Retail-as-a-Service, Anyone?

by Patrice Samuels | Nov. 13, 2017

Best Buy & Vivint Smart Home Experience CenterAs smart home device manufacturers aim to increase consumer appeal for smart home products and services, many are investing in measures to communicate the value of smart home products more effectively and remove the friction associated with making smart home device purchases.

Best Buy and Amazon now offer free in-home consultation services for consumers interested in acquiring smart home products. Geek Squad started offering free in-home consultation services for smart home products in 2015. In early 2017, Amazon started offering similar services as part of the Amazon Home Services product line, launched in March 2015. These services work by having a team member visit the consumer’s home. From there, the team member recommends smart home products that will best meet the consumer’s needs and ensures that the technical requirements in the home for these products are met. Providing in-home services involve high up-front investments, which are cost-prohibitive for many merchants of smart home devices.

Along with these in-home consultation services is the rise of the in-store experience centers. In-store experience centers are typically a store-within-a-store, where smart home products and services are set up to allow consumers to test products in the presence of smart home experts who can provide additional information about products and services. 

Even though the creation of in-store experience centers may be less costly than the provision of in-home consultations, they are still fairly costly to implement. For some retailers, the creation of experience centers is a joint effort between two or more companies. The smart home experience centers in Best Buy are a joint effort between Best Buy and Vivint. Best Buy benefits from having Vivint’s products and expertise in the space, while Vivint benefits from Best Buy’s brick-and-mortar store assets.

B8ta is now making it easier to provide in-store experiences by offering retail-as-a-service. The company recently opened stores in Houston and New York to join its other locations in Austin, Seattle, and Corte Madera, Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Santa Monica. B8ta leases floor space to manufactures of various Internet-connected devices, where B8ta employees facilitate consumer testing and learning about the devices. Not only does B8ta facilitate the testing of these devices, but they also take a data-driven approach to analyzing consumer interactions. They record and analyze factors such as the time consumers spend handling products and accessing sales materials. From this analysis, B8ta aims to provide insight that will help brands further maximize sales opportunities and optimize the purchase experience for consumers.

The retail-as-a-service concept presents a significant opportunity for brands in the space, including the following:

  • Parks Associates research in Evolution of Smart Home Products and Services indicates that brick-and-mortar retail is now the most common purchase channel for smart home products. Twenty-six percent of current smart home product owners purchased their device from a retailer such as Home Depot, Walmart, Lowe's, or Best Buy.
  • While consumers now rely heavily on online retailers for consumer electronics purchases, many consumers still have a strong appreciation for the ability to see and test these products in person before buying—especially if these products are costly. The actions of large online brands, like Amazon, demonstrate understanding of this, where recent partnerships and acquisitions demonstrate their desire for a greater brick-and-mortar store presence. Retail-as-a-service provides this opportunity without the huge upfront investments.
  • Not only do consumers get to try and test the latest consumer products, but they are also able to buy the items that are on display at B8ta’s store, creating another sales channel for device manufacturers.

Further Reading:

Next: AI Assistant Trends in the Smart Home Market
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