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Zyro Glossary eCommerce

Pop-up Shop

What is a pop-up shop?

A pop-up shop is a temporary storefront that a company uses to sell its products in a new environment for a limited amount of time.

Pop-up shops do exactly that: they pop up in either physical or online locations. Generally, companies position their pop-up shops in high-traffic areas, to ensure immediate visibility and demand.

The purpose of pop-up retail is to show a company and its products in a more immersive, exciting way. Because the existence of a pop-up shop is so sudden and temporary, they’re great at creating a buzz around a brand. 

Temporary retail storefronts are nothing new: market stalls have been around since the 13th century. But the more modern concept of pop-up retail has its roots in 1990s Los Angeles.

Entrepreneur Patrick Courrielche created a one-day event called The Ritual Expo in 1997, which became a weekly occasion. 

Described as a nightclub-meets-retail experience, these pop up shopping events were intended to champion independent retailers in Los Angeles.

The Ritual Expo soon caught the attention of some big-name brands, who then worked with Courrielche to roll out their own ‘pop-up’ experiences.

How do pop-up shops work?

Retailers could run a pop-up shop for just one afternoon, or for several weeks. It all depends on their strategy.

A company might choose to pop up somewhere – either online or in a brick-and-mortar setting – because:

  • They’re testing the water. A physical pop-up store format can benefit online-only retailers who are unsure whether to branch out. 
  • They’re marketing a new launch. A pop-up shop is one of the most exciting ways to showcase a new product range. 
  • They’re clearing out old inventory. Retailers often use pop-up shops in a warehouse sale format to quickly sell last season’s stock at low prices.
  • They’re keen to engage with customers. The pop-up concept is great for attracting new customers in a new area, and it also helps companies engage with existing users.

Examples of pop-up shops

Glossier, London

Cult beauty brand Glossier has stores in New York City and L.A, plus a huge online presence and a devoted customer base.

The company launched a pop-up shop in London’s Covent Garden with the intention of sticking around for two and a half months to test the UK market.

One of the most Instagram-friendly retail establishments of all time, Glossier’s pop-up space was covered from floor to ceiling in florals as a nod to English style. The store had been designed for customers to interact with each other while using the brand’s products.

With over 100,000 customers filing through this retail space in its limited time period, Glossier decided to take advantage of the hype and extend its London pop-up presence to a full year.

Pantone, Monaco

Known for setting the global standard in color matching, Pantone spent a couple of summers on the esplanade in Monaco pretending to be a cafe. 

But this wasn’t a case of identity crisis – Pantone’s pop-up cafe was created as a marketing event to engage with customers and generate buzz for the brand on social media.

The Pantone cafe offered a small range of refreshments, all flawlessly branded with the company’s signature swatches. For example, customers could enjoy a coded ‘19-1625 eclair’ or a ‘17-1227 latte’.

With the aim of encouraging customers to taste the color of their food, Pantone’s sensory pop-up shop helped the brand step outside the confines of traditional marketing models.

Adidas, global

Not averse to a pop-up shop, Adidas is a brand known for its playful and incredibly interactive temporary retail spaces.

The sportswear company once decided to pop up at Primavera festival in Spain in the form of a giant Adidas Originals shoebox. The brand later emulated this huge marketing exercise to celebrate the re-launch of one of their most iconic sneaker styles.

The Stan Smith shoebox found its way onto the streets of London and was dedicated to a single product range. Customers were invited to customize their purchases and try out 3D printing.

Offering a limited number of shoes to buy, Adidas only kept this space open for a few days but managed to ensure the Stan Smith sneaker remained iconic in the minds of its customers.

How beneficial can pop-up shops be?

Pop-up retail can add value in many different ways. The concept suits companies both big and small – here are some of the benefits:

Customer connection

By creating a one-of-a-kind experience for customers, companies can use pop-up stores in a completely different way to their normal retail store formats.

Pop-up retail spaces can be immersive and highly interactive – these events give brands the opportunity to market their products in ways unrelated to their identity, like Pantone with a cafe.

This unique, exciting format incentivizes customers to visit and engage with a company that they may only be familiar with in an online context. 

Demand validation

A pop-up shop is a great platform for testing out new products. Companies can produce a limited run of goods and use the format to validate demand.

Testing out a product’s popularity by using pop-up stores works for companies of any size. Best-case, you’ve generated buzz around your brand; worst-case, the investment was minimal.

