Google Express shopping service grows: new cities, partners and Prime-style subscriptions

Google started experimenting with same-day deliveries early last year, but now it's getting serious. Google Express (shortened from Google Shopping Express) is expanding its service areas from just the Bay Area, parts of NYC and Los Angeles -- now it's shipping goods from local merchants to their customers in Chicago, Washington D.C. and Boston. There's a slew of new retailers on board including Barnes & Noble, PetSmart and Sports Authority, and in the Bay Area it's added alcohol and fresh foods to the delivery menu. One small catch? Starting today, Google will charge for those deliveries, which used to be free. Nonmembers can pay $5 per order, or join the service (sort of like Amazon Prime) for $95 a year, or $10 per month.

That membership covers free same-day or overnight delivery on orders over $15 (booze is an extra $3 per order for nonmembers, $0.01 extra, per store, for members), "first dibs" on delivery windows, and can be shared across a household, but the good news is that there's a three month free trial. By comparison, Amazon is charging $99 per year for its sprawling Prime subscription that covers speedy deliveries, music and even movies, and $299 per year to be a part of its Amazon Prime Fresh service. The Prime Fresh package offers free same- or next-day early morning delivery of orders over $35, with over 500,000 items on offer and the standard Prime service included.

VP of Google Shopping Sameer Samat tells the WSJ in an interview that Google is " trying to build an experience that doesn't just focus on the world of the desktop," and that we should expect more things that blend the online and physical worlds. The tagline is "your everyday delivered" -- after search, mail and maps, are you ready to hand your shopping over to Google too?