By Robin Raskin, Founder, Living in Digital Times
It’s not easy being retail these days. Store rents are high, good staff is expensive, inventory management is trying, and online offers are tantalizing. But brick-and-mortar retailers are rallying and committing themselves to become destinations worth visiting. Here’s how three different stores are picking up the gauntlet.
When you visit the Target Open House in San Francisco, you are walking into an experience that is part retail store, part lab, and part meeting venue for the connected home tech community. A partnership between Indiegogo and the Target Open House was a natural way to introduce the SF community of technophiles to a first look at new technology.
The store showcases some Indiegogo’s most promising campaigns, giving customers the inside scoop on products not yet on the market. Target assiduously measures customers’ reactions through counters and motion sensors. It then uses the information it gathers to help inform their stores about what’s resonating with the customers. And the customers who visit the Indiegogo section of the Target store feel privileged, in-the-know, and like early adopters. Target Vice President of Consumer IoT Gene Han and Indiegogo Director of Business Development Bret Harris are sharing this partnership story at the CES 2018 High-Tech Retailing Summit January 11 in Las Vegas.
Walmart’s Katie Finnegan will also be the Summit talking about Walmart’s Store No. 8. Store No. 8 is not a physical store; it’s a concept that encapsulates Walmart’s mission to infuse its retail with both technology and a startup mentality (Store No. 8 is named after an Arkansas location where Walmart founder Sam Walton was known to tinker with ideas). Store No. 8 businesses will run like any other startup but will be nurtured by Walmart to have a pathway into the stores. It’s like a startup backed by the largest retailer in the world. At a recent Innov8 event focusing on V-commerce, Walmart curated interactive and immersive experiences from five selected Virtual Reality (VR) developers solving problems including scan and capture, rendering, social interaction, and product education.
The third store in the tale is b8ta and it’s as much of a playground and destination as it is a store. b8ta (pronounced Beta) stores curate a beautiful assortment of high tech products for the techno-curious shopper. Shoppers are invited to the stores to explore and play with products while b8ta analyzes every interaction, then provides that information to the manufacturer. The stores are a combination of b8ta locations and stores housed within other stores: Macy’s and Lowe’s for example.
A manufacturer (b8ta calls them makers) gets to keep all the money when a product is sold in the store and b8ta charges for in-store space and services. Makers are free to test product concept, pricing, signage, and more and b8ta provides the analysis. Steve Smith notes b8ta is also working to change the retail mentality — making it less of transactional mentality (you’re here to shop) and more of a partner mentality where you enter to explore, play, learn, and shop. Plus, manufacturers actually have a voice in how their products get displayed.
All three of these stores will be presenting their tech stories at CES 2018 on January 11 at the HighTech Retailing Summit.