In an attempt to modernize the retail experience for sellers, four Nest alums are launching b8ta, a software-driven brick-and-mortar store in Palo Alto, to sell Internet of Things gadgets and products on Friday. The entire b8ta experience is technology-driven — from the way companies get their products into b8ta to the way customers interact with the products.
With b8ta, the goal is to get innovative products like the Gi Flybike, a folding electric bicycle, and Thync, a wearable for achieving mindfulness and boosting energy, into physical stores and enable customers to have real, tactile experiences with them.
“What would it take to make selling in a retail store as easy as it is to set up your own shop online? That was the hypothesis that drove us to create the store,” b8ta CEO Vibhu Norby told TechCrunch. “We created a software product, as well as a store that works the way we think retail should work.”
When people come into the store, they’re able to immediately touch and interact with the products on display. They’ll be able to test them, learn more about the product, and compare prices at Amazon and Best Buy on the accompanying iPad.
Launching a retail store may seem like a counterintuitive move, but it actually makes sense because, believe it or not, most people still prefer to shop at physical stores.
In a 2014 study by management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, 90 percent of the 2,500 shoppers surveyed said they would prefer to buy products in brick-and-mortar stores.
Traditionally, it takes several months for new companies to get their products into retail stores, Vibhu said. With b8ta, it only takes a matter of days. b8ta sells monthly-based subscriptions to companies that give them access to real-time conversion metrics and full control over their in-store brand’s marketing, pricing, inventory and training.
In-store training is offered by b8ta Testers, who are all tech-savvy individuals focused on providing a great educational, hands-on experience with each product, Vibhu told me. “We’re not focused on selling products,” Vibhu said. “We’re focused on educating the customers about this stuff.”
b8ta, which has raised an undisclosed amount of funding from venture investors, was founded by Vibhu, a former lead engineer at Nest Labs, Phillip Raub, former head of global channel marketing at Nest, William Mintun, one of Nest’s first operations hires and Nick Mann, a former manager of the Works with Nest division. Starting today, b8ta is accepting applications from companies interested in selling their products at b8ta. The store officially opens to the public with a pre-selected group of products on Friday.