b8ta unveils Shopify-like solution for retail stores

b8ta, the store founded by Nest alums to sell trendy gadgets, is entering new territory. Today, the startup is launching “Built by b8ta,” which functions as a retail-as-a-service platform for brands that want a physical presence.

Building off the success of its own retail stores, b8ta is confident it can provide an easy, cost-effective solution to brands wanting to launch physical stores of varying sizes. Since launching its first store in December 2015 in Palo Alto, b8ta has built and deployed an additional 78 stores across the country.

“As our business grew, there started being a class of larger companies in apparel and beauty that wanted to bring products to stores but the product experience was misaligned with what they wanted to do,” b8ta CEO Vibhu Norby told TechCrunch. “With apparel, you don’t need a separate display for every shirt. So we started imagining creating a number of different brands for other categories.”

Instead of creating those brands itself, b8ta figured it would be more scalable to open up its store building and infrastructure processes to other entrepreneurs looking to open their own stores. That’s how b8ta landed on selling its software and retail services for a flat, monthly fee. The monthly fee, of course, depends on the square footage required, as well as the cost of real estate in whichever market the customer decides to open the retail store.

“For most brands we’re working with, the costs are quite reasonable,” Norby said. “I’ll say that it’s at least 50 percent cheaper than doing it yourself.”

b8ta’s flagship store

b8ta’s software solution includes checkout, inventory, point of sale, inventory management, staff scheduling services and more. Netgear will be the first customer to launch a Built by b8ta store this June in Silicon Valley’s Santana Row, and b8ta has plans to deploy additional stores for other brands in that area. In fact, Norby said there are a handful of other brands that b8ta will announce soon. This year, b8ta expects anywhere from 10 to 15 companies to launch stores built by b8ta across cosmetics, apparel and furniture.

“This is designed for direct-to-consumer brands who have no store space but believe it’s important or they’ve done one or two stores and are having a hard time scaling that up to 10, 20 or 30,” Norby said.

Some of these built by b8ta stores will exist within some of b8ta’s existing flagship stores. For brands that need more space, b8ta can build out separate medium to large-sized stores.

b8ta’s concept of small store inside a shopping center

b8ta likens its offering to Shopify, in that it provides physical stores for brands while Shopify provides virtual stores for brands. Instead of requiring brands to deal with store build-outs, infrastructure, real estate people and so forth, b8ta can provide all of that for them. On the real estate side, b8ta already has relationships with national real estate owners, architects, contractors and designers.

“We already have tremendous scale,” Norby said, noting how b8ta has a whole supply chain for fixture manufacturing and modular designs. On the staffing side, Norby said, the “big innovation” b8ta has is opening up many stores in the same shopping center, which is what b8ta plans to do with Santana Row. That enables b8ta to cover operations and management for multiple brands.

“In our system, no individual store needs to hire their own management team,” Norby said. “It’s just one team looking over the whole center.”

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