With many countries rolling out their vaccination program and lockdown restrictions beginning to ease, consumers are gearing up to resume their non-isolated lives. Part of this return to relative normality could be a rush to retail stores as consumers long for physical interactions with products and retail staff. The National Retail Federation anticipates that sales in retail will grow by 8.2% in 2021 because of this. This return to offline shopping, however, comes with a degree of caution as two-thirds of US consumers still remain hesitant to venture out of their homes regularly.
Pop-up shops could provide a great middle ground between consumers who are eager to kick-start their shopping habits and those who remain cautious. Additionally, for eCommerce merchants who have experienced a boom in sales, pop-up shops provide a golden opportunity to connect with their customers - a tactic which the eCommerce giant, Amazon, has already employed.
What is a Pop-Up Shop?
A pop-up shop is a temporary physical store. It differs from the traditional brick-and-mortar store as they are created to offer consumers a definitively unique experience. Such experiences can not be replicated or found in the store’s usual setting.
A pop-up shop, therefore, offers consumers new experiences within the framework of the existing store in the setting of a temporary space. The reasons for creating a pop-up shop will vary from brand to brand. It may be to drive brand or product awareness, trial a brick-and-mortar concept, to drive seasonal sales, or simply to connect with customers on a wholly new level. This can be achieved by offering limited edition or exclusive products, product collaborations with complementary brands, or immersive experiences.
Why Open a Pop-Up Shop?
There are a number of benefits that come with opening up a pop-up shop. For e-merchants, it presents an opportunity to form an in-person connection with customers and show off merchandise in a physical setting.
A pitfall of eCommerce is its inability to give customers a chance to feel and try on a product before they commit to purchasing. A recent survey found that this was the biggest drawback of online shopping with 51% of shoppers pointing this out. Human interaction is also an important component that eCommerce can not offer. Over 44% of US consumers say it’s important to speak to a representative during their final purchasing decision.
Pop-up shops are able to neatly address these issues in a cost-effective way - you’re only renting a space for a limited time after all - and better stick in the hearts and minds of their customers.
They are also a great testing tool for e-merchants during these trying Covid times. Thinking of making the leap from online to offline, but wary of how feasible it is due to the uncertainty of Covid? A pop-up can give you the answer without having to invest the considerable amounts of time and money associated with opening a permanent space. You can also use this as an opportunity to test out new product lines or revenue streams.
By nature, pop-up shops provide unique experiences for shoppers. This is an instant win for retailers as research points to a huge need, particularly among younger shoppers, for amazing in-store experiences. Such unique experiences will also create buzz and build awareness of your brand.
Let’s take a look at the way an online retailer implemented a pop-up store concept.
(Source: Nick Garritano)
The subscription-based, formerly online only, beauty retailer tested their brick-and-mortar concept by taking pop-up shops on a tour through the US. Launching in the heart of the super trendy borough of Manhattan for just a few days, beauty-conscious consumers could test new products, build their own beauty boxes, receive one-on-one beauty treatments, and sign up for a Birchbox subscription. To take it up a notch, the brand also invited high-profile celebrity guests and handed out free frozen desserts with every purchase.
Birchbox created Instagrammable moments at their pop-up shop, an excellent way to drive the conversation on social media and increase brand awareness. Giving customers the chance to win a $500 gift card by using branded hashtags, the retailer racked up over 730 million impressions.
(Source: The Storefront)
Birchbox carefully considered the locations of their pop-up shops. Firstly, they only targeted major US cities with a growing, young, and fashion-forward population. Moreover, the sites within the metropolis worked hand-in-hand with the company’s brand image. For instance, in New York, they held a pop-up store in Chelsea Market. Surrounded by artisan shops, world-class eateries and art galleries, Birchbox was able to convey a youthful cultured trendiness whilst also attracting a clientele with such interests.
Birchbox settled on opening up their first store in New York’s Soho, using the pop-up shop concept as their template.
How to Open a Pop-Up Shop
Hopefully, the above example has piqued your interest, so now let’s lay down the steps to get you on your way to opening your own pop-up shop.
Define the Purpose of Pop-Up Shop
The first thing you’ll need to figure out is the purpose of your pop-up shop. Are you trialing a brick-and-mortar concept? Do you want to increase the awareness of your brand? Perhaps you want to test a new product line or simply connect with your customer base. Set goals that you want to achieve with the pop-up shop and use them to guide the concept, marketing and product choices.
There are different types of pop-up shops that you can use depending on the purpose of the shop.
- Press preview: This is an invite only event that generally lasts for one day. Journalists and bloggers attend these so the aim here would be to gain press coverage and generate media buzz. This is a great choice for increasing brand awareness and reaching new potential customers.
- Experiential: These pop-ups provide visitors immersive experiences that can not be gained elsewhere. They require a substantial amount of planning and research, however, their uniqueness makes them extremely effective in developing buzz and forming memorable connections with customers. A great example of this is Nike's Air Foamposite world in a shoebox.
- Launch party: If your pop-up store is going to debut a new product line or is a tester for the foray to brick-and-mortar, this could be a perfect option for you. This differs from other forms of pop-up stores as it is a party, so you should treat it as such. Include music, bites to eat, drinks, and plenty of opportunities for social snaps. This will convey a sense of fun to your brand and develop excitement around the launch of new products or stores.
- Sponsored or collaboration: This involves a one time team up with a brand or media outlet. A sponsored event or collaboration can provide a real boost when it comes to coverage as it gives your brand a chance to tap into the audience of the brand you partner up with. Louis Vuitton and Supreme achieved this with their pop-up collaboration, managing to become the most searched fashion brands on Google in 2017. Choose your partnership carefully and be sure that they align with your brand’s core values and image.
