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The digital world was abuzz Wednesday, on news of Google’s first physical store opening in London, England. The London store-in-store concept is located within Currys PC World, a U.K. electronics retailer owned by Dixons Carphone. The latter will be receiving all revenue from sales of the products.

What the Google store is not, is a typical store or store model for that matter. Touted more as a billboard, the partnership with Dixons provides an opportunity for Google to get customer face-time in real-time and in-person.

Google’s James Elias in a statement said:

“We’re incredibly excited to launch this space―the first of its kind anywhere in the world―in London with Currys PC World.

The pace of innovation of the devices we all use is incredible, yet the way we buy them has remained the same for years. With the Google shop, we want to offer people a place where they can play, experiment and learn about all of what Google has to offer; from an incredible range of devices to a totally-connected, seamless online life.

We think it’s a genuinely unique try-before-you-buy experience.”

Re-visioned Physical spaces are key to helping consumers as they research products

Omni-channel shopping is a key consumer behavior worldwide and Google has picked up on the fact that customers still want to try before they buy, touch-and-feel and certainly play!

With the fast pace of technology, many of the features and functions of new devices likely go unused by the majority of tech-owners, save the tech-savvy. Similar to the Apple Store, the Google store will “offer customers the chance to sample Google’s range of Android phones and tablets, Chromebook laptops and Chromecasts and learn about how they work together, from one device to the next, to make users’ lives as seamless as possible.”

The need for physical spaces for consumer research is an important idea and integral to the concept of omni-channel shopping and retailing. As retailers and shopping centers consider the re-visioned physical spaces of the future, we will see a greater demand for physical branded spaces. This should be a key consideration for shopping centers who are struggling to determine how they add-value to their tenants.

Branding through Flagship Locations

Some of the more theatrical features of the store that make it a real flagship for Google include an opportunity to check out:

  • An immersive surround screen installation called “Portal” where users can “fly” through any part of the planet through Google Earth;
  • A Doodle Wall where budding graffiti artists can use digital spray cans to paint their own take on Google’s iconic logo, which they can then share on social media; and
  • A Chromecast Pod where customers can enjoy Google Play Movies, YouTube and more, all cast through a Chromecast dongle that converts any TV into a smart TV.

Education of Products

Similar to Apple, the Google Store “hopes to host regular classes and events for the public. Classes will range from how to keep secure online …(to) simply learning how devices work.”

This is integral to customers understanding the value of the products they have purchased and getting optimal use.

Real-Life Example

Regardless of the category, education on products is an important aspect of selling high-end products.  My colleague and I attended a conference in Montreal last week and we had this experience firsthand when we checked out a few med-high-end apparel stores in a shopping center.  One store had a store associate who could tell us the fabric type, process, and even the difference between their products and the competitor.  His enthusiasm was contagious.  Five stores down, the competitor’s store associates, while extremely friendly, provided no added information on why their products were better.  Both my colleague and I are looking to buy a jacket from the first store.

This is where Apple has excelled.  Their store associates are educated on their products, understand the concerns and issues customers have and are part of an education process.  How many times have you heard a friend say “my birthday gift from my spouse will be the new iPhone.” Google must tap into that further in order to hold and expand its Android-based products against a slew of competitors coming out of Asia and North America.

The new Google store is a step in the right direction.  While most news will say Google is too late, we think it’s better late than never.  Consumer behavior shows the need for re-visioned physical spaces to help customers research and buy in tandem with online stores is important.  It’s the way of the future and those who don’t catch up will be closing shop.

Written by: Suthamie Poologasingham, Sr. Advisor of Digital & Omni-Channel, and Director of Research at J.C. Williams Group

Google Shop, UK:

overview

An overview of the space

curved video wall 2

Curved video wall (showing Google Earth), controlled by an interactive pad

graffit

Digital Graffiti wall

sales 2

Product sales area

sales

Sources: Google Press Release, Wall Street Journal; Photos: McMillanDoolittle

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