Ahead of b8ta's site tour during New York Retail Innovation Week, founder and president Phillip Raub shares insights into how brands can better serve consumers with retail that prioritizes experience, engagement and education over transaction, using technology to build next-gen brick-and-mortar stores that focus on discovery

As brick-and-mortar retail continues to transform, today's store shoppers increasingly want authentic experiences—to be surprised, delighted and educated, and have an opportunity to engage with products, says founder and president of b8ta Phillip Raub.

b8ta is a software-powered retailer designed to improve the customer and maker experience, allowing customers to discover, try and learn about new products while providing makers with a simple retail-as-a-service model that puts them in control. Ahead of hosting a site visit at b8ta's New York outpost during New York Retail Innovation Week, Phillip caught up with PSFK to explain how his company helps brands make their retail stores less transactional and more about experiences, transforming retail into a bone-fide service:

What are some of the broader trends you see taking place in terms of the retail experiences consumers are demanding, and the strategies retailers are employing to respond to this demand?

Consumers are demanding a unique in-store experience that is fun and exciting. Gone are the days of a transactional relationship in physical retail, as online is more convenient and typically more cost-efficient. Consumers go into physical retail locations looking to demo products and engage with the staff to learn more about products and features. It is necessary for stores to not only have a diversified product mix, but also create experiences that keep customers coming back on a consistent basis.

As a result, retailers are partnering with complimentary brands and services. It's very common to see brands engaging in short-term pop-in/ups as well as product collaborations.

What inspired or motivated you to start b8ta? What gaps or unmet needs did you identify that you wanted to address?

It was the need to make retail accessible to ALL and create an experience designed for discovery. The decision making of a buyer is flawed, because they are using a personal bias to buy products and hedge based on inventory risks. Through the usage of technology and evolving the business model of traditional retail, b8ta is making retail less transactional and more about experiences and product discovery.

You describe b8ta as “retail as a service.” Could you describe the experience of your stores, and how they are informed by this idea?

At its core, our stores and our business model were designed with both the maker and consumers in mind. As a result, we offer our stores, our analytical tools to measure in-store behaviors and our expertise to brands as a service in helping them to be successful at retail.

Today, we offer brands a full compliment of services, ranging from a single product placement to our built by b8ta offering, where we build and operate stores on behalf of brands. This holiday season, we also launched a series of pop-in shops within b8ta store and pop-up shops in malls and airports. Lastly, this past month we launched an SW platform to help other retailers deploy our Retail as a Service tools within their own stores. All of these services are powered by our proprietary SW that helps brands and retailers onboard their products and measure data and analytics within the physical retail space.

What insights do you have on how retailers can best synch online and offline retail to establish seamless brand interactions for customers across all touchpoints?

Online and in-store experiences need to be seamless. Online is built for convenience and in-store is built for discovery. For the consumer, both experience need to be simple and customer-centric. For the maker, those experiences need to be about education and feedback (qualitative and quantitative).

Brick-and-mortar retail is experiencing a major transformation—and in some ways, it's more important than ever. What insights do you have on this evolution?

The demise of retail was overrated. It does appear that the market was oversaturated, and we saw a correction over the past couple of years. However, one of the biggest factors we witnessed was the demise of bad retail. Customers have too many options to settle for poor experiences and bad product options.

What do you find consumers want most out of in-store retail today? More personalized, or curated experiences? How does your service help deliver the experiences they want, and help the retailer have greater control over that?

Consumer want authentic experiences. They want to be surprised, delighted, educated and have an opportunity to engage with products. Online commerce provides consumers with endless options, so it is important for in-store experiences to ultimately be fun and create value in a way that you can't get from clicking a button.

You opened a new location in New York this year, where you'll host a visit during New York Retail Innovation Week. What can people expect, and continue to expect for the future of b8ta?

This year we launched our 15th flagship location and will continue to be aggressive in opening more stores in 2019 (including Hudson Yard in New York this spring) and rolling out our RaaS platform across over 100,000 sq ft of retail.


For more, join b8ta brand ambassadors to hear about their efforts to make physical retail accessible for digital brands or any brand looking to deploy stores and experiential shop-in-shops at speed and budget, as well as experience new tech products first-hand, at the New York site tour on January 15, tickets available now!