The convenience and simplicity of the booming e-commerce industry have left brick-and-mortar stores struggling to stay afloat. The situation is no different for tech sales, as nationwide chains known for their gadgets have recently been forced to close store after store. But b8ta refuses to give up so easily: in fact, it’s fighting back by reimagining and redefining the in-person shopping experience, with the goal of making the best new inventions in tech effortlessly available to everyone. The company has been massively successful in this goal so far, and it has recently been given recognition in the form of the the Shop! Award for “Best Store of the Year.”
b8ta is not only being recognized for its overall design, but also for its use of technology and in-store communication. The Shop! Awards website praises the company for “changing the experience for consumer electronic retail, the role of brick-and-mortar stores, and even the relationship between customer and manufacturer.” Such lofty praise is well-supported when reviewing the store’s inventory and setup, as well as the goals the creators had in mind when making it.
First, we’ll take a look at the products. The inventions featured in the store are promoted either monthly or weekly, and they typically come from tech companies that are not quite ready to open their own stores yet. All of b8ta’s merchandise is split up into several collections to help you find exactly what you are looking for: “Earliest Adopter,” “Best of b8ta,” “Power Traveler,” “Practical Life-Hacker,” and “Form + Function.” The products range in variety but come together in the sense that they all push the boundaries of their perspective collections. For example, the “Earliest Adopter” collection showcases items like video headphones and a hovering camera, while the “Form + Function” collection offers smart picture frames and cribs that mimic the natural rhythm of the womb.
Since these products are so fresh and innovative, the store also made it a priority to give consumers the means to familiarize themselves with each and every one of them. A wide entrance welcomes you into a very open store, which itself has been split into “light” and “dark” sides. While the entire store is set up for demos and interactions with the products, each side has something different to offer. The side lined with creamy porcelain tiles and white walls displays individual products, while the side with black walls and dark finishes boasts more intricate and engaging experiences.
What is truly exciting about the store is what goes on behind the scenes: the beta testing. As suggested by the company name, the store allows the intended consumers to sample the products and voice whatever concerns or compliments they may have. Shop! Awards explains it best, noting that the store contains “tablet-enabled ‘bricks’ [that] are the basis for a conduit for information to flow both directions, providing immediately updatable product messaging to the consumer while tracking user interaction and customer engagement for the benefit of the product’s maker.” In other words, data is being collected on how to best improve products as you sample them, advancing both their development and consumer-manufacturer communications.
There is one minor inconvenience that hasn’t quite been worked out yet. Since some of the products being displayed are only for demos and sampling, you don’t actually get to leave the store with them. Instead, these products are ordered online and shipped right to your address. The good news is that as soon as they arrive, you’ll already know that you absolutely love them!