Can b8ta do for fashion what it’s done for consumer tech?

Discussion
Rendering: Studio Terpeluk; Photo: b8ta
Oct 22, 2019
Matthew Stern

Since 2015, b8ta has enabled direct-to-consumer tech brands and gadget vendors with a minimal retail presence to get their products into the hands of customers that might not otherwise run across them. Now the “retail-as-a-service” platform is launching a new concept that aims to do for fashion and lifestyle brands what it has done for consumer technology.

B8ta announced the launch of its new store concept, Forum, last week. The lifestyle and fashion-oriented Forum, like the main b8ta concept, will enable customers to demo and experience new products from an array of different brands, which will be able to collect data on how customers are interacting with their products in-store. The new concept allows partner brands to design their own space and gives them creative control over the in-store experience they offer.

Alala, a women’s athleisure brand based in New York City, will be one of Forum’s inaugural anchor brands when the first location opens in Los Angeles in November, according to Glossy. T-shirt brand Culk, shoe brand Moral Code and jeans brand Unemployed Denim will also merchandise their products in the store. As tech brands do with b8ta’s main retail presence, lifestyle and fashion brands will pay a monthly fee to appear on the Forum shelves.

In addition to the 15 to 20 standalone, gadget-focused stores that b8ta has opened in the past couple of years, other retailers currently leverage the company’s tech platform to create their own demo-centered, multi-brand store experience. The b8ta platform facilitates remote vendor control over how their product is priced, presented and marketed.

Last year, Macy’s acquired a minority stake in b8ta and began using the platform to build out The Market @ Macy’s, an in-store pop-up with a revolving lineup of products at select locations.

More recently, b8ta has been instrumental in developing Toys “R” Us’ two new small-concept locations, which are slated to open in time for the holiday shopping season and purport to offer the type of play-focused experience that the chain lacked when it filed for bankruptcy. 

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Can b8ta succeed with a lifestyle and fashion concept the way it has in consumer electronics? What characteristics of lifestyle and fashion brands might make them work, or not work, with b8ta’s retail-as-a-service model?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"The answer depends on whether you see b8ta's core competency as process dominant or content dominant."
"I’m a little more skeptical than the pack on this one. b8ta is good for the industry and the business model is certainly interesting."
"I believe that showroom stores, like b8ta or Dyson or Bonobos, are the future of physical retail."

Join the Discussion!

13 Comments on "Can b8ta do for fashion what it’s done for consumer tech?"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
David Naumann
BrainTrust

b8ta’s core competency is providing a platform to showcase new products and provide awareness and testing environments. I can see this working for fashion, especially if they promote it as a hip way to see the latest cool fashions. Making it a destination for fashion forward consumers is imperative for success.

Bob Amster
BrainTrust

Many businesses – not necessarily retailers – test concepts and products so this is a good concept. However, depending on the type of fashion being tested, one would think that fast fashion is not a candidate because it could take longer to test than to launch. For longer-lasting or staple products, the concept can be a very efficient and effective way to bring products to market that will actually succeed and eliminate those that would not have succeeded.

Cynthia Holcomb
BrainTrust

b8ta definitely will add the cool factor to the apparel brands it features. That said, clothes have a funny way of being different than electronics. Clothes come in different sizes, fits, colors, fibers and on and on. Likely b8ta will focus on a few branded key signature pieces to merchandise into their kiosks. Clothes to wear while working at your Altwork Signature Station or wearing your Google Chips. It all makes sense, body to tech layering, hipsters unite! It’s smart; create desire via highly cool, curated product, leverage the product into “have to have,” creating a cult of need resulting PR-driven, modern retailing at kiosk scale. Begin the blur between clothing and tech worn on the body.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust

The answer depends on whether you see b8ta’s core competency as process dominant or content dominant. If it’s the former b8ta could, in theory, sell anything. If it’s the latter however, then their specific area of expertise — developing technology — is no guarantee in another area, particularly one as mercurial as fashion. Technology sales depend on functionality. Fashion sales depend on a dozens of factors that are more or less irrational, at least when compared to technology — which either works or doesn’t. It’s relatively easy to track emerging technology and relatively difficult to predict the next big thing in the fashion market, so the jury is still out. That said, b8ta clearly has developed its own brand cachet, so it is in the enviable position of being able to create trends rather than having to rely on catching them.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

b8ta is exactly what the apparel/fashion business needs right now. The exact opposite of “we’ve always done it this way.” A new lens through which to view the business. How can we co-mingle product categories in order to create a new shopping experience? How do we co-mingle brick-and-mortar and e-commerce? Explore + Experiment = Experience!

