b8ta wants retailers and retail landlords to get on board with its untraditional retail model.
The company, best known for its tech stores and “retail-as-a-service” concept that allows brands to easily access brick-and-mortar, closed $50 million in Series C equity funding, led by Evolution Ventures as a new investor, alongside participation from existing investors including Macy’s, Khosla Ventures, Peak State Ventures and others.
In line with the new funding, b8ta announced the launch of a new division, Ark, that will house its flagship technology platform (now called Ark Marketplace), which is designed to enable retailers and retail landlords to operate their own retail-as-a-service concept. With Ark Marketplace, any retailer or landlord will be able to apply the same technology platform that is found in b8ta stores to monetize the marketing value of their floorspace, the company said.
“Stores today are serving as story-telling platforms for brands rather than sales channels,” said Vibhu Norby, co-founder and CEO of b8ta. “Product discovery and sales happen in different places. We are at the very beginning of the age of experiential retail, a post e-commerce era that will change the way we all shop for decades to come. Our latest round allows us to meet the global demand for our stores and software.”
Founded in 2015, b8ta has been testing different ways to connect emerging brands with customers. It operates 19 b8ta flagship locations, with its first international store, in Dubai, opening in December. By yearend, it will operate 25 flagships.
The stores feature a variety of high-tech and electronics products, mostly from brands new to physical retail. The brands keep 100% of their sales and pay b8ta a monthly subscription fee determined by square footage and services. The stores are powered by b8ta’s Ark software platform, which, among other features, gives the brands insights into critical real-time selling metrics, from dwell time to conversion rates.
Most recently, b8ta announced it is launching a new store format, called Forum, which will feature a rotating selection of fashion and lifestyle brands and operate similar to its namesake tech flagships. The first location opens on Nov. 15, in Los Angeles.
b8ta also partners with hundreds of brands and retailers, including Macy’s, to power their physical retail experience using b8ta’s platform. In July, it announced a joint venture with Tru Kids Brands to open and operate reimagined Toys “R” Us stores.