Do you remember a time when ‘pop-up shops’ were a way for budding entrepreneurs to get some exposure? A strategy that once saw the ‘little guys’ trying to compete with large retailers has ballooned into a must-do marketing ploy. They seem to be everywhere now, and they’ve deviated from the traditional concept of a retail storefront. Walk around in any large city and you’ll see pop-ups in various forms: pop-up fashion shows, pop-up pizzerias, pop-up touch screens, pop-up cocktail bars.
So what is a pop-up? In its most basic form, it’s a temporary retail space that gives a business the chance to sell products in an atmosphere completely controlled by them. Pop-ups are usually designed exclusively for that event and are fine-tuned to attract a very specific demographic in large numbers. Since they’re temporary, pop-ups are a low-cost way for businesses to take risks. They can get creative and experiment with ideas to introduce their brand to a new audience.
So why are there pop-ups for everything now? Let’s break down why this form of retail has become so popular.Reason #1: Big corporations are getting in on it
There are two types of pop-up retail; one is grassroots and the other is corporate.
That girl from your high school who sells handmade purses opened up a pop-up stand, after scoping out the hot Saturday brunch scene in a hip part of town. She noticed that young, fashion-conscious women were all gathering in a four-block radius to meet other young fashion-conscious women for coffee, crepes and delicious treats. So why not create a pop-up smack in the middle of their weekend mingles? She probably sold a dozen purses that day and considered it a solid success.
Now onto the big-wigs like Google and Coca-Cola who started honing in on pop-up retail. Despite soaring commercial rents that are forcing many storefronts to close, big corporations are opening their eyes to the benefits of traditional brick-and-mortar retail. And they’re putting a modern spin on it by doing it pop-up style. It’s this sort of corporate pop-up that has exploded in recent years.
An example of this is Google’s doughnut shops - designed to promote its voice-activated mini-speakers. As one writer cleverly put it, ‘Google is hoping the way to your ears is through your stomach’. Or how about Louis Vuitton’s new pop-up outlet at London’s Heathrow Airport in Terminal 4? LV is hoping to create some buzz ahead of the opening of its permanent store in November 2018. Both examples have been a huge success and show that pop-ups are no longer reserved just for scrappy, entrepreneur types like your friend from high school.Reason #2: Chance to reach millennials
Born roughly between 1981-1996, millennials have grown up amidst a time of enormous change. During their adolescent and young adult years, millennials have seen traditional retail crumble as e-commerce has surged. This demographic has deeply experienced both scenarios when it comes to shopping. One is roaming the local suburban malls every weekend with mom and dad. Second is not stepping foot in a mall for months because online shopping is more efficient. Pop-ups are seen as an excellent strategy for courting millennials because it melds together both forms of retail that they’re so familiar with.
Despite how plugged in millennials are, many of them see the value in going offline. They enjoy being out and about and are open to trying new things. That’s why many businesses seek to curate in-person experiences through pop-up retail. Marketers will often staff these events with well-dressed, good-looking people, enticing millennials to spend their money to achieve a certain lifestyle.Reason #3: Data collection & market testing
Many marketing experts agree their clients are becoming increasingly interested in pop-up shops to learn more about their customers. Rather than a venue to stock inventory, businesses are using pop-up events as intelligence gathering stations instead. Some pop-ups are designed with sensors to track how many customers have walked in, how long they’re staying, and which products make them pause and linger. Businesses will also track which rooms visitors rush through and which ones they hang around in.
Pop-up shops are also good at gathering customers’ contact info. Unilever, for example, featured a vending machine that handed out free product samples in exchange for email addresses. Or Google’s New York City pop-up, which showed off a bunch of the tech giant’s products, but none of them were actually for sale. Instead, all of its Google Home products were featured in a space that, well, looks like a home. And the company collected email addresses to send more product info to interested visitors.
The lower costs of renting pop-up space compared to a lease or a whole new product release also allows brands to test out new products and gauge consumer demand. In this type of temporary setting, retailers can offer new items they don’t normally carry. They’re also a great way to test out new neighborhoods where companies are considering opening up a permanent location. Since there are very little overheads and virtually no risk, it’s a way to assess the retail climate before making big investments.
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