A senior Google staff member has quashed rumours of Google-branded high street shops, saying they aren’t needed as customers can find all the product information they need online. In light of the news, ClickThrough’s senior online copywriter Oliver Pyper ruminates on the ever-blurring boundaries between offline and online marketing.
Google is part of our everyday lives but, unusually for a large brand, it doesn’t really have much of an offline presence. It wields an enormous amount of power, and marketers treat its guidelines like sermons from an oracle, but Google remains more of a ‘concept’ than a concrete ‘thing’.
There’s Google hardware, like its Nexus smartphone, and Google software, like its Android operating system. And there are Google-branded sections in stores like PC World. But unlike Apple, say, which has high-street stores in 14 countries, Google is all clicks and no bricks – at least in the minds of many.
So when rumours emerged last month that Google may be planning to open its own high street stores, it looked like the search giant was entering the realm of the cuddly, concrete corporations.
Andy Rubin, a senior Google employee, has since put a stop to all this gossip, stating that the company had “nothing to announce” in regards to Google stores. But still, the idea of the world’s most popular website setting up shop on our high streets got us thinking.
Not least because Andy Rubin, after crushing our dreams of picking up Google-branded merchandise with our weekly shop, also said that customers “don’t need to go in the store and feel it anymore.” Shoppers, he argued, can get all the information they need online, and from friends’ recommendations. They no longer need to pick items up and ‘feel the quality’.
But whilst this philosophy might ring true for Google’s hardware range, it doesn’t mean that offline marketing efforts should be entirely disregarded in favour of digital. Nor should it be taken as such. Rubin was talking of the so-called (by me) ‘grocery effect’, the need to examine a product first-hand to make sure it’s suitably ‘ripe’.
However, there’s an underlying message in his statement: the Internet is now often seen as the key information outlet. A snazzy ad on a billboard might not get people running to the shops, but it may well spark a burst of Google searches. An incitement to research, if you will.
The move to mobile has changed things, too. So even when shoppers do decide to “go to the store and feel it,” they’ll often back it up with a quick search on the smartphone to check out customer reviews and detailed product information – whilst they’re still in the store, standing in the aisles.
Whilst it’s tempting to pit offline and online marketing against each other, the upshot of all this is that the boundaries between the two have become increasingly blurred. People see ads in the street and products in the shop and search for information about them. People research a product online and buy it from a shop.
By aligning your online and offline marketing efforts – using phraseology in marketing communications that supports your chosen keywords, making it easy to locate product information on mobile devices, and so on – you could bolster both campaigns.
The two can’t, and shouldn’t, be separated. Nowadays, it’s all digital.