Google provided a peek inside its first retail store, a day before it opens in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood.
The store. which opens Thursday morning, shows that Google aspires to create a place where consumers can come and buy its Pixel phones, Chromebooks, Nest gadgets, Fitbit wearables and more.
It’s sort of like an Apple Store, but for people who want to buy and get support for Google products. Previously, Google has created temporary “pop-up” shops, but this location is designed to be a permanent fixture in the company’s New York headquarters.
It’s a unique decision for Google because, unlike Apple, the company doesn’t make most of its money from hardware products. More than 80% of Alphabet’s revenue comes from digital ads, generating $147 billion last year. But the store may help Google learn more about what customers want from hardware, and it may even help people understand that Google builds its own devices, ranging from thermostats to phones and laptops.
In a briefing earlier this week, Google said it wanted to create a space where consumers can come and try all of its devices and services in a way that shows how they’ll work together in different places. For example, it has separate rooms where people can see how the Pixel phone’s night sight camera feature works, or how the Nest hub smart screen works within a bedroom and allows you to answer a smart doorbell. Another room shows Google’s Stadia game service and how a customer might start a game on a phone then continue to watch on a big TV.
One area, a 17-foot round glass structure, called an imagination space, will display some of Google’s latest technology advances. To start, for example, it will have a Google Translate experience created with an artist in Tokyo. A customer can whisper a phrase and it will whisper back the same phrase in 24 languages, while also displaying the text on a screen.
Google will also offer a full range of support for its consumer products and services. It said it can fix cracked screens on Pixel phones, possibly on the same day; repair Nest products; and even help people better understand their Google account and any of Google’s software like ChromeOS or Gmail. Customers can schedule an appointment to come into the store for help. It will also sell subscriptions to products like Stadia.
It also plans to provide other experiences you might find in an Apple Store. It will host how-to sessions and deep dives around products, for example.
The company hopes to learn from the store by seeing what consumers want and then building that into its products. It said it decided to open the store now because it saw pent-up demand for in-person experiences and that merchants in New York are seeing increased retail traffic.
It will still provide safety protocols to protect against Covid. It will follow state, local and federal guidelines, employees will continue to wear masks, the number of people allowed in at a time will be limited to start, and there are hand-sanitizing stations throughout the store.