Google Gets Physical to Push its Products

by Matt Klassen on February 18, 2013

Despite the fact that a large majority of commerce now happens online or on a mobile device, it’s interesting to note just how important physical brick-and-mortar retail locations remain. In fact, companies are quickly discovering that the growth of m-commerce is once again changing the way people shop, as we’re no longer sitting at home shopping online in our pyjamas, but using our mobile device while in-store to find the best deals.

So contrary to Google’s previous resistance to the notion of opening a retail chain, perhaps its less surprising to hear that the search engine giant is planning on giving in to that temptation instead, joining competitors Apple and Microsoft in opening “its own standalone stores by the holidays in an effort to more effectively push its hardware to consumers.”

While the retail stores will advertise Google branded hardware like its Nexus line of products and its Chromebooks, as a report from 9to5Google states, the purpose behind Google entering the physical marketplace is because of one device: Google Glass.

But is all this really necessary for Google to launch its first serious foray into wearable technology?

It’s obvious that Apple particularly has mastered the end-to-end user experience, incorporating both digital and physical interactions with customers. There’s something to be said for this approach as well, as Apple has benefited from people believing its retail staff really are geniuses, and from the fact that the consuming public, regardless of the market, is often drawn to the official ‘brand’ store for products, support, and advice. But even if Apple has mastered the brick-and-mortar approach to the digital world, it doesn’t mean that everyone can.

Consider Google’s entire Android-centric marketing approach, one that has the search engine giant selling most of its Android and Chrome based platforms at cost, recouping its profits through an always dubious advertising and app-centric revenue strategy, and one immediately questions the viability and profitability of maintaining retail locations.

As TechCrunch writer Chris Velazco explains, “Running a physical store takes a decent chunk of money. Rent is a pain, as are utilities, training and staffing costs, paying for interior design and fixtures; there’s a considerable amount of overhead that goes into a venture like that. Sure, Google could still make some money in the long run but it doesn’t seem like much of a sure thing unless Google manages to perform very, very well in terms of sales volume.”

With all this in mind, is it really worth establishing a physical retail presence just to get the upcoming Google Glass project in front of prospective consumers? While Google may be able to turn this retail experience into a success, one has to wonder why it wouldn’t simply leverage its existing retail partnerships as its done with its previous products, using the likes of Best Buy and others to really push its new wearable technology offering.

But perhaps this about-face in marketing strategy signifies something greater than the search engine giant looking to make a splash in the burgeoning wearable technology market, perhaps its signifies a move away from the weaknesses inherent in its old approach, as for far too long Google has been completely beholden to both its retail and manufacturing partners for its success, having little to no direct revenue stream from its Android and Chrome products. By establishing a physical retail presence Google is making a statement that it’s, “a real consumer brand instead of just that thing you use when you want to scour the Internet for, well, everything”

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Written by: Matt Klassen. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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