Power of Partnerships Exemplified in Future of Retail Panel at CE Week 2018
During the opening day of CE Week 2018, I had the opportunity to moderate an education session that focused on the changing nature of retail. Specifically, the session dove into how the industry has “rebooted” itself in the year after the so-called Retail Apocalypse. The title of the session itself felt rather cliché, but it held so true to the very nature of this industry. There is disruption happening all over the place, and companies that operate under traditional retail business models are being forced to take a hard look in the mirror or face the prospect of becoming irrelevant.
One of the key takeaways that has stuck with me in the days since the panel concluded is just how important a role partnerships have played in the success of each of the speakers who joined me on stage.
As retailers continue to navigate an increasingly digital and transformative world, they have an opportunity to work with everything from savvy startups to innovative businesses who are looking to help carry retail into the future. There may be no better example of that than Brookstone and Indiegogo—both of which were represented on the panel. The two announced earlier this month that they had teamed up to showcase Indiegogo campaign products in Brookstone’s new Makers Showcase store at the Roosevelt Field Mall in Garden City, New York.
“We’re bringing more than 50 years of retailing expertise to new makers,” Brookstone Vice President of Operations Tom Connolly, who sat on our panel, said in a statement at the time. “What Makers Showcase does is give makers and tech brands accelerated access to Brookstone stores and our innovation-minded customers across the U.S. and, in the near future, the world.”
Connolly and Marita McGinn, Indiegogo’s Manager of Hardware Outreach, talked about their partnership during the CE Week 2018 session, saying that their ultimate goal is to help the startup community get their product into prominent retail locations, while also giving consumers the ability to get some hands-on time with these products that they’d otherwise only be able to see online.
The thought of a half-century-old retailer teaming up with a crowdfunding platform might’ve seemed unthinkable even just a few years ago, but it goes to show how even traditional retailers are finding ways to adapt and change their business models to better match what today’s consumer is looking for in an in-store shopping experience. The Makers Showcase model will be brought to additional Brookstone locations over the course of the next few months, Connolly said.
Another example taken right from the panel is b8ta, a tech-first retailer that we’ve covered thoroughly since their launch a few years ago. As a software-based retail platform, b8ta stores are unique in their own right, but the company has positioned itself in a way where it can easily offer its software and analytics platform as a service to third parties, helping them quickly build out a brick-and-mortar operation that is chock full of invaluable retail data analytics. Perhaps in recognition of the power of that platform, Macy’s recently acquired a minority stake in the company, announcing that b8ta would help enhance and scale The Market @ Macy’s concept. B8ta will customize its tech platform for Macy’s, providing a “seamless and more automated experience” for participants.
B8ta Head of Partnerships Roddey Ackerman, who participated in the panel, explained that the Macy’s proposal offered b8ta a sense of validation for his company and the work they’ve been doing to develop their retail platform. The company operates nine of its own flagship stores across the country. But b8ta also recently dove deeper into the Retail as a Service realm with its Built by b8ta program that brands can utilize to quickly and efficiently build out a data driven brick-and-mortar experience, proving themselves to be the perfect partner for the future of retail. The program can help a company scale its retail operations in a fraction of the time it would traditionally take, and it cuts down on overhead costs by leaving all of the day-to-day processes—from in-store training, to customer support, to analytics—under b8ta's care.
The Market @ Macy’s experiential shopping platform is currently open at 10 Macy’s locations, with more expected to debut over the course of the next year. In a statement, Macy’s said it plans to test new size formats that will be powered by b8ta’s technology, and it may also expand the size of some of its current locations.
Lastly, there was Moltin, an API-first platform that’s helping brands build out efficient ecommerce and in-store self checkout experiences that streamline the retail experience. CEO Jamus Driscoll explained to the CE Week crowd that his platform can give retailers a “rich, vibrant brand experience” that engages the customer on any channel or at any touchpoint—whether that’s in a physical store or through an ecommerce experience.
The relatively small service provider showcased its ability to operate as a sort of aftermarket retail solution. By integrating their system into a retailer’s business model, Moltin can transform any store into an innovative, tech-savvy, future-proof operation.
So the point had been made during the Rebooting Retail panel at CE Week 2018: Whether you’re a well-established retailer who’s looking for a jolt in your business or a small brand looking to quickly scale your retail operation, there’s probably a partner out there who can help you get to exactly where you’re trying to go.