“What’s old is new again” is a philosophy that one would never imagine apply to technology, but B8ta proves it does. The world is migrating to online commerce, but nostalgic consumers once again crave the brick-and-mortar store experience. Clicking to buy is convenient, but the missing link is a sales person to explain the benefits and features of a product, and the opportunity to see, feel, and test an item before you purchase it.
Today many items consumers would have never dreamed of buying online, such as furniture or prepared meals, are shipped door to door in days; but sometimes there is a disconnect between the consumer and the seller. The savviest of the new commerce entrepreneurs are bridging the old school and the new way of doing business, such as online mattress seller Luxi, which is now developing a complementary program where customers can try out their product in a retail store and then purchase it either in-store or online for the same price.
B8ta has ingeniously harnessed the best the best of both worlds with their pop-up like retail stores where they consign traditionally online only products, such as eero Wi-Fi extenders, Pearl RearVision rearview automobile camera, or Muse brain-sensing mediation headband. The cleanly designed storefronts resemble single-brand showplace stores, such as Apple, Sony or Microsoft store, but of course B8ta sells unlimited brands.
So far the stores are only on the West Coast, naturally having outlets in tech hubs in Northern and Southern California, with outposts in Santa Monica’s “Silcon Beach,” Seattle, Palo Alto, Burbank, Aliso Viejo and Livermore.
Having an actual retail store where consumers can go to handle the merchandise and speak to a knowledgeable sales person can make the difference between browsing and buying. When I recently went into the store in need of a portable battery charger, I was sold on the Flux, which was displayed at B8ta along with approximately 100 other devices, when I was able to see in person how thin the device was, and I was able to hold it in my hand to feel how lightweight it was. No number of YouTube unboxing videos can demo this experience.
B8ta has combined the tactile with the virtual experience of modern shopping with each of the items displayed near a video tablet on which a prospective customer can watch explainer videos. Enthusiastic black-shirted tech geeks stroll the isles eagerly awaiting the opportunity to answer questions about the merchandise.
The customer can also check on specs and other information from the video screen, including a countdown of the number of the product left in inventory.
So whereas some experiences don’t require a personal interaction to make them fulfilling, such as was the case when consumers were able to pump their own gas and never look back at the days of gas station attendants, buying tecnical products has not achieved this status, and signs are it will not, as the success of B8ta is proof positive that a hands-on shopping still has a place in the tech age.