Retail startup b8ta, with an unsual business model and a roomful of tech devices like an oven that can detect what’s cooking, is making Seattle its second location after Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley-based tech-products store b8ta, which lets shoppers test products in-store and provides real-time data on sales to manufacturers, is opening a store in Seattle.
The nearly 2,000-square-foot store, b8ta’s second, opens Thursday at University Village, toward the south end of the shopping center, near Chipotle Mexican Grill.
San Francisco-based b8ta (pronounced “beta”) launched its first store in Palo Alto last year. It plans to open a third, in Santa Monica, later this month.
The stores emphasize Internet connectivity both in the products they feature — including home devices and audio and visual gadgets — and the way b8ta does business.
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The products are Internet-connected, such as the June Oven, which has a camera that allows the oven to recognize what users are cooking, suggests the best way to cook it, and offers a live feed of the cooking process to an app that also allows users to control the oven from their smartphones.
Another example: Meural digital art frames that allow users to choose between thousands of works of art, or their own images, via an app or by waving their hands in front of the frame.
They all tap into a growing field of technology called the “Internet of Things” in which more and more objects in the home and at work are equipped with sensors connected to the Internet.
B8ta’s approach to retailing also aims to be “modeled after the principles of the Internet and tech,” said CEO Vibhu Norby.
The company was founded by Norby and two other former employees of Nest, a maker of Internet-connected home devices acquired by Google in 2014.
First, there’s speed, with b8ta aiming to get new technology products into its stores faster than traditional retailers would.
Companies that want their products in b8ta’s stores sign up online, paying with their credit cards. B8ta charges them by the square foot on a month-to-month basis. (It declined to say how much it charges.) Those companies then keep 100 percent of the revenue from sales of their products, Norby said.
B8ta also emphasizes real-time data, enabling companies to see how much time people are spending with their products in-store, what percentage of shoppers are testing their product, and how their sales and returns are doing.
“What we’re looking for is to help retailers understand how customers are engaging with the products and what people are doing with their products in the store,” Norby said.
B8ta allows companies to constantly update the information customers see on iPads displayed throughout the store that includes product information and prices. It shows the companies the prices of their products in competitors’ stores, letting them choose whether to adjust their prices.
Customers will be shown the b8ta price, as well as Amazon and Best Buy prices.
The stores are not just a showroom. The Seattle store will carry about 150 products, most of which the customers can buy on the spot.
The addition of b8ta adds to U Village’s reputation as a destination for new store concepts. The shopping center has attracted online retailers including Amazon, Warby Parker and Bonobos that have been dipping their toes into the bricks-and-mortar world.