First it was Apple. Then it was Microsoft. Now it appears that Google is getting into the local retail business.
I read in the Wall Street Journal that Google is working on plans to launch a chain of retail stores, following the Apple model of using storefronts to build a consumer brand.
Given Google’s push into consumer electronics, this move seems obvious, even overdue. The list of Google-branded hardware products is now long and getting longer — Chromebook, Nest, Android phones, and of course the infamous Google Glasses.
On his Screenwerk blog, my good friend and analyst Greg Sterling makes a good point about how Google can use the stores as a point of contact for SMBs.
Here is what Greg says: “My argument to Google at that time was mainly about having a place where SMBs could come and learn about digital marketing and ask questions of Google in a ‘genius bar’ style environment. That doesn’t seem to be part of the current plan but it would be wise to include such a component.”
I agree with Greg. Google could potentially use the stores as a way to speak directly to the SMBs who ultimately rely on Google to provide traffic to their online presence, and ultimately leads that make the cash register ring. Moreover, Google already has a line-up of cloud based applications for SMBs and I am sure more are coming. One possible risk is that the move could unnerve Google’s large network of resellers, who provide the search giant with a sizable chunk of its annual SEM revenue. But frankly, in my mind that consequence is a long way off.