From magnetic optical cameras to the world’s first in-ear translator, b8ta’s innovative retail space recently opened a San Francisco Mission Bay storefront in Thrive City, across the plaza from Chase Center’s West entrance on Third Street. Much like San Francisco and Chase Center, b8ta is steeped in the latest technology and provides a state-of-the-art experience to all visitors. Like most success stories, b8ta’s mission can be traced back to the company’s very beginning.
In 2015, b8ta was founded as a place for shoppers to try out the latest products out-of-the-box, an experiment that was a direct pivot from the strategy of traditional big box retailers. Then in 2018, b8ta unveiled their “Retail as a Service” model and software platform to other retailers so that they could bring the best products and measure meaningful interactions in their own stores. The “Retail as a Service” blueprint puts a different spin on the conventional storefront retail model by partnering with brands to not only offer the best products, but also an unparalleled in-store experience for shoppers.
Michelle Ortega, the assistant manager of Chase Center’s b8ta branch, describes the strategy as “an experimental environment within our store. Not making profit off of actually selling things, but making profit off of the space in the store, so that’s the service we offer to each individual brand.” Since b8ta leases retail space in the store to brands, it frees up sales associates, or “b8ta testers,” to focus on providing top-notch customer service and experience.
The “Retail as a Service” approach requires b8ta testers to intimately know the inventory, and the company takes the necessary steps to ensure their employees have all of the tools necessary to connect with shoppers. b8ta testers undergo rigorous training to learn about the brands and products in the store. “We have in-person training so we’ll have the brands come in and show us in person how to use the device, what the device is about.” Ortega adds, “On top of that, we have an online course that we take. It’s intensive, every month depending on what we launch.” b8ta takes a deliberate approach to training employees and adapts an equally thoughtful method to selecting and displaying in-store products.
The b8ta partnership team largely determines what products are featured inside a specific branch. The team is tasked with examining marketplaces, analyzing retail trends, and extracting useful information to apply within b8ta stores. When asked about the Chase Center location, Ortega explains, “In San Francisco, a lot of people are interested in the most innovative, they want to see the very first stuff and that’s where our store comes in.”
The Gatehouse encloses Chase Center’s Thrive City plaza, with b8ta anchoring the retail space on the ground level. The atypical structure presented some unique challenges for Bryan Shawley, VP of Real Estate Development and Strategy at b8ta. “The Gatehouse is a marquee location on the property, we wanted to take advantage of it. There are really high ceilings and mid-century type of bones to it. We wanted to design a store that fit within the architectural design of the space that complimented it.” Shawley added, “We took the footprint for this location and went through three or four different design exercises, creating different floor plans that would work well with the circular footprint of the space. It was pretty challenging, it is unlike any other store that we have.” The work of Shawley and his team resulted in a stunning showroom area that perfectly compliments b8ta’s “Retail as a Service” mantra and allows the products to shine within the store.
b8ta’s innovative approach to retail is on full display at the Thrive City location, with the latest products out of the box and ready for consumers to experience for themselves. The friendly and approachable b8ta testers are always available to answer questions about the inventive items, focusing on educating consumers about the product, which stands in contrast to the standard sales-centric approach of most retailers. Ortega emphasized that “[b8ta] is here to cater to you. If you’re interested in [a product], if you want to spend more time researching it, it’s totally fine. We’re going to be here no matter what.”
Ortega, perhaps, best summarized b8ta’s goal by saying,”We want to grow, we want to do outreach. We want to essentially combine our relationship with the community and what we’re doing … making our brand a destination spot for people who care about innovation and tech.” As one of the most technologically advanced arenas in the country, Chase Center is a go-to destination for many reasons including for a visit to b8ta, the latest wave in retail.