Late last year, I was talking to a long time retail veteran about b8ta’s plans to develop smaller stores and expand our partnership with Lowe’s. She stopped me dead in my tracks and said,
“Those aren’t really stores.” I told her, “It is that mentality that’s the problem with retail and traditional thinking around commerce.”
Of course they are stores. There is product available for sale. There is a staff available to assist you, but I’m not sure that is even a requirement anymore. Would you argue that Amazon Go or b8ta.com isn’t a store because technology is used to check out customers? Of course not. So why does the form factor of the space matter?
Too often we put labels on products or services, and fail to understand the needs of the end users.
Consumers today are inundated with product options, payment options, and shipping options. As a result, they’re choosing to shop differently. They have less and less loyalty to a brand, but rather a method of shopping. Some consumers choose to buy seven products and keep two, others like a box of curated goods, while many still want the instant gratification of purchasing a product. Either way, the means of commerce are changing, and retailers and brands need to embrace the idea that consumers won’t necessarily discover and purchase a product in the same place. This is why b8ta’s smaller open-concept stores are critical to helping brands scale without being bogged down by the nuance of whether a 200 square foot structure has a door or not. These spaces are in high traffic locations, are more economical to build and operate, thus making discovery easier for consumers.
Consumers don’t think in terms of industry jargon like in-line stores, kiosks, or e-commerce platforms. They think in terms of: “where can I try that on?”, “how comfortable is that mattress?”, and “which sunglasses will look best on me?” They crave unique and seamless experiences and don’t care if the store has a door or a cash wrap. Frankly, most people don’t care if they shop in a box, with a fox, in their house, with a mouse; they will shop here, there, or anywhere.
Which is why brands shouldn’t be resistant towards smaller concepts either. For brands who are still building awareness past their online base of supporters, small concepts eliminate more obstacle from shoppers discovering their products and starting the buyer journey. An open-format concept can help get their products into the hands of shoppers and understanding engagement with their products faster.
With that argument settled, I’m happy to announce that b8ta will launch its first open-store “doorless” concept in Portland at the Washington Square Mall on Saturday, April 21st. Uninhibited by windows and walls, our latest store will provide visitors the opportunity to be a part of the b8ta experience.
We‘ll feature roughly 30 of our top partners, and similar to other b8ta experiences, we’ll introduce new products every month. Customers and makers alike can expect an unboxed, hands-on experience, with a knowledgeable b8ta tester helping to navigate them through the experience. I only hope the b8ta experience is as cool and eclectic as my experiences have been in Portland over the years.