Daily Dose of iQ: Google Really Should Open Physical Stores

The Google store rumor has been picking up steam this week, and for good reason.

TechCrunchs MG Siegler wrote yesterday -- in light of Google’s Chromebook Pixel announcement -- the company’s plan to sell the laptop via the Google Play online store (as well as on Best Buy, Currys PC World websites) won’t be good enough.”

Clearly, Google needs to get its devices (and services like Google Play, Google Voice, Google Maps, etc.) in front of consumers. This is similar to how Amazon is opening physical stores to familiarize consumers with its Kindle devices/​ecosystem.

Google’s brand is known among users, but not necessarily consumers.

Google’s name carries a lot of weight -- it’s even become a verb! That said, the brand recognition they have is with users but not necessarily consumers. It’s a matter of context. With products like the Nexus line and the Chromebook, it’s crucial for Google to shift consumer perception and turn people from users (searching for free) to buyers (purchasing hardware).

However, Siegel says Google Play stores shouldn’t be Apple stores. They should look like Google products. They should be colorful and sort of playful. There should be a self-driving car in there. There should be Google Glass stations. Android devices galore. Chromebook areas. Maybe even Google TV.”

The Google store needs to be… Google.

While the thought of a self-driving car in a retail store terrifies me (think: bull in a china shop), the Google store needs to be… Google: The company has slides between floors in their offices, reinvests ad revenue in truly forward-thinking technology (like self-driving cars), and uses massive amounts of data to make life both easier and more exciting.

That’s not to say that Google shouldn’t study Apple’s playbook carefully. The focus on knowledgeable staff service and a deeply seeded brand are worth recreating.

But perception is key. In an era where brand loyalty can determine a company’s fate, Google needs to be set a path distinct from Apple’s brick-and-mortar footsteps. Many have criticized Microsoft as failing to do so.

Stores are no longer for selling; they’re for a experiencing a brand.

The take-home message for retailers: Retail stores cannot simply be a space in which products are sold but must rather be a place infused with character and a desired experience (see: Doug Stephens’ Store of the Future).

But it’s not formulaic. Stores need to be authentic. In a way, retailers are moving back to an identity that was lost in the recent growth of chains and box stores -- a concept of knowing the person (or in this case, company) you’re buying from. If a unique and sincere personality can be communicated through the in-store experience, the customer will develop a trust and bond with that brand and offer patronage beyond the fleeting impulse buy.