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Google’s High-Touch NYC Flagship Takes A Show & Tell Approach To Retail
10/01/21

Google’s High-Touch NYC Flagship Takes A Show & Tell Approach To Retail

Technology company Google recently opened its first permanent physical retail store, located underneath the company’s offices in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. 

Located on 9th avenue between 15th and 16th street, the Google Store Chelsea emerged from years of pop-up experiments where Google learned that its consumers valued high-touch, immersive, and educational retail interaction. Accordingly, the interior of the new initiative is laid out like an experientially modular showroom, rather than a pure retail storefront, providing a space where visitors can learn about Google’s full ecosystem of products across both hardware and software, see the corresponding wide-ranging applications and synergies of both, while also providing space to receive advanced in-person technical support. Through an array of immersive experiences and narrative merchandising, the Google Store shows how the brand’s products can fit into and enhance consumers’ daily lives with different rooms lining the store’s back area, referred to as “sandboxes,” that are designed and staged to beset highlight different Google product features and capabilities.

One of the marquee store moments is the living room “sandbox,” showcasing the full extent of the Nest Hub’s connected smart home features. In the room, Google takes visitors through the cycle of an imaginary day using voice-activated Google Assistant prompts paired with audio and haptic sensory effects. As part of the immersive demonstration, the Nest doorbell rings and simulates the experience of receiving a package with its connected front-door camera. When it is time for lunch, Google Assistant recommends recipes. Next, Google Play plays music through the smart speaker. To wind down the day, Hue’s wireless smart lighting system dims the lights.

In an effort to appeal to the broader lifestyle of their customers, Google’s gaming room showcases their cloud gaming service Stadia, the first time the platform is being featured in a retail store. The third “sandbox” room features a walk-in, dimly lit photo booth allowing visitors to test the Pixel phone’s innovative low-light, “night sight” camera feature, with visitors able to email pictures they take to themselves or share on social media. 

At the store’s central circular counter with a “Here to Help” sign, Google Store visitors can ask the specialized experts for same-day product repairs and assistance with any Google product, from how to sync their smart Nest devices, set up a Family Bell reminder, or help with Google Workspace Accounts. In addition to walk-ins, shoppers can schedule an appointment for drop-off repairs and Google will provide an estimated product pick-up time. The support desk builds a new touchpoint into the consumer journey, giving customers face-to-face communication with Google’s highly informed associates and providing an opportunity for customer feedback. Adding to the store experience is an additional “workshop space,” that serves as a stage for various live demonstrations, events, concerts and more. 

The store’s facade features dynamic two-sided displays. On the outside, hero product “Discovery Boxes” line the windows allowing pedestrians passing by to interact using AR by scanning QR codes, and from the inside, the display showcases their products behind a custom transparent LED screen with changeable overlaying graphics. At the entrance, the 17-foot-tall glass “Imagination Studio” offers an enclosed area for shoppers to experience Google’s latest upcoming technology, which will rotate regularly. The first exhibit shows Google Translate’s machine learning capabilities by simultaneously translating visitors' speech into 24 languages. 

In addition to showcasing Google’s impressive product range, store shoppers can also find third-party accessories like phone cases, other compatible peripherals, and branded merchandise like tote bags, T-shirts, hats, toys, notebooks and even basketballs for sale. Google eliminated cash registers and instead, associates’ devices complete the checkout process. For loyal Google product owners, the checkout process is shortened through the integration of the online and physical store’s shopping experiences. 

Google Store Chelsea has a LEED Platinum rating, the highest possible certification for green construction. Only 214 retail spaces worldwide have achieved this pinnacle of sustainable classification, and it serves as another example of how Google is using their first permanent retail space to showcase the brand’s driving attributes, in this case sustainability. Each element of the store was carefully selected and designed not just for appearance but also for environmental impact. For example, the veneer on the walls is a soft gray responsibly sourced hickory, each lighting fixture is energy efficient, and the store’s custom cork and wood furniture was created with a local craftsman from Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The store carpeting, manufactured from recycled materials, was even attached to the floor using a sustainable adhesive. 

Google’s approach to its new retail storefront, positioning products alongside each other and quite literally housing them in experiential occasions to educate consumers is part of a larger ecosystem of trends PSFK researchers have been following around the emergent post-pandemic retail landscape. As eCommerce comes fully into its own, brands and retailers are doubling down on experiential and integrating in-store technology to appeal to an increasingly omnichannel shopper base. Trends like employing the retail store as a stage for narrative merchandising around product occasions, and solution-oriented showrooms where shoppers can go for valuable assistance and expertise from trusted employees, as well as more responsive sales floors that bridge the brick-and-mortar and online experience in real-time are providing robust, real value to both shoppers and retailers.