It looks like Google is thinking about opening a retail store in New York’s SOHO district, not far from the Apple store. According to a story in Crain’s, Google is looking at a property on Greene Street for its first brick-and-mortar location. In recent years, following in the footsteps of Louis Vuitton, more high-end retailers have been opening stores on Greene Street.
But why would a business like Google, which has built its fortune and reputation with online products, such as search and Gmail, need a retail store? According to some industry experts, this is the perfect time for Google to consider doing something like this. In fact, they believe, it could hurt Google’s future business if they do not.
In a recent interview with Yahoo Finance, technology analyst Robert Peck laid out some of the most pressing reasons as to why Google should be thinking “when” more than “if” when it comes to setting up a retail operation.
Reason number one: Google has moved into hardware sales. While most Google users interact with the company through their online products, over the past several years Google has partnered with hardware companies to create their line of Nexus phones and tablets and their increasingly popular Chromebook line of laptops. Right now, you can buy any of those on their online Play Store. However, like with any other product, consumers not only want to know about specs and price, but also about how it feels when you hold it in your hand and use it. A retail story gives consumers a change to literally get their hands on something before buying.
Google may want to open a retail store because being able to try something out for yourself is going to be more important in the near future as “wearables” hit the market. Right now, most people have a pretty good sense of how a good phone or laptop should feel. So, reading a good review or watching a YouTube demonstration can take you a long way in making a decision. However what if you want to buy something like Google Glass? Are you going to take someone’s word on how good they feel?
Peck believes that one of the big advantages to a retail store is that it gives Google a chance to educate their customers about products they may have never tried out or tried on before. In the wearables department, fitness bands and trackers are becoming popular. Also electronics shows are featuring wearables that are built into your jackets, pants, belts, and even socks. People are going to want to try these kinds of things on and see how they work for them, before buying.
Google’s first attempt at selling directly to customers misfired. The first Nexus phone was well-reviewed, but quickly went away after customers found the buying process too frustrating. Buying the phone was easy enough, but if something went wrong there was no store to return it to or customer service to complain to. More recently, during the last holiday season, Google tested the retail waters again by setting up pop-up stores around the country that gave people a chance to try products in person.
Adding to the speculation about whether Google will soon open a retail location is an article in Fortune that hints that the Google store may be more than just a retail outlet. Google may be thinking of a flagship store that is part retail outlet and part high-tech museum destination. In that case, like a tour through Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, people could buy the products they know, but also get a sneak peek into what Google has planned for the future.
By Dan Reyes