Apple’s physical retail presence continues to extend across the globe; Microsoft has opened dozens of stores across North America, and is expected to soon open its first European store in London; even Samsung has opened a London 'flagship store' at the vast Westfield shopping complex to the east of the city.
Soon to join the party, it seems, is Google. While the company already operates branded kiosks within other retailers’ stores – such as Best Buy in the US and Currys-PC World in the UK – these are essentially just information centres, dedicated to showing off products and answering customers’ questions, with the actual transactions being handled by the larger store. According to 9to5Google, citing “an extremely reliable source”, the company is planning to open its first dedicated, full-size stores ahead of this year’s holiday season.
Google Stores will almost certainly look nothing like this. Apart from the Google logo. Maybe.
Google reportedly began to look at opening its own stores when considering how best to promote Google Glass – its wearable computing device that’s currently in development – to the wider public beyond the tech community. While many will have heard of Google Glass, such devices still remain largely unfamiliar to the majority of potential buyers; hearing about it is one thing – committing to spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars on it is another.
The ability to offer demos in its own stores is said to have been a key factor in Google’s decision to push forward with its retail location plans. The timing is interesting; Google's Sergey Brin has previously said that Glass will be available for consumers to purchase from 2014. While any stores that might open in 2013 wouldn't be able to sell Glass-wear immediately, the ability to demonstrate the devices in-store would help Google to generate significant buzz and excitement in subsequent months, leading up to the start of sales next year.
The stores would offer more than just Google Glass of course; shoppers would also be able to try out and purchase its flagship Nexus devices, and it's likely that Chrome OS devices would also be offered.
It’s easy to understand why Google would want to join its fellow tech giants in launching its own stores. Beyond the obvious opportunity to generate revenue from sales, the prospect for brand-building, and establishing a new means for customers to connect with the brand and its products, is tantalising – but the real benefit would be the means to show off an unfamiliar and, let’s face it, pretty cool new piece of technology to a curious and excited audience.