design:retail - July 2017 - 60
ou won't see a "do not touch"
sign displayed anywhere at b8ta
(think "beta"), a retail store that sells tech gadgets in an experiential immersive environment.
In fact, it's the complete opposite at b8ta, where
it's all about getting hands-on with the product.
"Unlike other retailers, b8ta is dedicated to creating amazing experiences for both makers and
customers," says Phillip Raub, chief marketing
officer and cofounder of b8ta. "I love watching
adults have this euphoric sense of becoming a kid
all over again. In an age when we are pressed for
time, it is awesome to see people come into b8ta
and spend an hour discovering new products with
little regard to time."
Its unconventional business model allows manufacturers to get new gadgets onto shelves without
massive resources, inventory and wait time. The
biggest draw is that b8ta provides makers with
shopper analytics, such as dwell time, engagement
and reaction. Captured through concealed sensors
and cameras, data collection is one of the primary
elements of the b8ta platform. There are roughly
200 active partners, Raub says.
The b8ta flagship store in Palo Alto, Calif.,
opened in 2015. For its 2017 store rollouts, it
teamed up with San Francisco-based global design and architecture firm Gensler, which set out
to create a space that is both approachable for customers and flexible for b8ta and its ever-changing
list of makers. This year, Gensler designed three
spaces (ranging from 1,900 sq. ft. to 3,000 sq. ft.),
located in Santa Monica, Calif.; Austin, Texas;
and Seattle (with a San Francisco outpost in the
works). "During my time at Nest, I learned that
people typically shop for products that meet a
need or desire, and that they're less inclined to
shop for solutions," says Raub, who previously
worked at Nest, the Google-owned smart-home
company. "As a result, we specifically designed the
store for discovery."
Each b8ta showroom features a design separation
between its product display and demo sections. The
juxtaposition creates a clear definition of space and
function, while allowing the constantly changing
products to be the heroes and encouraging handson interaction. "The client asked for a flexible
environment that can change over the years for the
different products that will come," explains Alison
Carr, design director and senior associate at Gensler.
The minimal, open storefronts have understated
signage and a palette of grays and off-whites, which
supports the design team's conscious decision to
create contrast and present the product as hero. The
store layout is divided into two distinct zones, light
(featuring a porcelain tile) and dark (featuring an