One of the best parts about working at b8ta is the ever-growing group of passionate partners behind the innovative products our customers can try out in our stores.
Working with these makers is always an incredible experience, and we’re regularly amazed by the ideas and products they come up with. As the b8ta world is often a busy blur, it’s a pleasure when we have time to sit with one of our partners and talk about their b8ta experience. We recently were able to do so with Brian Min, Founder at Qwerkytoys Inc. a nd the inventor of our favorite keyboard:
b8ta: Tell me about your decision to enter retail stores and your process of doing that. Was it hard for you to decide to enter retail?
Brian: Ultimately you want customers to see your product, and to interact with it. So no, it wasn’t a hard decision to enter retail. We just didn’t know how to do it. We wanted to build products that people could touch and feel. The internet is a great tool for young companies as pictures, videos, all those different things can be shared around. This gives a new product a great initial boost, but it sort of fizzes out [because people wonder] “Well how to I get a better look at it, how do I test drive it?”.
With b8ta, we were offered an avenue to showcase our unique product so that people could interact with it in that way. The business model that b8ta provides small companies like us makes it very easy, very scalable. We can start really small, and when things go well we can start growing. That flexibility is great to have and gives us a competitive edge.
Is it difficult to get into big box retailers as a small company?
The problem with independent hardware makers is that we want people to experience our product, but the only way to do that meaningfully was to interact with retailers, often larger electronic companies. That’s very difficult for small companies. The terms, financing, invoices, all that. You may be required to wait 6-9 months to see any kind of return on investment. When we needed to take that next step and get our product into people’s hands, we were kind of stuck.
Large companies, while they were excited about the product, were unwilling to waver in their business practices and the way they set up that structure for any product. b8ta changed all of that and understands that the model is broken, [and retailers] need to allow small companies like us some flexibility. With b8ta we control our inventory, I have the ability to change pricing, or scale the way we want to scale so we can take on more risk when we can, and less when we need to. It seems so logical, and yet a lot of bigger retailers are stuck in the old method. b8ta isn’t, and the Qwerkywriter has really benefiting from that.
What about the b8ta retail experience specifically benefits Qwerkywriter?
I love working with b8ta because you learn things that you wouldn’t learn anywhere else. For example, we thought we were doing a great job on our packaging, and had been getting a lot of feedback about how amazing it looked. But we didn’t realize that in retail there’s a lot of movement with the product, whether it’s around the store, in transit, all that. We realized the product was getting bruised in it’s initial packaging. b8ta showed us that, and we were able to quickly adapt and come back with something that worked.
What’s it like seeing people come in to b8ta and play around with your product?
It’s life-changing. You can’t fake the surprise. The way [the world] sells consumer electronics, there’s a lot of looking at pictures. A customer sees pictures and videos, and the makers of products never really see the reaction of a customer seeing a product [in person], whether for good or bad. When you see a customer walk in and see [the Qwerkywriter], you literally see their eyes sparkle, it almost feels like special effects. That kind of validation really gives you the emotional boost that you don’t get from running numbers or analytics and data. It gives you that boost [that helps] with the hard grind that comes with running a company. It was an unexpected gift from b8ta, and it gave me a lot of confidence in what I do.
A big part about the b8ta service is our b8ta testers, the employees on the ground in our retail stores. How has your experience with the b8ta testers been?
I love the b8ta testers! I’ve been around a lot of tech support employees from a lot of different companies. I think one of the key strengths in b8ta is the staff. They know what they’re doing, they’re well-trained, and they’re truly remarkable. They have a genuine passion for the products that you don’t see at other retail stores. As a product maker I have a real appreciation for their understanding and knowledge of the different products, I think it’s b8ta’s secret weapon.
How do the b8ta testers help achieve your goals as a company?
They’re [in the stores] interacting with the people who are interested in the Qwerkywriter, so they’re there on the ground hearing all the good, and all the not so good. We can then have an honest dialogue and I can learn more about what people would like to see. It’s a great learning experience and a great resource for any company.
As a maker you have an idea of what people want to know about a product, but often that guess is wrong. The feedback from the b8ta testers is helpful as we’re able to make adjustments and adapt what the first impression of the Qwerkywriter looks like.
What else about the b8ta experience has been helpful?
One of the unique things about b8ta is that they provide an interactive dashboard for makers like us to evaluate and watch to see how our product is doing. It’s a way for us to see how many customers are coming in, how many are interacting with the product, and how those [interactions] lead to sales. We can even watch store-by-store to see where we need to adapt. I’m on the dashboard every day. In some ways I’m spoiled by that, because I don’t think retail stores are [usually] that way. The transparency that b8ta provides makers is exactly how retail should be, and b8ta is setting a new bar in that area.
One of the key aspects of the dashboard is it’s promotional capabilities, our partners are able to run and tweak promotions in real time. Have you ran a promotion using the dashboard yet?
We have! We’re actually running a promotion right now, and have been a part of one in the past. Running a promotion on the dashboard with b8ta takes 5 minutes, it’s very easy.
Have you seen an increase in sales during your promotions?
Oh yeah, the numbers are nuts. I believe during our first promotion with b8ta our sales tripled. It’s been incredible for us.
Is there any particular story you have about your time with b8ta that really made your experience so far?
We’re really new to this whole thing, bringing our products to stores. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere, but it’s been an incredibly positive and supported growing experience at b8ta. [B8ta] seems to understand that building a product and bringing it to market is really hard, and you can see them rooting for you which is such a cool feeling. Sometimes you can feel like you’re hiking this crazy mountain, but it truly feels like b8ta is there to help us succeed. Every time I visit a b8ta store I get pumped up, because we have this great partner that’s always supporting us.
b8ta is Retail as a Service: you provide the vision, we provide the retail experience that meets your needs. With our retail subscription models you can scale up or down as your business grows or pivots. Set up shop for the consumers you want, we do the rest.