I found it interesting that Google is going to open physical retail stores. Interesting not because of how they might design the stores nor if they will be differentiated from Apple or Microsoft. What is interesting is what it says about Google’s belief in brick-and-mortar locations as a necessary strategy for growing their business. If Google, the paragon of finding and converting customers on-line, believes in the power of traditional brick-and-mortar, than clearly they don’t believe the demise of the physical retail store is on the near horizon.
Google realizes that there are certain things you just can’t do in an on-line environment as effectively as in a traditional physical retail location. There is no substitute for the power of touch, the 3D live interaction, and engaging all the senses when encountering a prospective buyer for a consumer good. As I recently wrote about on Flagship stores, it’s not just the PR and marketing value their first foray into physical retailing will bring that matters. It is also the opportunity to create a “flagship user experience” that this new idea brings which is actually more important for Google than perhaps Apple or Microsoft. I say that because of the upcoming launch of Google Glasses scheduled in 2014.
I can’t imagine a bigger game changer in technology than what Google Glasses has the potential to become. I also can’t imagine buying one until I get a chance to get to a store and try it on and see for myself. Putting on glasses and getting a good look at what you look like in those frames is an important part of the buying decision when buying any kind of eyewear. My guess is the retail announcement has a lot more to do with the Google Glasses launch timing than perhaps phones but nonetheless, I’m glad to see Google moving in this direction and it speaks volumes about the never-ending role physical stores play in our lives and buying decisions.