Google has been operating a smaller scale version of this in US Best Buy stores. In the past Google has also opened holiday “pop up stores.” This is apparently quite a bit more elaborate and ambitious. According to the report:
The store . . . will sell the company’s range of Android phones and tablets, Chromebook laptops, and Chromecast TV services. The shop will hold tutorials showing consumers how to use the devices and hold demonstrations showing off key Google apps.
Without having spoken to Google about this I suspect this is an experiment with a plan to open more such stores should it be deemed a success. The Telegraph report speaks only about the consumer-product dimension of the the store.
Yet there’s a compelling SMB AdWords angle here too. Let’s say that Google goes on and opens more of these locations across Europe and North America. Google Shops could become a customer service and tutorial center for local business owners around Google ad products and services (a potential win-win).
As I’ve written before, in roughly 2006 I had an idea that I pitched to Google but which the company dismissed at the time. Here’s a verbatim excerpt from my email to a senior member of the Google Local/Maps team:
[It would be] a physical retail presence in the top 20 cities across the US. Think the Apple Store (specifically the “genius bar”) meets Starbucks (as a lifestyle brand) — or something like that.
What does it sell?: Google branded merchandise (city specific T-shirts, mugs, mousepads and so on). The store could also sell wireless handsets (e.g., Nokia 770 device), PCs (Dell in particular), Apple Machines, etc. This would be Google partner merchandise or products that broadly relate to the Internet and/or Google’s Mission.
But more than that . . . the Genuis Bar equivalent demos Google consumer products and offers regular “how-tos” and customer service re AdWords (like a permanent conference booth). This is where SMBs come to learn how to do AdWords or do a better job of online marketing (like a perpetual “Google U”).
Cut to roughly a decade later and Google is finally doing something like this but it now has lots of products to sell. I think the potential AdWords customer service/classes aspect of having physical stores is one of the most compelling reasons to have retail locations.
I wonder if Google is thinking about this as part of its retail “master plan.” It would be foolish not to.
Microsoft could also do something like this with its existing store network. Were I advising Redmond, I would recommend that the company use these locations to do SMB education around digital marketing.
It’s a natural — though nobody appears to have thought of or yet acted on it.