Google’s first pop-up, Made By Google, closed its doors today at the corner of Spring and Mercer St. in SoHo New York. The pop-up, Google’s secondÂ foray into a retail-like setting after its original Google Glasses shop,Â was greetedÂ by adoring tech fans and curious tourists who were willing to stand in long lines to preview Google’s new phones, the Pixel and Pixel XL, Google Home gadgets, and Daydream VR headsets. Tote bags containing Google swag, and even tinyÂ Google Pixel ugly holiday sweaters, were handed out to patient visitors.
The weird thing? Visitors couldn’t buy anything. Everything within the store was an experience. The tech company seemed to be taking a leaf out of the Bonobos Guideshop bookâ€”customers could demo the new gadgets and decide if the Pixel was desirableÂ enough to switch to from Android or iOS. Google Homeâ€”which had a similar feel to Amazon’s Alexa Smart HomeÂ gadgetsâ€”might eventually be smarter and better than Alexa given Google’s massive information software. As the Pixel rolls out, the Google DaydreamÂ is poised to be one of most affordable, easy-to-use headsets that works with a smartphone.
Sure, the pop-up is a stunt, but it’s one in whichÂ Google’s parent company Alphabet can start to gaugeÂ consumer interest and build hype before possibly launching a permanent store, a la Apple (which has a storeÂ just down the street) and right before the holidays. For other brands, tech and otherwise, this wait-and-see tactic will become more common as rent prices in desirable locations continue to rise. It’s also a space to test out a limited number of products and keep the experience directed toward theirÂ few consumer-level hardware products.
The second big takeaway: the drive to create an interesting experience instead of just aÂ shoppable experience. The only thing Google is selling is advertising, and it’s advertising itself as a future hardware manufacturer with great potential to connect mobile with smart home appliances with virtual realityâ€”in essence, a computer could be anywhere. As well, Made By Google also had a fiber optic art installationâ€”perfect for a selfie or a photo op, and also to remind visitorsÂ of what else the companyÂ can do.
Finally, customers who bought a Pixel while the store was open could come in and take classes on how to use their new phone in groups of five or less.Â It’sÂ a power play toÂ sway consumers from iOS by offering hands-on sessions where consumers can ask questions and learn more about Android. This model could be applied to any of Google’s new products, like Google Wifi or Google Homeâ€”and could build a bigger following as a wider range of consumers become interested and have an easy way to learn more.
For marketers and retail executives of digitally native brands rethinkingÂ the traditional brick-and-mortar model, perhaps theÂ smaller pop-up experience for new products or services would be a smart test that can gather audiences, provide instant feedback, and also serve as a way to create brand evangelists without spending too much on labor, rent, or advertising.