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Is Google the Next Logistics Leader? (6.3.24)

3 Minutes Read

From key investments to semi-clandestine meetings, Google has shown interest in logistics for several years now. What does that mean for the industry?

Google is king. For digital marketers, businesses of all sizes, and simple consumers looking for the best local taco shop, plumber or hotel, that’s been a fact for some time. The search engine giant reigns supreme in a way few other websites do, so much that the word “Google” is more than just a brand, it’s a verb used to describe an action that most people make several times a day. Even small changes in the Google algorithm are enough to inspire a thousand case studies and think-pieces from a variety of industries.

In the past, Google’s dominant effect on the way the world searches and the way businesses are searched for has not been a focus of logistics operators. In recent years, however, Google has become a part of that conversation. No longer is Amazon seen as the force driving the way logistics experts operate and the expectations consumers have for their e-commerce shipping experience. Google’s recent investments, meetings and innovations have increasingly proved that the Silicon Valley enterprise is poised to become a major player in the world of logistics.

Below, we will look at signs that indicate Google’s shift into logistics including:

  • Patents

  • Investments

  • Partnerships

  • Meetings

  • New ventures

We will also discuss what this means for the logistics industry and how utilizing a transportation/logistics advisor can help your business make the right choices for the shipping world to come.

Google’s patent

In 2016, Google filed a patent for an “autonomous delivery platform” that raised eyebrows in the logistics industry. The language of this patent did more than imply that Google would be moving into the logistics field; it practically confirmed it.

The patent indicated that Google would be developing driverless trucks using the same technology it had already developed for driverless cars. This technology relies on machine learning for vehicles to understand traffic patterns, delays and even weather conditions. Google’s patent stated that the driverless trucks would use locked compartments and a text message system to bring products to consumers.

Logistics operators recognized this as a potential disruptor to the industry and speculated that Google might use the technology to deliver e-commerce products and license this technology to other companies.

JD.com investment

Two years after the now-infamous patent, Google made big headlines by investing in JD.com. While JD.com might not mean much to the average consumer, logistics operators know it is the second-largest e-commerce company in China.

JD.com partners with major retailers, including Target, and is well-versed in the importance of last-mile delivery. Google’s decision to invest $550 million in JD.com was nothing short of an announcement that Google was interested in becoming the next Amazon in terms of logistical reach. The JD.com investment also came with the launch of Google Express, which offers free shipping on minimum orders plus the ability for consumers to buy products via the Google platform.

XPO and Google

In that same year, Google partnered with XPO to allow the logistics provider to offer shipment tracking for heavy goods. The ability to track items is a vital consumer demand in the modern era, and the XPO partnership affected an estimated 14 million last-mile deliveries per year.

Alphabet Advanced Logistic Summit

In 2019, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, directly telegraphed its logistics move by hosting the Alphabet Advanced Logistic Summit. This Silicon Valley meeting brought FedEx, Deliv, Flexe, JD.com and a former Walmart executive to California for a series of meetings and events aimed at helping Google better understand logistics.

As this was Google, the nature of the summit was extremely tech-focused. Meeting topics included using SEO and SEM to understand how keywords affect consumer demand, drone delivery and digital buying trends.

Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners

Also in 2019, Google launched Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners. While not ostensibly marketed as a force in logistics, this holding company can be viewed as a component of Google’s interest in logistics.

Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners was created “to develop advanced infrastructure systems that are more sustainable, flexible, & efficient.” Again, savvy logistics operators recognized this is a part of Google’s interest in logistics.

Project Wing in Virginia

Much like the driverless trucks patent, drone operation is seen as a potential source of disruption in the logistics industry. Drones may often be associated with Amazon, but in 2019, Google was actually the first to receive FAA regularity exemptions to enable Wing (Google’s drone program) to begin serving the Roanoke, Virginia market. While drone delivery is not yet a part of everyday American life, Google has the technology to make moves aimed at allowing that to happen.

What it all means

From the patent to the JD.com investment to the Alphabet Advanced Logistic Summit and beyond, logistics operators now recognize that Amazon is not the only massive game-changer in the business. Business operators should keep an eye on Google’s shift into the logistics industry and be prepared to adapt to new technologies and evolving consumer needs, especially around last-mile carriers.

How Resource Logistics Group can help you compete

Resource Logistics Group understands that not every business owner has the time or ability to keep up with changes in logistics. Competing with Amazon and Google is a concern that should not be dismissed without expert help. Partner with experts on all avenues of logistics operations by taking advantage of our free benchmarking analysis of FTL and LTF pricing. Contact Resource Logistics Group today to find out more.

Steve Huntley