But while Amazon may have chosen a college campus in a sleepy corner of north-east America to trial its inaugural bricks-and-mortar experiment, the world’s biggest digital business has instead chosen one of the world’s busiest shopping districts in which to plants its own stake in the ground.
Google announced the opening of its first ever store yesterday, inside a Currys PC World on Tottenham Court Road in London. In a similar vein to the Apple Stores that have historically set the pace in the sector, the shop is designed to let people browse Google’s tech products, such as phones and tablets running Android and laptops running the company’s Chrome OS.
However, it also includes a selection of bigger toys to play with, like a digital graffiti wall, and a huge room-sized version of Google Earth, with the overall statement of intent as bold as the installations.
Because, while Google has released a plethora of physical products in the past, it has never opened its own shops, and never alluded to the idea that it might.
“This move by Google highlights that even in this hyperconnected digital age of retail, having a physical presence on the high street is still vital for helping brands to better engage with consumers and increase sales,” says Bruno Berthezene, UK country manager at Solocal Group.
“Consumer behaviour has changed dramatically in recent years and we have seen the escalation of ‘webrooming’. As a result, retailers and brands are recognising the need for and benefits achieved by implementing the right web-to-store marketing solutions and tactics, such as click and collect and store locators, to drive qualified traffic in-store and provide the seamless shopping experience between online and offline that consumers are wanting.”
So, as with Amazon’s first store opening, Google’s latest project may well be a sign that not only is the high street still alive and kicking, but also that large-scale pure-play ecommerce may not be a viable option in the near future:
“Bricks-and-mortar retailers have caught up in recent years by offering an omnichannel experience. This has given them the upper hand over the pure-plays,” said Phillip Smith, UK country manager at Trusted Shops, in response to the Amazon store opening earlier in the year.
“Even pure-plays like ASOS may have to rethink offering just one channel, if Amazon is successful.”
With Google joining the ever-growing band of multichannel retailers, this statement can only be amplified.
Chris is Editor of MyCustomer. He is a practiced editor, having worked as a copywriter for creative agency, Stranger Collective from 2009 to 2011 and subsequently as a journalist covering technology, marketing and customer service from 2011-2014 as editor of Business Cloud News. He joined MyCustomer in 2014.