CHICAGO: Google, the tech giant, will reportedly open its first permanent retail store in Chicago’s Fulton Market district, a move that shows – despite the promise of e-commerce – that physical availability continues to be important even for digital-first companies.

The new store, reported Crains Chicago Business, will be situated close to its Midwest headquarters, according to a source familiar with the leasing deal.

With the unveiling of Google’s Pixel brand in 2013, and a Chromebook Pixel, followed by the 2016 release of Google’s Pixel smartphone in 2016, the company began to show the world that it was getting serious about hardware.

Already, with the company’s decade-old Android operating system, Google, it appeared, would know how to sell phones given its 85.9% share of the global market compared to Apple’s 14.1%.

The reality has been quite different. Since the launch of its phones, Google has been unable to come close to the millions of devices that competitors like Apple and Samsung ship every quarter.

In 2015, at the beginning of its dabbling in hardware, the company abandoned plans to open a site in New York, having reportedly spent millions on its renovation. Now that the brand boasts many more products, from Chromecast to VR headsets to connected home devices, perhaps now is the time for it to move into the retail space.

For its part, Apple has described its retail network as its “biggest product”. Despite the fact that selling online is faster and cheaper, retail has “a bigger purpose than selling,” said Apple’s Senior Vice President for retail, Angela Ahrendts. “You’ve been to an Apple store, you feel that energy.”

Meanwhile, Amazon’s acquisition of the Whole Foods retail network and its own expansion into brick and mortar suggests that Google’s move into physical retail is long overdue and could become a useful way for the brand to become not only more visible and more tangible, but more available too.

Sourced from Crains Chicago Business, Statista, Marketing Week; additional content by WARC staff