How two small tech brands play the retail game

Vava and Benjilock make very different products but face similar challenges.

Brian Cooley Editor at Large
Brian Cooley is CNET's Editor at large and has been with the brand since 1995. He currently focuses on electrification of vehicles but also follows the big trends in smart home, digital healthcare, 5G, the future of food, and augmented & virtual realities. Cooley is a sought after presenter by brands and their agencies when they want to understand how consumers react to new technologies. He has been a regular featured speaker at CES, Cannes Lions, Advertising Week and The PHM HealthFront™. He was born and raised in Silicon Valley when Apple's campus was mostly apricots.
Expertise Automotive technology, smart home, digital health. Credentials
  • 5G Technician, ETA International
Brian Cooley
2 min read

Introducing new tech devices is notoriously tricky, especially when they're different enough to not fit neatly in an existing category, like a lock that needs no key or a video projector that sits right up against a wall. Now what?

Benjilock and Vava are two smaller electronics brands that have introduced exactly those products and found that in-store retail was essential, not anachronistic. Among the channels they use is B8ta, a small chain of boutique-like tech showcases. (Editors' note: B8ta and CNET have partnered for in-person and online presentations.)

VAVA 4K UHD Short Throw Laser Projector

Vava makes a 4K video projector that sits closer to the wall and costs much less than those from many big-name makers. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

"Like the Apple stores, you feel it, you touch it and then you get the idea," says Robbie Cabral, founder and CEO of Benjilock, which makes a fingerprint-sensing padlock that is produced by Hampton Products. "Feeling a product and seeing that it actually unlocks with your fingerprint, you're like 'OK, now I get it.'"

Read more: Save 15% on this smart padlock you unlock with your fingerprint (or a key)

Benjilock directions

Operating a Benjilock requires a little training and some new muscle memory.


And it's not just the product that needs to be demonstrated, but also the brand, according to a maker of cutting-edge video projectors. "Our projector is close to $3,000. You're not talking about buying a $10 gadget," admits Jeh Lin, director of business development for Vava, makers of an ultrashort-throw 4K projector. "Not a lot of people have heard of the Vava brand. People want to do their research, they want to see it in person."

Read more: Save $280 on the Vava 4K HDR ultra-short-throw projector


Lin says being in a store that emphasizes experience, like B8ta, can instill confidence that helps equalize his brand against tech giants like Samsung. "I love Best Buy, but within B8ta they provide an above-and-beyond experience," says Lin, who also values the fact that B8ta's technology and store layout allow it to capture a customer's journey and time spent interacting with each product.

Robbie Cabral and Jeh Lin shared a number of other insights into launching new tech products with CNET's Brian Cooley in the video above.

Now What is a video interview series with industry leaders, celebrities and influencers that covers trends impacting businesses and consumers amid the "new normal." There will always be change in our world, and we'll be here to discuss how to navigate it all.