The case for Google retail stores
When you think of Google these days, you think of a lot of things: search, Android, Chrome, and even a digital content store, aptly named Google Play. The last thing you would likely ever tie Google directly to is a physical retail location, a brick and mortar store.
No less, a report surfaced late last week suggesting Google was about to do just that … again. Currently, Google has Android stores in Australia, which go by the name Androidland. This time, Google is looking for a physical retail location for all things Google in New York City, according to Crain’s NY. It’s looking at an 8,000-square-foot space in SoHo at 131 Greene St.
The thing is, there isn’t a straightforward explanation as to why. It raises quite a few questions, like: what does Google, an Internet company, have to offer in a brick and mortar store? Better yet, should Google even bother?
Of course it should, and we have several reasons why.
Samantha Murphy Kelly of Mashable notes that Samsung, Microsoft, and, most importantly, Apple, hold physical retail locations worldwide. Apple has been running the retail ring for quite some time and, more recently, Microsoft brought out the big guns to try and to close the gap. Now, it has 63 retail locations globally. And Samsung also has plans to enter the physical retails space in a big way. It plans to launch 60 retail stores in Europe.
But why Google, of all companies? It’s an online software company. It’s fair to assume this is a “me, too” measure, but I have a hard time believing that’s where the story ends. Google doesn’t often do things without intent.
Either way, the fact that it’s biggest competitors (and partners) alone builds a compelling case for why it should enter the physical retail space.
Google is a hardware company
“But Google isn’t a hardware company, Taylor!”
Really? How is that? Because it specializes in software and services? What about the Nexus Q (RIP), Chromebook Pixel, Chromecast, or Google Glass? These are all products we’ve seen from Google in the last two years. All simple, yet elegant. All made in-house.
Google isn’t primarily a hardware manufacturer, but it has most definitely dabbled, and it’s showing more interest by the month.
Frankly, Google needs a place to showcase its products, not matter how broad or sparse its hardware offerings, and provide stellar, face to face customer service.
The Google brand is present on non-Google hardware, too
Google is actually a lot like Microsoft these days. Both have begun to stand in the hardware space on their own two feet, but much of their successes come at the hand of dozens of partners willing to use their software.
With Google, you have Nexus and Google Play edition smartphones and tablets, as well as Chromebooks manufactured by close parters, such as ASUS, HTC, LG, Samsung, HP, and Acer. Not to mention, today it announced support for an entirely new line of products: Android Wear-powered smartwatches. Asus, HTC, LG, Motorola, and Samsung are all on board as hardware partners for that product, as well.
If Microsoft has a store, there’s no reason Google shouldn’t, too. Yes, even if practically all its software and services are free.
Better, controlled demos of Google products
While Google may not have its hand directly in the manufacturing process of all these products, it does have its name and brands plastered all over them. The products are running Google software, are powering and/or powered by Google services, and represent Google in some way or another.
Currently, the only way for people to try most Google-powered products – Google Play edition and Nexus smartphones or tablets, Chromecast, Glass (once it’s available), or Android Wear products – is by ordering or buying them, trying them out, and seeing if they’re exactly what they’re looking for. Sure, some locations may offer Chromebook or Chromecast demos. But, for all intents and purposes, getting a demo of Google’s core services or products is not nearly as easy as it is for some of its competitors’ products.
I can’t think of a better way to do just that than by demoing things in a physical Google retail location, in a controlled environment. Third-party retailers aren’t exactly known for their presentation skills. Take the above photo of the Chromecast product position – behind a support column – in a local Best Buy as a perfect example.
Having dedicated space where foot traffic can come view the spectacle of brand new technology and boundary pushing products could very well be crucial to capturing people who wouldn’t normally find themselves on that certain corner of the Internet.
I may have questioned a Google store’s validity or purpose at first, but after some thought, I can’t think of any reasons a Google brick and mortar location shouldn’t exist. Physical retail isn’t dead (… yet) and many people still prefer face to face interaction. Frankly, I’m all for it and can’t wait to see them pop up all over the place.
If you, on the other hand, have a reason Google stores shouldn’t exist, feel free to share them below!