The two tech darlings are growing into fierce competitors with every new chapter in their quests for consumer domination. The latest page of this low-key yet high-stakes saga finds Google potentially going after Amazon’s Prime loyalty shopping program. The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month that Google is in talks with major retailers to launch a service where shoppers would pay a flat annual fee in exchange for subsidized shipping. If this sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Amazon has been perfecting that model for years.
Amazon Prime allows active online shoppers to pay $79 a year in exchange for free two-day shipping of any Amazon-warehoused merchandise. Hurried buyers can pay $3.99 for overnight deliveries. The leading Web-based retailer has never divulged the exact number of Prime members on its rolls, but it has referred to them in the “millions” earlier this year.
How can Google pull this off without centralized warehouses? Will the search engine titan face conflicts of interest by having a more direct hand in the fortunes of some of its advertisers? Why go after a model that Amazon seems to have all but cornered? Let’s answer the last question first. Amazon Prime shoppers are a loyal lot. When there’s something they need to buy, they go directly to Amazon.com’s homepage.
Why not? If Amazon or one of its merchant partners is selling it through one of its fulfillment warehouses, they’re already paying for unlimited access to free two-day shipping.
See the problem? Amazon Prime shoppers are no longer leaning on Google’s search engine — more specifically, its Google Product Search comparison shopping engine — to scour cyberspace for better deals. This is why you see giant corporations making silent alliances, much like we saw in the stripe merchant services a few years back. Similar attitudes are rising within google, anything that circumvents Google.com as an Internet launching pad is a threat.