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Google's BufferBox Buy Could Horn In on Amazon's Locker

Google's BufferBox Buy Could Horn In on Amazon's Locker

Google is attacking e-commerce -- and Amazon -- from all directions, including the end: delivery. Specifically, it bought a company that rents lockers for people to use to receive packages from e-tailers. "Amazon has a lot more experience as a retailer, and thus has a considerable head start on Google's endeavors," said e-commerce expert Rob Abdul.

By Rachelle Dragani E-Commerce Times ECT News Network
12/03/12 11:09 AM PT

Google has acquired the Canadian startup BufferBox, a package-storage service, in a move to expand its e-commerce offerings.

BufferBox provides subscribers with temporary lockers accessible at all hours for receiving packages from online retailers. The company has teamed with 7-Eleven and public transportation company Metrolinx to offer lockers at popular hubs in Canada.

The service is similar to Amazon Locker, but will accept accommodating deliveries from all e-tailers. It is also currently letting users subscribe free for the rest of 2012.

BufferBox said it was looking forward at taking the online shopping experience "to the next level" as a part of Google.

Google and BufferBox did not respond to our request for further details.

E-Commerce Expansion?

With the gains to be had in e-commerce, Google is likely looking for ways to expand its offerings in the area, said e-commerce consultant Rob Abdul. By acquiring BufferBox, Google can do what it does best -- offer an innovative solution to a problem hindering the growth of online shopping.

"Google is always looking for ways to add value to their e-commerce offerings, and this acquisition will do just that for the end user," he told the E-Commerce Times. "If you happen to be at work all day or away on holiday, you can be safe in the knowledge that your post is secure and waiting for you at your convenience. The days of waiting for the post can be put behind us."

The move, while relatively small, fits in with other Google initiatives to gain on Amazon, the industry leader in online retail, said Mark Ballard, senior research analyst at Rimm-Kaufman Group.

"Google's acquisition of BufferBox is significant, not so much by itself, but rather in the context of a number of other recent moves they have made that all seem to point to their intent to compete more directly with Amazon in retail order fulfillment," he told the E-Commerce Times. "This acquisition allows Google to keep pace with Amazon in a niche -- but growing -- space, and one that will facilitate same-day delivery, a goal shared by many of the industry's biggest firms."

Buying the Best?

Though Google is no doubt hoping to capitalize on the growing trend of online shopping, however, the BufferBox acquisition on its own doesn't seem typical of a company known for being picky in its business deals, said Ron Rule, vice president of e-commerce for Infusion Brands.

"Google has a history of buying the best -- the companies with the most reach, most users, or most growth potential," he told the E-Commerce Times. "BufferBox doesn't fit any of those."

There will be challenges going up against a company that has years of online retail experience at its core.

"Amazon has a lot more experience as a retailer, and thus has a considerable head start on Google's endeavors," Abdul pointed out.

That head start includes an infrastructure that offers an e-commerce experience from the point of engaging customers to a final delivery, Ballard pointed out. Google's BufferBox pick-up could help the company close in on at least one of the areas where it lags.

"Google's greatest challenge in breaking into e-commerce as a marketplace is coordinating hundreds of individual retailers to deliver a shopping experience that is as comprehensive, seamless and efficient as Amazon's, all without operating its own warehouses or distribution centers," noted Ballard. "The introduction of Google Trusted Stores and the move to a paid inclusion model for Google Shopping are two big pieces of this puzzle, and the Bufferbox acquisition fits with this notion as well. The big question remains, how well Google can bring all of these pieces together?"


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