Pop-up Shops: Are they worth trying—and could it work for your brand?
Walk around any city and you’re bound to find one. Hop on social media and you’ve probably seen friends’ posts about visiting one.
What used to be limited to mall kiosks is now finding its way into vacant retail spaces.
We’re talking about pop-up shops, and while they seem to appeal to shoppers, just how effective are they for brands?
Turns out, pop-up shops are a pretty good idea for brands. Especially brands that are:
- Up-and-coming or looking to leap into traditional retail
- Don’t have a large budget for a retail space yet (making it ideal for smaller eComm-based brands, especially)
- Looking to build brand awareness and develop a sense of community with fans
As great as eComm is, there are still customers out there who won’t necessarily be attracted to your brand in an online space. Not to mention the vast amount of noise online—even your best potential customers might have a hard time finding you!
For brands, having a limited-time pop-up experience helps create a buzz around newproducts and attracts new buyers.
If you’ve ever wondered if a pop-up experience is a right move, you’ve got some factors to consider. Let’s dive in.
Why a pop-up?
Not every brand has the funds to snap up that coveted retail space. Some brands don’t even want to be in a retail space.
A pop-up gives brands the best of both worlds. Typically found in vacant retail spaces or down the center walkway of a shopping mall—oftentimes featuring a good amount of foot traffic—pop-ups are no longer relegated to these regions.
Whether it’s inside a massive big-box retailer, boutique store, or on a fun, whimsically designed truck-making pit stops in various cities on a ‘road trip,’ these experiences can be anywhere.
One eComm brand that did the pop-up shopping experience very well is cosmetic brand, Glossier. Glossier popup shops were styled with aesthetic-friendly colors–think Instagram-worthy shots from influencers and shoppers alike–which added to the overall hype and success because they were shared organically over hundreds of social media profiles.
Pop-up shop benefits
Drawing attention to the brand and increasing brand awareness
When you’ve got an eComm brand—especially as a newer brand—reach and awareness is often fairly low to start.
The solution? Create a pop-up experience so existing and curious customers have a chance to touch and try what you’re offering. Food, beauty, and fashion eComm brands benefit especially well with this type of experience.
Another advantage of using a pop-up experience to boost brand awareness is that it’s a form of advertising in itself.
Have a limited budget or want to maximize your spending so that it’s effective and creates a great experience for shoppers? A pop-up might be the way to go.
Subscription box and online pet store, BarkShop.com, used a pop-up shop to attract new customers and test out technology that made shopping for pets a fun and unique experience.
Here’s how it happened: Barkshop opened a limited-time pop-up in the Manhattan neighbourhood of Soho and invited pet parents (along with their pets) to shop and experience the various offerings.
Once there, pets were given fitted, tech-friendly vests that tracked their movements throughout the pop-up, essentially telling pet parents what toys attracted their dogs the most. Once the pets made their toy demands known, owners could order items and have them shipped to their doorstep.
So, what did BarkShop do well?
They used the pop-up experience for more than one benefit. Aside from creating a fun, interactive experience for both human and pets, they used the pop-up as a way to get data about customers and the type of products they liked.
There’s reduced risk if you plan to go from online to physical stores
Unfortunately, a lot of brands take the leap of faith into opening a storefront right off the bat and don’t make it.
Part of that is the cost of owning a store, but a pop-up experience allows you to dip your toes to see if it even makes sense to break into brick and mortar.
Another option—especially for eComm brands—is to do pop-ups throughout the year in conjunction with an online space, creating a hybrid experience that reaches more customers and doesn’t lock you into any specific location.
Post-COVID, this might make the most sense as brands figure out how to best accommodate new shopping habits and preferences.
Brands + Community = Loyalty
Nothing builds brand loyalty faster than connecting with your customers and creating a sense of community—and pop-ups do just that.
Here’s how a pop-up goes the extra mile in helping to build brand loyalty:
- Excitement is generated for the pop-up due to the exclusive, limited nature of the event
- Shoppers come to check out the space (extra points if it’s IG-worthy)
- Direct connection between the brand and customers is established, something they can’t get purely online
- Shoppers share about the brand to their social circle or bring friends along
- Because they had a fun, tangible experience (perhaps with samples or limited-time specials), brand loyalty has the potential to grow
Pop-up experiences don’t have to be isolated locations, either. eComm brands will also do events in stores if they have a retail presence or collaborate with other names.
