Amid the carnage in brick-and-mortar retail and a juggernaut called Amazon that’s humbling its competition online, one technology start-up has come up with a motto: “Retail isn’t dead, it needs a revival.”
Enter software-powered retailer b8ta, which sells tech products that don’t have an offline retail footprint of their own. b8ta gives a leg up to small technology makers who might not be able to break into big stores, and lets customers test gadgets like smart locks, high-tech skateboards, and connected stove monitors in physical locations.
In the process, b8ta hopes to generate excitement about shopping in traditional retail stores again, and giving unknown brands more exposure.
b8ta was founded in 2015 by Nest alums Vighu Norby, William Mintun and Phillip Raub, and has outlets in San Francisco, Santa Monica, Seattle, and Austin, among others. Since launching in December 2015, the company has opened 11 overall locations.
According to Norby, b8ta’s CEO and founder, the company is trying to alleviate a modern conundrum: Ordering a product and having to pony up the money immediately, without knowing if it does what it claims.
“It’s a really bad experience as a consumer to put down money first,” Norby told CNBC recently. “Sometimes the product takes 18 months to get to market, or never ships,” he said.
While working for Nest, Norby experienced first hand what it was like to work with large retailers. The CEO said that “retail is hurting right now” with many of the best products being launched and sold only online.
In many cases, getting shelf space at all has become difficult and costly. Often, consumers don’t see similar products from smaller (and often cheaper) brands, because the more dominant labels take over much of the displays.