Creating the Perfect Pop-Up Shop

Consumers and marketers alike have come to expect the deep discounts, “one of a kind” promotions and “special deals” retailers offer to lure in every last disposable dollar. Among the wide array of wily marketing initiatives delivering high perceived value, perhaps one type offers a bit more real value than the rest: the pop-up retail experience.

While deep discounts surely drive impulse purchases by price-conscious shoppers, a preponderance of bargain buying decisions occur online or amid the frenetic bustle of in-store “last chance” sales. And while e-commerce sites like Fab, Etsy, Gilt, Zappos,ASOS and Mr. Porter (among the cadre of B&M extensions) all vie for consumer attention by offering special deals on “unique” merchandise, only pop-up retail experiences can draw consumers deeper into the realm of visceral immersion, where real relationships connect consumers to the brands they love.

Pop-up retail experiences aren’t something to enter into hastily, however. As fun and effective as they may be, they’re significant investments that require some serious considerations. Here are five tips to ensure that your retail pop-up shop delivers both real value for your consumers and return on investment for your bottom line:

  1. Not every pop-up experience must involve actual transactions in order to be effective. Remember, with pop-ups, it’s about the “brand experience” that matters most, and managing inventory isn’t for wimps. Accommodating adequate SKUs and managing the cash wrap will likely require more space, staff, and both front- and back-end point-of-sale systems than brands are prepared for. Focus on digging deep into your brand’s DNA and provide consumers a chance to engage with your brand in unexpected, entertaining and social ways. Enabling passionate consumers to share their experiences is a crucial dynamic to foster. And if push comes to shove and some degree of purchasing is required, you can always consider bringing your e-commerce site to life within the space via mobile devices.
  2. Splurge on a well-trained staff. The stakes are high for pop-ups because attendees enter what might appear to them to be a permanent store. Therefore, unlike other more event-type activations, they have all of the customer service expectations they would of a permanent store. Consumers want the staff to know everything about the brand and be able to answer specific questions about the nuances of every product, just as a full-time retail associate would. Consequently, on-site staff must be both a highly trained sales force that offers empathetic and empowered customer service, as well as a knowledgeable and passionate assortment of brand advocates, not just pretty, friendly greeters stationed at the door.
  3. Let consumers host. You want your pop-up experience to allow consumers to interact with your brand in a variety of ways. One of those ways could be allowing them to use the pop-up location as a party venue. One MKTG INCclient has worked with us to create an experience in New York’s SoHo District. The experience allows consumers to get to know the brand, take a break from shopping while also serving as the site for their annual work party. By allowing an existing community of consumers (i.e., their co-workers) to enjoy the space together, the brand becomes embedded into those relationships and memories. The more ways you can multipurpose your pop-up, the greater the ROI.
  4. Personalization has never been more important. With less focus on material must-haves, consumers are concentrating on meaningful gifts and experiences. The best pop-up shops provide simple ways for consumers to add a personal detail or message to their purchase, making even smaller-ticket items feel like exclusive purchases.
  5. Curate for efficiency. One of the latest trends making retail pop-ups more salient for attendees is enabling individual shoppers to curate their experiences. One recent successful example comes from e-retailer Frank and Oak, which “streamlines the ‘get to know you phase’ with a Facebook-enabled login and a survey of three simple questions” before offering a custom-curated catalog of options. Pop-ups can easily incorporate this technique into the experience design by arming brand ambassadors with iPads and encouraging them to probe the consumer on their preferences, gathering useful CRM data in the process.

Marketers can use these tips to ensure they’re leveraging their holiday pop-up experience in a way that emphasizes their unique brand traits and creates a meaningful experience for their customers. From personalization to an investment in staff, this initiative can be prosperous for all parties if it hits on the right elements and establishes a genuine connection with the people who will ultimately move that sales needle.

Ben Roth is the senior vice president of creative at MKTG INC.

Related Content