Once you have got your idea down for the type of pop-up you want to employ you can start thinking about the layout of the store. How and where are you going to fit all of the different elements needed to bring your idea to life? Make a rough sketch of this so when you start to look for a location, you’ll know exactly the kind of space you will need.
Location & Venue
Now that you have defined the goal of your pop-up store and the type of pop-up you want to open, you can now start considering its location.
If the goal of your pop-up is to gain attention and create buzz, you’ll want to opt for a major city with high footfall. On the other hand, if you want to build strong bonds with your existing customer base, you’ll need to choose the area the majority of your customers live in or can easily access.
When deciding on your location it’s key to consider nearby shops. Are they complementary to your brand? You want them to be supplementary rather than competitive as you could lose potential customers to an already established retail presence. Are these the kind of retailers your identified customer base will shop in? They should be as you want to show these customers your relevance to their daily shopping habits.
Another important consideration is access. You want to make it as easy as possible for customers to reach your pop-up store as well as find it. Is there ample parking space nearby? Are there public transport routes to this area? Is there enough room for people to hang around the outside of it or queue?
When choosing a venue, there are a number of options available to you.
- Gallery/Events spaces: This will provide you with a completely blank canvas to splash your concept onto. There is a lot of room here to wholly translate your digital brand into the real world. They are also made with transience in mind, making the entire process much easier.
- Shopping malls: These spaces are a sure-fire way to gain maximum footfall. On top of that, they come with large parking lots and often great public transport links. Shopping malls will provide you with a kiosk, booth or vacant in-line stores. They are more costly than other venue options, but it’s a worthy compromise for the swarths of paying customers your brand will be exposed to.
- Vacant store: Similarly to gallery and events spaces, vacant stores afford you the chance to fully bring your brand to life without much limitations. You’ll want to make sure that the location of the store is optimal and did not play into the reason for it being vacant.
- Within an existing store: Also known as pop-ins, these venues allow you to piggyback off of an existing store’s success and leverage its customer base. If you choose this option, make sure that the store is complementary to yours and includes your desired customer pool.
Iron Out the Legalities
There are, of course, some legal issues you’ll need to iron out to ensure that your pop-up goes off without a hitch before committing to a venue.
- Lease: Arguably the most important document, this will state the term of the lease, costs, what you are allowed to do in the space, and what you will be responsible for. Make sure you are clear about all of these details so you are not thrown off-guard by additional costs.
- License: You may find that you need a license rather than a lease. This will depend on the geographical location and the length of your pop-up shop. Again, ensure that you fully understand the terms of this document.
- Permits: If you are going to include food and drinks at your pop-up you will most likely need a permit to do so. Double-check with the landlord, real estate agent and/or local authorities to make sure you are doing everything legally.
- Insurance: This could be included in your lease or license agreement. You do not want to put your business, employees, or customers at risk so make sure you have comprehensive business insurance coverage in place.
The point of sale system is what will connect your online store to the pop-up. Shopify merchants can rejoice as there is a Shopify POS available. The Shopify POS syncs with Shopify to track your orders and inventory and manage sales whilst you are running your pop-up.
You can connect Shopify with a range of retail hardware. For a pop-up shop, all you will need is an iPad and a card reader. If your pop-up is located in the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, or Australia, then you can purchase supported hardware directly from Shopify, such as card readers, iPad stands and receipt printers. There’s also no need to worry about payments as all you need to do is set up Shopify Payments to accept all forms of payments.
Make it Pandemic Proof
With the uncertainty of the Covid-19 virus and the natural apprehension of some shoppers, it’s important to provide your potential customers adequate protection and reduced exposure to the virus.
- Appointment-only visits: Alleviate worries of exposure to the virus by limiting the number of people in your store at any given time. Shopify data found that this is a relevant solution to shoppers now with 50% indicating this.
- Curbside pick-up: This again limits the contact your customers will have with other people. It involves allowing shoppers to order online from your online store and pick up at your pop-up shop at a designated time.
- Contactless payment: As cash is passed through countless hands, digital payment options are gaining even more traction with 62% of buyers being more comfortable with these payment options in light of the pandemic. Fortunately, Shopify Payments provides digital and contactless payment options.
- QR codes: You can eliminate the need for customers to interact with checkout staff through QR codes, which can easily be created by various online tools to make a QR code. This would allow customers to scan the code on their phones to complete payment. Shopify merchants can use Shopcodes to enable this feature.
Market your pop-up shop
Probably the most important step is to market your pop-up store - people need to know about your foray into the real world!
Get the word out by reaching out to relevant media outlets and influencers around a month before you plan to open. Send them product samples so they can show them off to their existing audience.
Email your customer base to let them know about your pop-up. You could even offer them exclusive discounts and priority booking if you opt for an appointment-only pop-up.
Post behind-the-scenes photos with a branded hashtag on your social media to get your customers excited. At the event, continue to use branded hashtags and create Instagrammable moments to drive social conversation around your pop-up to attract even more customers.
With the world seeming to be making its way back to normality, there is an exciting opportunity for e-merchants to capitalize on many consumers’ excitement to resume their normal shopping habits. It should, however, be approached with caution, ensuring that customers’ and staff’s safety is a top priority. Pop-up shops, when implemented with thought and care, can provide a safe gateway for digital merchants to cash in on these awakened customers.
Pop-ups also go past the immediate gain derived at the store. Post pop-up, be sure to keep the conversation and interest alive by continuing to talk and post about the pop-up experience. Make use of all the user-generated content when talking about your products.
We hope that you are now bursting with excitement and ready to make a temporary transition from online to offline.