Pop-up retail is also a great way to check the demand for a physical store, if you’re an online retailer, thanks to typically lower rental rates.

Sales invigoration 

Retailers often pop up in temporary spaces around the time of seasonal events, like Halloween or Christmas.

Seasonal pop-up stores can significantly drive sales for an online-based shop, as well as for companies with loyal followings where events are highly anticipated.

Using a pop-up shop during a high-traffic shopping season allows brands to rapidly sell through stock that will be of no use at other times of the year. If done well, it’s also a festive treat for customers.

How to launch a successful pop-up shop

Even if you’re a small business with an online store, the pop-up format could be a great success driver for your brand. 

Here are the basic steps you should take to set up and launch with impact:

Find a location

Pop-up shops are all about location. There’s a number of factors you’ll need to consider, including:

Relevance 

Are you positioned in a high-traffic area where customers can find you? Will you be targeting the right customers? Are you surrounded by too many competitors? The relevance of your location is crucial. 

Theme

Consider what you’re aiming for: press launch, immersive experience? Check that the space is well-equipped for your theme and that your location serves your desired visitors well.

Practicalities

While only temporary, your pop-up shop should be as considered as your permanent stores. You’ll need to check everything from nearby transportation links, to security, to whether you can use signage outside.

Design your store

Retailers have the chance to go all-out with creativity when it comes to pop-up stores. This is a great opportunity to take advantage of some more unconventional marketing ideas.

Once you have a space and you know what your pop-up is intended for, it’s worth spending time designing something unique and exciting.

When you’re designing your space, consider the following:

  • What it is you’re hoping to achieve? Maybe you want customers to interact with each other – if so, create a space to facilitate interaction.
  • What will get attention in the press? Don’t forget that a pop-up is a great marketing tool.
  • What is your budget? Your pop-up shop shouldn’t jeopardize your revenue.

Sort out logistics

Think of launching a pop-up space like organizing an event. You’ll need to make sure that you’re prepared for any scenario.

As well as checking out the practicalities of the space – things like security, rent, and wifi, you should also make sure the store is set up to sell.

Here are some logistical points to consider:

  • Whether you need specific permits. Anything from accommodating a queue to serving champagne might need permission.
  • How you get your products into store. You want to pop up as a fully-stocked shop, so make sure everything is available.
  • If you need to install props. Be confident that you can deliver your vision safely and with impact.

Hire good people

Whether you’re running a pop-up shop to validate demand, launch a new product, or generate interest in your brand, finding the right staff is vital.

The employees in your pop-up will help determine its success – these are the people in your organization who get closest to your customers.

Make sure that the people representing your brand:

  • Know what they’re talking about. They’ll have to answer a whole range of questions on the spot.
  • Are skilled at customer service. No matter how amazing your store looks, rude staff will damage your brand.
  • Understand how to make a sale. Pop-up shops are all about purchasing in the moment, there are no second chances.

Promote the store

You’ll need to generate excitement about your pop-up shop way ahead of launch. It’s only around for a short time, so you should have demand from day one.

Even if your brand doesn’t have a cult-like following, you can still find ways to ensure people are queuing up outside your store.

Here are some tips for promoting your temporary store:

  • Utilize social media. Post behind-the-scenes shots and create a hashtag to be used throughout the pop-up’s installation.
  • Invite press and influencers to a launch party. Choose guests who are relevant to your customers and company.
  • Use out-of-home (OOH) advertising. Billboards, posters, and flyers will help promote the store at a local level.

Evaluate the experience

Once your event is over, remember to review the experience in detail. What went well? What didn’t work?

You should launch a pop-up shop with an objective in mind, so set targets beforehand. This will help you understand how successful the event was.

Here are some factors you should evaluate:

  • Sales by customer and by product. Pop-up shops can give you insights into average spend, customer persona, and product popularity.
  • Traffic into the store. See if you can work out the shop’s sales conversion rate based on how many people visited.
  • Traction on social media. Perhaps most valuable is understanding the level of marketing exposure and engagement the pop-up achieved.

Written by

Author avatar

Olivia

Olivia is a writer for Zyro and an eCommerce know-it-all. Having spent many years as a retail buyer, she loves writing about trend forecasting, brand building, and teaching others how to optimize online stores for success. She lives in London and spends a lot of time exploring the city’s parks with her whippet.

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