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Google Showrooms


Google Stores Showrooms
(Showrooms are for Trying, Stores are for Buying) 

If you’re like most consumers in the UK, you’ve probably bought a thing or two online. Toothpaste, perhaps? That’s easy; you know what to expect. If the reviews are good and the price is right, there is very little risk. What about an expensive augmented reality heads-up display? Probably not without trying it on first. (Or consulting a dictionary, for that matter.)

Google has such a product in development, Project Glass, and, by the end of the year, will have its own stores to sell them in. It has other hardware too - Nexus phones and tablets, the Chromebook Pixel laptop, plus a plethora of other manufacturers’ devices running on its Android, Chrome OS, or Google TV platforms. Soon, it will have a place to showcase them altogether.

It may seem counterintuitive for an internet giant to open brick & mortar stores while countless brick & mortar chains close their doors due to the rise of online retail. But if you think of the impending Google Stores more as showrooms than traditional stores, the move starts to make good sense.

For all of online retail’s advantages (price, comparison shopping, customer reviews, etc), consider its shortcomings. You can’t reach out and touch a product on your laptop screen. You can’t play with it, pretend that it’s yours, and resolve what doubts you may have. When the product is a £3 tube of toothpaste, that’s all fine. When it’s something expensive and unfamiliar like Google Glass, online fixtures like flashy video demos and product reviews won’t always cut it. Google needs to get Glass in prospective customers’ hands (or on their heads, rather). The same goes for its new $1,300 Chromebook Pixel and $200 Nexus 7 tablet alike.

What Google lacks isn’t a place to sell its wares; it has that online. What it needs is to showcase them and get them in prospective buyers hands. The showroom isn’t really a new retail paradigm but an increasingly important one, a model pioneered by Apple over a decade ago. It’s been vital to new Apple product launches ever since. The iPad, for example, wasn’t so different than Google Glass. It was a revolutionary product in a category that was unfamiliar and foreign to most consumers. For ordinary folk to determine why they should want an iPad, they needed a casual and commitment-free place to try it. In fact, Tim Cook himself credits the iPad’s success to the existence of Apple Stores.

The lesson to be learned is that of reducing friction. Advertising can drive consumers to a website. That website can do many different things to try to convert that visit to a sale. But when the product is a high-involvement purchase like a heads-up display called Glass or a touchscreen computer called iPad, even the smallest bits of uncertainty create powerful friction that can only be resolved experientially. So don’t think of Google Stores as places for transactions but as places for trial. Put another way, they will be for trying, not (just) buying.

Written by Stephen McVerry 

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