In an age where in-store retail visits are plunging by the billions, many retailers have forgone simply putting exceptional products on its shelves. Additionally, retail operations have become overly taxing and complicated.
It’s no wonder that retailers have had to find other ways to reach consumers. Experiential retail has been a buzzword for some time, and often it means upping in-store service and display so that customers feel less awkward about visiting and recall memorable service after they leave. Experiential retail might also just be the literal definition of the phrase, where consumers can interact with a range of products without feeling pressured to buy. It’s a model that’s worked well enough for Sephora, where tech meets try-before-you-buy – a treasure hunt for consumers and a data-driven experiment for the retailer.
Just over a year ago, four former Nest employees opened B8ta, a retail concept store that sells gadgets and appliances that connect to the Internet of Things. Now the company has three locations and is planning to open a fourth in Austin this year. B8ta’s founders state that their out-of-box retail model has resulted in millions of product engagements since the store opened its doors in December 2015. Below is a screenshot of their dashboard (numbers not necessarily accurate to their data) that they use to track how many times a consumer has fiddled with one of their products. They, in turn, use this information to share with the startup brands they represent, as a granular piece of market testing information.
“We partner with RetailNext and we’re able to provide data analytics, and we track impressions, which would be a customer walking by the product, and customer engagement, when someone stops and interacts with a product,” Kevan Wilson, general manager of retail partnerships for B8ta told Forbes. ”If they’re interacting, we also track dwell time, or how long they spend interacting.”
Testing out the Ring and how many times a customer has interacted with the product via b8ta’s dashboard.
A customer interacts with Ring on the front-end.
B8ta isn’t alone in offering connected analytics feedback for consumer interactions and product engagement. Companies like Fujitsu and Microsoft are starting to offer connected retail and retail-as-a-service solutions for IT professionals so that proprietary analytics platforms won’t be necessary – and retailers and brands can get a sense of what about their product interests consumers.
Currently, many retailers struggle with maintaining up-to-date information technologies, but nearly 40% of retailers are thinking about adopting an outsourced platform for their physical stores. Before long, vendors will be their own merchandisers, saving the retailer from constant updates while growing in-store productivity and technology services, such as an IoT program for its products. The online world eventually will be fully integrated with the offline world.
“Our makers themselves can control entire aspects of their marketing message,” Phillip Raub, co-founder and CMO of B8ta told Forbes. “They go into their portal anywhere around the world. Companies can change their messaging in real-time. They can A/B test pricing, upload video and imagery. Each company has a dedicated space.”
In November, B8ta began a partnership with Lowe’s, an in-store pop-up display called SmartSpot, that allows Lowe’s customers to experience smart home gadgets. B8ta is expanding into Asian markets to help makers overseas test products much sooner than they would in a traditional retail set-up.