Is Google Going Physical With Retail Stores?

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4:30 PM EST February 17th, 2013

As Google continues to build out its series of physical products, the technology giant is planning on building physical stores to match.

That news comes courtesy of 9to5Google, which cites “an extremely reliable source” as confirming that Google is building stand-alone retail stores it plans to open in several key U.S. markets before the 2013 holiday season.

According to that source, the decision is being driven in part by Google’s launch of its Google Glass product, it’s wearable display platform that will retail for between $500-$1,000 when it hits the open market. As Forbes points out in this piece, consumers are more likely to purchase such expensive items if they can test them out in person, and if they can do so in a friendly and open environment.

If that sounds a lot like Apple, this Forbes piece argues that that’s essentially what Google is trying to replicate. The piece argues that Google needs to build out its brand more when it comes to physical products, and that it can also use its stores to sell products from partners like Samsung and Acer. Forbes also notes that Google has some retail experience, with Google-trained employees at Chrome centers in some Best Buys, which could make the transition easier than one might originally assume.

While Google’s physical store move would come with the potential to do plenty of good, there’s significant risk involved as well. For one, retail sites are by no means a guarantee to be profitable, and consumers have typically been less enamored with physical Google products than they have with the company’s virtual solutions.

The Forbes piece also makes the interesting case that even Google “cant just be slightly good” at retail, as anything less than a superb consumer experience will appear inferior to Apple. The piece argues that this is largely a problem Microsoft encounters: it’s not that the company is bad at retail, it’s just that it’s not as good as Apple.

What do you think? Would you be excited to go to a physical Google store? Do you think it can compete with Apple’s legendary customer service? Tell us in the comments below.

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