Pop-Ups Shape Consumer Journey

With the holidays fast approaching, preparation for this critical shopping season is at the forefront for every retail business. Ongoing success and profitability at this time of year hinges on the ability for retailers to strike a balance between tried-and-true selling strategies and new, innovative ideas. Enter one of the hottest enduring marketing trends: the pop-up storefront.

Pop-ups are essentially temporary selling spaces that serve a variety of objectives: promoting specific product collections; increasing brand awareness; testing viability of new food or retail products; or simply connecting with consumers. While not an entirely new concept, the revitalized pop-up shop industry has become significantly profitable, valued around $50 billion (Pop-Up Republic 2014). Implementing a pop-up space allows brand marketers to experiment with promotion of their products and services and establish a brand presence without the cost and commitment of a permanent brick-and-mortar storefront. With careful planning and execution, pop-up storefronts are a valuable opportunity for brands to increase sales and reach target markets.

Optimize Location and Featured Products

For brands with the objective to sell, the flexibility of the pop-up concept allows for promotion of certain products at certain times in certain locations, optimizing the selling environment for those items. Amazon is venturing into specialty retail by opening dozens of pop-up storefronts in U.S. shopping malls over the holidays to highlight their Echo speakers, Fire TV and tablets, the Dash button, and Kindle e-reader devices (Digiday 2016). Premium apparel brand Kit + Ace plans to launch a series of pop-ups in luxury hotels worldwide, catering to upscale consumers with a selection of high-end, travel-friendly clothing and accessories (Retail Dive 2016). By monitoring their pop-up traffic and sales, these retailers can then collect valuable information pertaining to which items are most popular, which locations are most successful, and whether consumers are attracted to and engaged with the space and products.

While the majority of pop-ups open in existing retail areas of shopping malls and busy city centers, the concept can be adapted almost anywhere—with some events and shops even emerging in locations such as shipping containers, swimming pools, and garages (NYT 2016). Increasingly, pop-up storefronts are also appearing at major events, from the Super Bowl, to music festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza, to influential conferences like South by Southwest (Retail Dive 2016). Planning for pop-ups to coincide with such events guarantees brand visibility to thousands of potential shoppers in target demographics over multiple days.


Imagine! developed this pop-up space for Nissan

Use Time Wisely

While no longer restricted to the holiday season, the entire concept of a pop-up shop centers on its impermanence. A pop-up can last an hour, a few days, weeks, or months, but it must be temporary by definition (Pop-Up Republic 2014). Setting these limits on the time and location a product is available adds to the attraction for many consumers, allowing them an exclusive and special experience with a brand. When consumers are aware they have a limited time to shop and make a purchase before a storefront disappears, they are encouraged to buy while they can, and buy more.

Provide a Unique Experience

Despite the continuing popularity of online shopping, modern consumers still enjoy and value tangible, real-life shopping experiences. An online photo may be worth a thousand words, but there is no discounting the tactile value of physically picking up, touching, and examining a product to encourage purchase. A well-worded webpage description may entice some buyers, but learning about a product’s features straight from the designer or salesperson operating a pop-up lends a personalized connection between consumers and brand—one that cannot be replicated through a computer screen.

Pop-up spaces also allow brands abundant potential for creativity with location, setup, and visual displays, with little risk. Online retailer Warby Parker transformed a school bus into a fully functional, vintage-style shop to peddle their hip eyewear while traveling around the country (NYT 2016). Glade, purveyor of air freshener and home scent products, constructed a vibrant, interactive pop-up boutique with displays and lounge areas inspired by their various fragrances (The Wall Street Journal 2014). These innovative spaces engage with the modern consumer, who is increasingly looking beyond the everyday, predictable shopping experience for something exciting, innovative, fresh, and fun.

Ultimately, for businesses considering a pop-up retail venture, the key to success lies in thorough advance planning balanced with an openness for creativity and experimentation. Having a solid plan for overall objectives, location, timing, featured products, staffing, and design ensures preparedness going in. By creating a memorable, one-of-a-kind shopping experience, retailers can incite brand loyalty and encourage consumers to seek out their products long after the temporary storefronts go away.