The Beginner’s Guide to Pop-Up Shops: Testing the Waters of Brick & Mortar Retail
E-commerce may claim a larger portion of the consumer pie with each passing year, but brick and mortar retail is still where more than four out of every five consumer dollars are spent. For this reason, many successful online businesses are eager to find ways engage their customers on a face-to-face level.
Temporary retail is an effective way for digital shops to experiment with what having an on-the-ground presence can do for brand awareness. Without having to invest in a permanent storefront, a pop-up shop gives you a physical space in which to showcase your brand and personally interact with customers. Between winning valuable insights, accessing new markets, and generating sales and media buzz, the perks of hosting a pop-up event are plentiful.
This guide will help you understand short-term pop-up shops in temporary retail spaces as an omnichannel marketing strategy that can help to boost your digital storefront. Here is what a pop-up shop is, why you should consider it, and how you can make your pop-up a success.
What is a pop-up shop?
A pop-up store is a temporary retail location where brands that do most of their business online can have a short-term physical presence. In this temporary storefront, brands can personally showcase their products, interact with customers face-to-face, and engage new customers with a physical shopping experience.
Pop-up shops are especially beneficial for online-only brands who are looking to reach new customers and explore new channels for generating sales and brand awareness. A pop-up retail experience can also help a brand assess whether investing in a permanent physical retail space might be a step in the right direction for their business.
Great reasons to try pop-up retail
There are many reasons to give a go at hosting a pop-up shop. Here are a few compelling cases in favor of trying out temporary retail:
1. Less investment than a permanent storefront
Brick and mortar retail stores have tremendous overhead. Between the rising cost of real estate, utilities, insurance, staffing, cleaning (the list goes on), investing in a permanent physical location requires a lot of planning and budgeting to stay afloat.
While pop-up shops aren’t always cheap, especially in high profile locations with lots of foot traffic, their comparatively small scale makes for a prime opportunity to validate consumer interest before taking the plunge into a permanent retail location.
2. Flexibility of retail locations
While a brick and mortar store is fixed to the spot, pop-ups can be mobile. Much like trade show stands and graphics, when the event is over, you can pack up your pop-up supplies and head for the next town.
With a pop-up, you can easily try to reach new markets from New York City to Los Angeles. This flexibility is allows you to test the waters in a variety of locations, all the while reusing the same visual assets. Try to penetrate deeper into your target demographic by hosting a pop-up in your top-selling city, or explore building a brand new customer base in uncharted territory.
3. Build in-person rapport with customers
Despite the explosive growth of e-commerce over the last decade, there is no denying the power of personal and tactile encounters with a brand and its products. Online shopping may be very convenient, but the persistence of physical retail is a testament to the importance of analog brand experiences.
Connecting with your customers as humans and not just users behind a screen is crucial to building brand loyalty. In addition to giving customers a chance to see and touch your products first-hand, the chance to ask questions and interact with friendly personnel can seal the deal on a positive shopping experience.
4. Pay for foot traffic, not web traffic
While consumers may first encounter your product through various digital channels like social media and Google Search, it can be difficult to capture consumers’ undivided attention in a digital environment. For this reason, a consistent and appealing offline presence can help to block out the internet noise and compel customers to profitable action.
Furthermore, diagnosing and correcting under-performing online marketing campaigns can often be like an expensive game of pin the tail on the donkey. Pop-up shops give you the chance to gauge customer interest in real-time, adjust your sales pitch as needed, and win valuable insights into how customers feel about your products.
5. Create a sense of scarcity to boost demand
Scarcity is a powerful driver of demand, but it can be difficult to convey in a seemingly never-ending sea of online products. Physical, in-person pop-up shops with a finite inventory and limited time frame can bring a much needed sense of novelty and urgency to your product catalog.
Whether you’re debuting a new product or trying to unload last year’s inventory, pop-up shops have that for-a-limited-time-only appeal that can compel customers to act swiftly.
6. Take advantage of seasonal trends
If you are looking to drive more users to your online store come Cyber Monday, Black Friday, or during the holiday season, a strategically timed pop-up store can boost brand awareness.
In addition to the purchases customers may make while visiting your temporary pop-up, these positive interactions can motivate them to revisit your brand online during the busy season.
Promoting your pop-up space
Pop-up shops marry online brands with offline shopping experiences. As such, it is only appropriate to use an omnichannel approach when promoting a pop-up event. Spreading the word about your temporary store will take a combination of both online and offline promotion tactics.
How to market your pop-up shop online
As an e-commerce business, you already know a thing or two about leveraging online channels to win customers. Here are a few ways to tailor your online marketing strategy to attract visitors to your pop-up store:
- Excite your existing customer base – Your existing customers are your biggest fans, so use their enthusiasm to your advantage! With targeted emailing lists, social media posts and stories, and banners on your website, you can keep the folks who already know and love your brand up-to-date about your pop-up.
- Contact local micro-influencers – Research local influencers in the region where your pop-up shop will be located. While their social media followings may be too small to be cost-effective for your national campaigns, their geographically-relevant following may be exactly who you want to reach during your pop-up.
- Pitch regional event blogs – Research the top outlets where local residents get info about things to do about town. Send an interesting pitch and some excellent product photos, and with enough advanced notice your pop-up could appear in some of the most influential event blogs in the region.
How to market your pop-up shop offline
Boost attendance and guarantee a successful pop-up by engaging your customers with offline marketing tactics.
- Eye-catching signage and displays – The appearance of your temporary storefront is crucial to attracting the attention of passersby. From sidewalk signage and pavement stickers placed strategically around your pop-up location, to artful product displays and dazzling booth design, ensure that the look and feel of your pop-up speaks clearly to your target audience. While excellent signage can be an investment, you can reuse it many times for future pop-ups and marketing events.
- Send existing customers an invitation in the mail – Use your physical mailing list to your advantage! Your customers will be delighted to receive a tasteful, personalized invitation in their mailboxes inviting them to your upcoming pop-up in their city. Throw in a coupon or two and they’ll be sure to show up.
- Partner with local businesses and retail establishments – Get friendly with the folks who already know their way around this new market. By teaming up with local businesses, like a popular food truck, art gallery, or boutique, you can tap into a wider customer base and win some local cred.
- Experiential marketing – Don’t let the physical elements of your pop-up experience go to waste! Consider how your pop-up might offer an immersive experience for visitors. By engaging customers’ senses and integrating interactive elements into your temporary store, you can build lasting emotional connections between your target audience and your brand. Explore these eight versatile experiential marketing ideas for inspiration.
Whether or not a permanent physical store is in the cards for your online shop, a pop-up event can still do wonders for your brand. Between a boost in sales, to building personal rapport with customers, to winning valuable insights into your marketing approach (send a follow-up survey to those who showed up!), there is so much to be gained from the face-to-face interactions that pop-up experiences offer.