There are many examples of digitally native brands taking the leap into experimenting with physical retail - and doing it successfully. Leading the charge in the transition from online to physical retail is b8ta, a retail-as-a-service startup that brings small online-only brands to physical stores. Founded in 2015 by three tech entrepreneurs, b8ta bridges the gap between online and physical retail for nascent tech brands, bringing a wide variety of innovative, otherwise online-only products to their 79 locations across the country.
Physical retail presence doesn’t mean much, though, without an exciting retail experience, and b8ta certainly provides. A b8ta store is a tech-lover’s playground, a sea of tables with gadgets and gear unboxed and ready to test. Drawing tablets equipped with styluses lie next to VR headsets, smart wallets sit next to Quip toothbrushes. And each product station comes equipped with a digital display listing product information provided by the product’s makers. The display operates as a product guide, explaining how the product works and encouraging consumers to test the product effectively. The stores, too, have knowledgeable salespeople or “b8ta testers,” as they are officially known, to help customers better understand the tech and provide guidance.
And their innovative system seems to be working. Since 2015, they’ve grown from a single store in Palo Alto to 79 unique storefronts in major cities across the U.S. They’ve also begun a partnership with Lowe’s, bringing their setup to over 70 stores, and in 2018, Macy’s bought a minority stake in the company and began using their model in the company’s experiential retail concept called The Market. Paired with Macy’s STORY, b8ta has become a part of the department store’s mission to bring their retail model into the tech age.
b8ta provides a much-needed service to small brands in a fun, modern package. It’s clear that b8ta is a harbinger of the modern retail model--fusing online and in-store retail, with an engaging, tech-heavy twist. Malls, take note.