Beautycounter, a clean beauty brand, partnered with mega-retailer Sephora to create a multi-month-long, in-store pop-up. During this pop-up, Beautycounter plans to feature a number of their tried-and-true products for customers to try in-store, which was a first for Sephora.
As these two brands align on numerous variables—namely a mission for clean beauty—this partnership makes sense and unlocks a whole host of potential customers for both brands.
Let’s look at the data
While retail stores have mostly been leading the charge for pop-up experiences, there’s plenty of room for eComm brands to give it a try as well.
Want a peek into what’s been working for these limited offerings and the benefits that come along with hosting a customer-focused pop-up shopping experience?
According to Business Insider, here’s data to consider when thinking about going the pop-up route:
- Brands have a three-pronged focus when designing and creating a pop-up: increasing brand awareness, elevating hype or buzz around the brand or newly launching products, and connecting with a customer. For eComm brands, these are equally as beneficial–perhaps even more so–in creating that sense of community and connection, which is often seen as key in the relationship between brand and customer.
- What’s the experience been for brands who host a pop-up? They’ve seen an increased number of sales, increased engagement on social media, and boosted market visibility or brand awareness. Ecomm brands moving into a more physical experience have the potential to expand reach, even when hosting a limited pop-up experience.
Aside from testing the waters to see if a brick-and-mortar is a viable option at a future date, the customer experience boosts web traffic which can lead to new sales, increased signups for emails or newsletters, and a more engaged community on social media.
Another benefit to doing pop-ups as an eComm brand?
Even though shoppers have become more comfortable purchasing online—especially during COVID—there’s still a vast number of shoppers who like to make purchases in person. A pop-up appeals to these customers and helps eComm brands connect with new shoppers and build trust.
Here’s where eComm brands moving into a pop-up space have a little more freedom over traditional retail: since these spaces are limited-time offerings, there’s much more freedom and creativity that goes into creating a pop-up over managing an existing floor plan.
An example of how that benefits the brand can easily be seen with Kylie Cosmetics and the limited-run pop-up shop that took place in Los Angeles.
Kylie Jenner and her team used the pop-up to bridge the gap between eComm and in-person shopping. The freedom to get creative was seen in various features throughout the minimalist space: a wall of her iconic lip kits, selfie stations (because we know how important selfies are in the Kardashian/Jenner clan), and a recreation of Kylie’s bedroom layout.
Another move done well by Kylie Cosmetics?
In addition to her already outrageously popular lip kits, there were two new exclusive kits added to the pop-up experience. Special touches like this are key in giving shoppers an incentive to show up even if they’re existing shoppers online.
So you want to do a pop-up. Okay, what’s next?
With the investment of time and money that goes into a pop-up experience, you want to make it worth it for the brand but even more so for the customers.
There are a few elements to consider adding that appeal to shoppers and should be included in a pop-up:
- It should be IG-worthy (or at least have a backdrop or fun experiences). A major takeaway when it comes to pop-ups is this: they need to be social media-friendly because that’s where a good amount of exposure and hype will build. Aside from these spaces creating a fun, immersive experience for customers, they double up as online and social media marketing tools that pay off big time (when done with the target market in mind).
- Instant gratification is essential. Most of us want the goods fast–and a pop-up is no exception. Shoppers want to get their hands on products and they want to have the ability to go home with samples or products. Maybe you can’t offer an entire inventory at a pop-up? Allow customers to make online purchases and throw in a perk or two so they walk away feeling like they got a good exchange for their time and money.
- Work with your budget. Not every eComm brand has tens of thousands to invest in a pop-up, but that’s the beauty of these types of shopping experiences! A pop-up requires less space, no overhead, and a short rental period meaning you can get as creative as you want within any budget.
The benefits of trying a pop-up experience are something that offers a lot of potential without the risk of a traditional brick-and-mortar space.
Think of pop-ups like this: they’re a unique marketing tool that builds brand awareness, encourages community, and boosts and sales when done right.