Rumours have surfaced that Google is set to open a store in New York, becoming the latest in a long line of technology companies to create a physical presence.
But what would it look like? Would it be a success? How would it find its place in today’s tech-heavy retail world?
Online marketplace eBay trialled a pop-up store in the UK a few years ago, while other technology firms, such as Apple, have made a success of traditional retailing.
Siobhan Gehin, partner at professional service firm Kurt Salmon, believes the time is right for the search engine company to expand its horizons.
She explained: “The advent of the Google store has been long-awaited. Given Apple’s massive success with selling Apple products in bricks-and-mortar stores (some would say revolutionising the store concept on the way), and given that Google now has a respectable range of physical products to offer, the time would indeed seem to be ripe for a Google store. And rumours have been rife of a “store in store” concept for Google within Best Buy.
“However, it is hard to see how you can make a compelling and exciting store proposition from its product offering alone. But the store could be used as a piece of real theatre, showcasing some of Google’s more inspiring innovations, such as the prototype “smart contact lens” which monitors the blood sugar levels of the wearer – not ready for market yet, but what a great innovation to showcase. The smart watch – rumoured to be introduced imminently – would clearly be a great addition either to a product portfolio or as a showcase item in an “innovation theatre”.
“With almost $19 billion in free cash flow in 2013, a store trial – even on a piece of prime Manhattan real estate – is not a big strategic bet for Google. Unlike Apple though, Google is not a hardware company – it is a search engine and software company. To make the Google store resonate with consumers will require some great and innovative showcasing of the broader Google product, service and innovation offering. It is likely to be more of a museum + museum shop than a conventional retail store.”