Google Finally Takes Retail Plunge, Will Open Chicago ‘Flagship’

The first Apple Store opened in 2001 in Northern Virginia. Apple’s physical retail locations have been a critical and undeniable part of the company’s subsequent success. Eight years later, in 2009, Microsoft opened its first retail store.

Now Google is finally going to take the plunge and open a “flagship store” in Chicago’s Fulton Market district. According to the The Chicago Tribune, Google is going to build out 14,000 square feet of retail space on two floors. The location is nearby its Midwest headquarters (pictured).

In the past Google has flirted with its maintaining a physical retail presence, using seasonal pop-up stores in malls and “store within a store” experiences (e.g., Best Buy). But it hasn’t created a stand-alone “Google Store” — until now.

Now that Google has a full hardware lineup, it makes considerable sense to let consumers see and touch these devices and showcase them in an appealing environment with staff who can answer questions. I’m sure Google will also sell and promote services such as YouTube TV and Google Play Music.

But for our purposes, what’s most provocative about the stores is their potential to serve as places where local businesses can learn more about GMB and Ads and get support and best practices instruction. Whether Google will see this opportunity clearly and build it into its retail concept remains to be seen. (I first suggested a similar idea to Google directly in 2006, before there was any Google hardware.)

Years ago in the early 2000s, Google ran AdWords education programs, called “Google U,” in hotels around the country. Since that time, there have been many Google roadshows and live events for small businesses.

Google executives may ultimately decide that selling Ads or providing Ad support and selling hardware are not compatible in the same store. But it’s a very intriguing possibility to contemplate.

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