Google Store: evolutionary not revolutionary

The launch of Google's first highstreet store is a sign of the evolution of retail, says James Hilton, global CEO of M&C Saatchi Mobile.

Google has opened its first high street retail proposition
Google has opened its first high street retail proposition

Google’s announcement that it is opening its first-ever eponymous shop, in London, is proof that the high street is not dead, or if it was, it will be reincarnated with the growing modern phenomenon of 'show rooming'; using physical shops to experience products before purchase. It’s no surprise that the digital revolution has drastically transformed the high street and the way consumers choose to shop. With the mass adoption of smartphones, consumers are using mobile to price check within stores, but research has proven that physical locations are critical for increasing purchase consideration and intent.

In-store experiences

With the mass adoption of smartphones, consumers are using mobile to price check within stores, but research has proven that physical locations are critical for increasing purchase consideration and intent.

‘The Google Shop’ will sell the company’s range of Android phones and tablets, Chromebook laptops, and Chromecast TV services. It will bring the Google brand to life by creating a number of in-store experiences, including a wall customers can spray paint with a digital can, and an immersive surround screen installation of Google Earth that you can fly through. It will allow consumers to experiment and immerse themselves in the world of Google, learning through playing about the technology it has to offer.

Apple proved physical retail model

This is the first time the internet giant has opened a shop under its own name and you can bet that others will follow in its trailblazing tracks. Amazon, for example, is set to open a physical store and has a 17 year lease on a space in a standalone spot in New York.  It’s a logical move, but to me, it feels more evolutionary than revolutionary. Why? Because Apple has already proved the consumers’ desire to physically experience a product with its many successful stores around the globe.

Control of buying process

However, unlike the Apple Store, the Google store is really a store within a store - housed inside of Currys PC World which is certain to dilute the brand experience.  By partnering up with the UK’s leading electronic high-street giants and utilising their physical sites, Google will be able to deliver products to customers even more quickly, and therefore compete more directly with other brick-and-mortar outlets.  This initiative is an innovative way for customers to engage in store and it shows that Google wants to directly influence and control this important part of the buying process.  I see this as a broader trend towards omni-channel thinking about retail, where the best of digital and physical experiences are combined to improve the customer experience.

Human connection

As marketers we know that a number of digital companies are looking to get closer to their consumers. One of the biggest challenges Google faces, being a brand built solely online from its search engine roots, is to create a more emotional, human connection with its consumers. The Google Shop is undoubtedly a step in the right direction: the more the brand is in people’s hands, the more their valuable attention is bound to follow.