First came SaaS, which stands for software-as-a-service, which allows companies to use software made available by a provider via the cloud. You may have already been using this type of platform for email marketing, bookkeeping, payroll processing, or database management.  

The concept of RaaS, or retail-as-a-service, may be a little more challenging to grasp. According to Simon Jones at Valtech, “RAAS is the reinvention of the traditional department store; where multiple retailers promote their products in the same shared space. The difference is that rather than a focus on stock management and the hard-sell, these stores are all about the immersive brand experience. There are fewer products on the shelves but there’s beefed up retail storytelling and the staff are more ‘actor’ than ‘assistant’.”

While this emphasis on customer service rather than sales may seem familiar from the Apple stores, a company with the unusual name b8ta claims to have pioneered retail-as-a-service starting with their first shop in Palo Alto in 2015. Brands sign up to place their products in the showrooms, and software is used to manage and analyze the consumer’s in-store experience with the items. The employees at the b8ta tester stores are considered brand ambassadors for the merchandise on display rather than sales people.

The idea of stores offering retailing services to brands for a fee is expanding to independent shops through a Miami-based company called Pivot Mkt.  They currently have almost 100 stores featuring some 3,000 brands ranging from cosmetics to apparel.  These brick and mortar stores set aside one or more spaces to showcase samples of merchandise from Pivot brands. The companies book a space for a time ranging from one week to one year, and pay the retailer an agreed-upon monthly fee. Any sales made go to the brand.

As Simon Jones points out, department stores have been using this concept for years by leasing out their shoe departments and cosmetic counters. An RaaS pop-up might help independent retailers create interesting experiences for repeat customers – and some brands will provide special displays and events to help drive store traffic.  If you are having trouble making ends meet and have underutilized space, this model could prove financially advantageous for your business.

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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