Here at b8ta we're excited to announce a project that's been in the works for some time—Forum. Read below for b8ta President and Co-Founder Phillip Raub's take on our newest retail concept; one that paves a new road connecting fashion and lifestyle brands with their customers.
Architecture by Studio Terpeluk
Four years ago we were eagerly approaching launch, we still didn’t have our building permits, but we were determined to launch in time for the Holidays (and we did).
Our vision at the time wasn’t to change the Consumer Electronics industry, but rather to reimagine the ways in which brands engage with consumers, and consumers engage with the physical retail environment.
In less than 4 years, our first small store has grown from being the initial step in deconstructing an age old concept to 20+ stores and an enterprise software platform. b8ta started with an emphasis on consumer electronics, and too often we were labeled “Sharper Image 2.0” or “the Kickstarter store”. In those early days, some folks would compare us to other concepts rather than viewing us on our unique merits, or the new ideas our model is built on. William, Vibhu, Nick and I knew we were building something much bigger.
This “much bigger” concept was a physical marketplace for brands. We happened to start with CE products, as that suited our backgrounds and was where we had connections. (Though even back then we weren’t exclusively CE, an early b8ta brand list included a “glue gun” style melted cheese dispenser.)
Earlier this year, we took major steps in developing that physical Marketplace as we announced our partnership with Tru Kids to relaunch North American Toys “R” Us stores in a more experiential Marketplace format. As a father, this was a big hit at home—but we envisioned that the Marketplace concept was still bigger than Toys and Electronics and could scale to a broader audience.
As a result, I’m excited to announce the launching of our newest concept called “Forum,” which literally means a public space or “marketplace” in Latin.
Photo by Tyler William Parker
Fundamentally, Forum adopts many of b8ta’s principles. Customers will still be able to experience products at a high level before making a purchase decision, and brands will still get high level data about the way these customers are interacting with their products. But Forum will take on a life of its own as a fashion and lifestyle brand that acts as a social marketplace built for community, connection and discovery.
Partners will design their own space and have creative control to curate experiences for consumers. This includes product launches, as well as community, influencer and VIP events that help to bring their brand ethos to life for individual Forum shoppers.
Shopping used to be a very social experience, an experience in which learning about the maker or the product origins were typically present elements. Somewhere along the way that got lost and the shopping experience has become far more transactionally-focused. “This product looks like what I need, time to buy”. This isn’t an inherently bad thing— in many cases it’s convenient and easy to purchase items on-line, especially when there’s little perceived risk regarding the product. This isn’t always the case, even less so when the product is a clothing item. It either fits or it doesn’t, and it’s impossible to tell online.
At Forum, we aren’t looking to challenge the simplicity and ease of the online experience, but rather to create a place where consumers can discover new products in an in-depth way, learn about the maker’s experience and vision (as curated by the maker), and ultimately convene and connect with others over their shared love for fashion, art and a given lifestyle.
Photo by Tyler William Parker
Hopefully, four years from now I’ll be speaking fondly of Forum in the same way that I do b8ta today.
-Phillip Raub, President
To learn more about Forum, watch for further announcements here as well as @shopatforum on instagram.