouses across the country, made a deal with the United States Postal Service for Sunday delivery, and is testing unmanned drones to offer automated same-day service. The online retailer already has same-day delivery in a slowly expanding group of cities, and it's working to find ways to bring the offering to more markets

If Amazon can figure out how to offer same-day delivery on a cost-effective basis to a decent percentage of the United States, it could make even larger inroads against traditional retailers. That once seemed like an impossible dream, but the company has slowly solved the puzzle, making nationwide same-day service seem if not inevitable, at least plausible. 

What are Google and Barnes & Noble doing?
While Amazon has been building its own distribution network of trucks and warehouses, Google has partnered with retailers that have existing stock in their stores. Instead of using its own trucks, Google has partnered with couriers who pick up the products from the various retailers for delivery to customers. The online giant charges $4.99 per delivery for non-members, while subscribers get free delivery. The company is currently offering new users six free months of membership. In theory, Google will charge for membership at some point, but that pricing has not been made public.

Amazon charges its Prime members -- people who pay $99 a year for free two-day shipping as well as other benefits -- a flat $5.99 per-order shipping fee for its same-day delivery service. The company does not offer the service to non-Prime members.

Both companies only offer same-day delivery in very select markets.

Who will win?
Amazon's efforts squarely target retail, and Google's service gives those retailers a way to fight back. Amazon has tens of millions of Prime subscribers and more than 220 million credit cards on file. It's offering is a logical extension of its current service -- really just another choice at checkout. 

Google's attempt to compete makes sense, and partnering with major brands should allow it to have a competitive selection of merchandise. The challenge is that people are not already shopping on Google, and Shopping Express is not well-integrated into its partners' websites. Barnes & Noble, for example, is not processing orders through the service on its website. Instead, customers who want same-day delivery must order through the Shopping Express website.

Using that approach means that Google will have to build a retail brand and find a way to market to customers. Amazon already has customers, so it clearly has an early, but not insurmountable advantage. 

Amazon's success is baked into its system. People will simply pick same-day delivery if they want or need it. Whether Google succeeds depends upon whether it can get customers to sign up, share credit card information, and use the service. It's not impossible, but Amazon has a much shorter road to travel.

Warren Buffett: This new technology is a "real threat"
At the recent Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting, Warren Buffett admitted this emerging technology is threatening his biggest cash-cow. While Buffett shakes in his billionaire-boots, only a few investors are embracing this new market which experts say will be worth over $2 trillion. Find out how you can cash in on this technology before the crowd catches on, by jumping onto one company that could get you the biggest piece of the action. Click here to access a FREE investor alert on the company we're calling the "brains behind" the technology.

Daniel Kline has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends and Google (C shares). The Motley Fool owns shares of, Barnes & Noble, and Google (C shares). Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

1 Key Step to Get Rich

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better. Whether that’s helping people overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we can help.

Feb 1, 2016 at 4:54PM

To be perfectly clear, this is not a get-rich action that my Foolish colleagues and I came up with. But we wouldn't argue with the approach.

A 2015 Business Insider article titled, "11 websites to bookmark if you want to get rich" rated The Motley Fool as the #1 place online to get smarter about investing.

"The Motley Fool aims to build a strong investment community, which it does by providing a variety of resources: the website, books, a newspaper column, a radio [show], and [newsletters]," wrote (the clearly insightful and talented) money reporter Kathleen Elkins. "This site has something for every type of investor, from basic lessons for beginners to investing commentary on mutual funds, stock sectors, and value for the more advanced."

Our mission at The Motley Fool is to help the world invest better, so it's nice to receive that kind of recognition. It lets us know we're doing our job.

Whether that's helping the entirely uninitiated overcome their fear of stocks all the way to offering clear and successful guidance on complicated-sounding options trades, we want to provide our readers with a boost to the next step on their journey to financial independence.

Articles and beyond

As Business Insider wrote, there are a number of resources available from the Fool for investors of all levels and styles.

In addition to the dozens of free articles we publish every day on our website, I want to highlight two must-see spots in your tour of

For the beginning investor

Investing can seem like a Big Deal to those who have yet to buy their first stock. Many investment professionals try to infuse the conversation with jargon in order to deter individual investors from tackling it on their own (and to justify their often sky-high fees).

But the individual investor can beat the market. The real secret to investing is that it doesn't take tons of money, endless hours, or super-secret formulas that only experts possess.

That's why we created a best-selling guide that walks investors-to-be through everything they need to know to get started. And because we're so dedicated to our mission, we've made that available for free.

If you're just starting out (or want to help out someone who is), go to, drop in your email address, and you'll be able to instantly access the quick-read guide ... for free.

For the listener

Whether it's on the stationary exercise bike or during my daily commute, I spend a lot of time going nowhere. But I've found a way to make that time benefit me.

The Motley Fool offers five podcasts that I refer to as "binge-worthy financial information."

Motley Fool Money features a team of our analysts discussing the week's top business and investing stories, interviews, and an inside look at the stocks on our radar. It's also featured on several dozen radio stations across the country.

The hosts of Motley Fool Answers challenge the conventional wisdom on life's biggest financial issues to reveal what you really need to know to make smart money moves.

David Gardner, co-founder of The Motley Fool, is among the most respected and trusted sources on investing. And he's the host of Rule Breaker Investing, in which he shares his insights into today's most innovative and disruptive companies ... and how to profit from them.

Market Foolery is our daily look at stocks in the news, as well as the top business and investing stories.

And Industry Focus offers a deeper dive into a specific industry and the stories making headlines. Healthcare, technology, energy, consumer goods, and other industries take turns in the spotlight.

They're all informative, entertaining, and eminently listenable ... and I don't say that simply because the hosts all sit within a Nerf-gun shot of my desk. Rule Breaker Investing and Answers contain timeless advice, so you might want to go back to the beginning with those. The other three take their cues from the market, so you'll want to listen to the most recent first. All are available at

But wait, there's more

The book and the podcasts – both free ... both awesome – also come with an ongoing benefit. If you download the book, or if you enter your email address in the magical box at the podcasts page, you'll get ongoing market coverage sent straight to your inbox.

Investor Insights is valuable and enjoyable coverage of everything from macroeconomic events to investing strategies to our analyst's travels around the world to find the next big thing. Also free.

Get the book. Listen to a podcast. Sign up for Investor Insights. I'm not saying that any of those things will make you rich ... but Business Insider seems to think so.

Compare Brokers