Ideas

Brad Golden

Partner

b8ta is a fast-growing, Palo Alto-based company founded by three former Nest employees. Source

The brick and mortar retail industry, no stranger to change, is experimenting with retail as a service, an intriguing new business model for this dynamic sector. The concept enables (primarily) ecommerce only brands to quickly, easily and cost effectivelyestablish a physical presence.  Like shared workspaces and co-living housing, RaaS offers a high-quality physical store presence at much lower cost. Companies pay a flat, monthly fee and RaaS providers handle all activities including store design, staff scheduling, inventory, checkout, even delivery. All a manufacturer really needs to do is provide product.

 

The most prominent of the RaaS upstarts is b8ta, a fast-growing, Palo Alto-based company founded by three former Nest employees. b8ta operates 13 company stores, 70 “powered by b8ta” stores-within-a-store for Lowe’s and one within Macy’s Herald Square, and one flagship “built by b8ta” store for NetGear. The company has attracted $39 million in start-up funding from some of the best-known names in venture capital as well as a significant investment from Macy’s. Why has b8ta attracted so much capital and what growth strategies does it offer any manufacturer?

 

Omnichannel is Best

 

More and more online only brands are seeking a physical selling presence, recognizing an omnichannel approach is best. These brands want to reach more shoppers, increase awareness and conversion, reduce customer acquisition costs and open a second distribution channel. Think Warby Parker, which now gets more than 50% of sales from its stores, Bonobos and Casper mattresses.  b8ta enables companies that don’t have the capabilities or capital to have a retail presence. Similarly, Shopify enables brick and mortar brands to establish an online presence.

 

Key Takeaway: Omnichannel retailing is optimal no matter where your distribution roots lie.

B8ta’s playground-like approach to merchandising is specifically designed for experimentation. Source

Try Before You Buy

 

The continued proliferation of complex, expensive consumer electronics has led shoppers to conduct much more research before buying. Checking customer reviews, reading product ratings and trying the product before purchasing are now all critical points along the path to purchase, especially for higher cost items. All products in b8ta stores are displayed unboxed and shoppers are encouraged to experiment. So called “b8ta testers” staff stores and are trained to educate and answer questions. B8ta’s playground-like approach to merchandising is specifically designed for experimentation.

 

Key Takeaway: Know what information shoppers seek before purchasing your product category no matter the channel and make it available.

 

It’s All About the Experience

 

It’s been said retailing is not dead, boring retail is. Retailers and their manufacturer trading partners need to collaborate more to provide shoppers with great customer experiences in stores (and online). CX is the single biggest advantage brick and mortar retailers have. Physical stores remain the best place to see and touch products and engage with store associates and in-store displays before making a purchase decision. Many of b8ta company stores are organized by rooms like kitchen, office, bedroom and family room so shoppers can more easily imagine using products at home.

 

Key Takeaway: Increase conversion by delivering an informative and enjoyable experience for shoppers.

 

Small and Quirky or Next Big Thing

 

The more rational say b8ta’s physical footprint is still too small to move the needle. The futurists see a more effective, more efficient way to go to market and cite Zipcar, WeWork and You+. We think stores-within-stores present the fastest way for b8ta and others in the nascent RaaS space to grow and likely explains why Macy’s led b8ta’s latest funding round. No matter which camp you fall in, there is no question the macro trends and shopper insights that led to RaaS offer manufacturers and retailers new growth opportunities

 

Join the Conversation, Learn More

 

What’s your take? How can manufacturers better succeed at retail? We’d love to know. Please contact Brad@Metaforce.co to join the discussion.  

 

Want to learn more about b8ta or find a store near you? Much, much more at www.b8ta.com.

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