The day may be rapidly approaching when the phrase "to Google" may also mean visiting a nearby showroom to see the tech giant's latest products. This possibility arises from news this week that Google is opening showrooms in six American cities, in addition to at least two showrooms, previously announced, that are being built on barges.
The city-based showrooms will be so-called pop-up stores, in that they have a limited lifespan for the holidays. Named Winter Wonderlabs, they will present Nexus 7 tablets, Chromebook computers and Chromecast dongles for video streaming. Stores will be located in malls in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Paramus in New Jersey.
After seeing the products, visitors can order them online in the stores or at home. The stores will also feature a large snow globe containing fake falling snow, so that visitors can frolic inside the globes, video/photograph themselves on store equipment, and then receive and share the video/photos. A Web site connected to the Winter Wonderlabs will include a gallery with selected slow-motion videos of visitors in the snow globe.
Apple, of course, has become the model for tech companies opening their own stores. The Apple stores are not only hugely popular and successful, but have been used as models of consistent user experience, well-trained staff who help sell the brand, and customer service that elicits brand loyalty.
Microsoft has also opened about four dozen stores. Late last week, Intel revealed that it was opening pop-up stores for the holidays in New York City, Chicago and Venice, Calif., to showcase products based on Intel components.
Laura DiDio, an analyst with industry researcher Information Technology Intelligence Consulting, told us that, in following in the footsteps of Apple and Microsoft, Google is "expanding on its strategy" of moving into hardware as well as software products and services.
The 'Showrooming' Trend
In October, word got around that Google was building a barge in San Francisco Bay. The company has recently revealed that the barge is "an interactive space where people can learn about new technology," and documents submitted to the Port of San Francisco called it a "temporary technology exhibit space." The San Francisco barge, 250 feet long, is expected to have about a dozen sails and will tour around the Bay. A similar barge is reportedly under construction in Portland, Maine.
Google's move is the latest in the "showrooming" trend, where customers visit brick-and-mortar stores to test-drive products, while the actual purchase is made online, sometimes via a smartphone by the customer in the store. Industry researcher comScore has reported that over 40 percent of consumers report they have "showroomed."
In many cases, this showrooming takes places in conventional stores, but, in the case of Google's stores and similar others, the in-store purchasing capability is not available, and the store becomes the front end for online buying.