b8ta, the newest technology retail shop opening in The Galleria, is not a retail store at all. The space itself showcases display tables running the length of the store, stocked with devices and machines next to interactive displays. It’s designed to be a technology playground for kids of all ages; cutting edge concepts that challenge and entertain abound. And the biggest difference you may notice off the bat? There are no pushy salespeople.
"Our employees are called ‘Beta Testers’ and they don’t want to sell you anything," explained Katrina Coskie, regional manager of stores for b8ta. "They want you to experience it." And you may want to stay and play, but you won’t walk away without wanting to purchase the next best gadget you’ve just tried.
A simple beta symbol sits atop the storefront, which is tucked away on the second floor of The Galleria next to Saks Fifth Avenue. A "beta test" in the tech world denotes a trial of software, hardware, or any other product in the final stages of development. And indeed, at b8ta, some of the products within the store are simply there for product testing, while the ‘Beta Testers’ are there to provide feedback from potential customers to the product-makers. The storefront also serves as a marketing platform and offers smaller makers the opportunity to get their products in front of a large portion of consumers.
A special aspect of b8ta is their focus on creating an individual personality within each location. "Each store has their own collection of items reflecting the city’s identity and the makers of that region," said Coskie. "We are thrilled to be featuring Hive Home at our opening." What's that, you ask?
Hive Home is a Houston-based company that boasts a set of easy-to-install home connectivity products. Smart thermostats, motion sensors, plug controllers that automatically turn off home appliances, and smart light bulbs that detect your motion as you walk through your home are all part of the Hive collection. Hive is priced to move and promises to give homeowners control over their domain through an app on their smartphones.
Taking a detour from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast is not a traditional move for expanding tech companies, but Coskie is thrilled that b8ta is now a part of the Houston market. "When discussing our expansion, we were talking about the possibilities of other locales around the nation, and we just couldn’t stop talking about Texas," she said. "Our first store opened in Austin recently and was very well-received; we hope to generate the same excitement here in Houston, where the tech market is really blossoming."
While you’re scouting out the store, don’t miss Activ5, an isometric toning tool that creates your personal fitness fingerprint and lets you challenge friends or play games while you work out. There are over 100 full body workouts that you can complete, with the device coaching you on correct form for each exercise. While you’re working out, pop on a new pair of Aftershockz, Coskie’s favorite headphones; they utilize Jawbone conduction so you can still have situational awareness and comfort while you listen to your favorite tunes.
b8ta offers a rotating selection of products and anyone can submit their product to be carried in the physical store. The entirety of the application process occurs quickly seeing physical merchandise in the store within days of application submission. Guaranteeing speed, the latest products, opportunity for customer feedback, and an environment that encourages messing around, b8ta certainly sets itself apart in striking fashion from traditional stores.