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

b8ta has emerged as one of the leaders that merges together technological innovations and curated shopping experiences. The brand is uniquely positioned with its retail-as-a-service platform. Just as retailers experiment with limited time offers and experiential pop-ups, the b8ta platform could be the ideal playground for fashion-forward brands to drive some interest and retain their loyal customers.

The lines between technology and fashion are blurring, and now b8ta offers the technology infrastructure to power the discovery processes within retail spaces. It’s imperative for retailers and brands to follow the Amazon model of discovery, testing and engagement, as well as measuring the results.

Chris Buecker
BrainTrust

Yes, they can. Definitely. Their business is not limited to one category. It is a concept, independent from the category where brands rent space and own POS execution with screens explaining products and where the retailer provides staff who facilitate product demonstration. The retailer does not hold stock – transactions are managed through online order and delivery, and the retailer takes sales commission instead of box margin.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Testing concepts is always good but what is being tested? Is it the viability of the product, the appeal, the style, the functionality? If the purpose is to showcase new ideas and get feedback that can work. However, there will be a lag time between testing, analyzing data, launching production, and getting product out. This is plenty of time for competitors to also launch products. Will the test data be coming from the company’s typical consumers? There are lots of unanswered questions but the test is set up to answer questions.

Lee Peterson
BrainTrust

I believe that showroom stores, like b8ta or Dyson or Bonobos, are the future of physical retail. They can be smaller (more adaptable to any real estate model), use less labor, apply simple tech process and yet still provide product experimentation and touch and feel. They are clearly the way forward. Think of how much of an understanding Walmart has of the showroom model (through Bonobos) and how much easier it’ll be for them to turn their humongous stores into one-half fulfillment centers (BOPIS and delivery) and one-half product playgrounds! It’s exciting to see something on the physical side finally progress.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Great example … connecting the dots between b8ta and Bonobos and Walmart. I always thought Bonobos was more of a laboratory for Walmart than a growth vehicle. Now it’s about how Walmart extrapolates the lessons learned into their next evolutionary moves.

Martin Mehalchin
BrainTrust

I’m a little more skeptical than the pack on this one. b8ta is good for the industry and the business model is certainly interesting. The stores themselves though feel like a moderately re-worked version of the old Sharper Image. I’ve visited the one in Seattle several times and never came close to purchasing something.
In fashion, a store built around brands paying for placement is much less likely to hold appeal for consumers. The best fashion stores are built around the aesthetic of an owner or chief merchant. b8ta’s model doesn’t speak to a cohesive assortment that shoppers feel is “just their style.”

Sterling Hawkins
BrainTrust

There’s plenty of room in the fashion and lifestyle space to innovate the stores. b8ta definitely has a track record to do these kinds of things; they did for consumer electronics what Sephora did for makeup. But I do think lifestyle and fashion is a little more difficult as it doesn’t naturally lend itself to interaction in a new way (most clothing stores let you touch, feel and try on the clothes). The banner will create interest from many; however, service in the store will be the key to making it successful.

Cate Trotter
BrainTrust

As a big fan of the b8ta concept, I’m really keen to see The Forum in action. I think it creates a really interesting opportunity for fashion retailers — particularly around knowing more about the customer and how they interact. That information could be incredibly valuable for the brand to use in all sorts of other areas of their business. I think the concept works well for D2C and newer brands as a point of discovery for customers without the heavy lifting of running your own store or pop-up.

This is also a testbed for b8ta to see how its service translates to other categories. You could easily see them selling their insights (in an anonymised way) to brands in the future as they’re constantly learning about what customers do and want.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"The answer depends on whether you see b8ta's core competency as process dominant or content dominant."
"I’m a little more skeptical than the pack on this one. b8ta is good for the industry and the business model is certainly interesting."
"I believe that showroom stores, like b8ta or Dyson or Bonobos, are the future of physical retail."

Take Our Instant Poll

How likely is Forum to succeed as a retail concept?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...