The conception of the pop-up show was birthed out of the financial crash of 2008 as an alternative to long retail leaseholds – and since their inception they have gone mainstream. In the UK alone, the pop-up industry is currently worth over £2.3 billion a year. Plus with almost 30% of British businesses beginning their entrepreneurial journey as a pop-up, it’s safe to say that this retail phenomenon isn’t going away any time soon.
Why does this concept work?
There are a number of reasons why pop-ups are thriving in cities today. For one, brands are drawn to them as it provides them with an opportunity to explore new geographic markets without a long-term commitment to a brick-and-mortar location. Investing in a short-term location gives brands a better sense of demand with less upfront costs, freeing them up to make prudent long-term decisions.
At the same time, pop-ups provide companies with opportunities to experiment with new concepts and campaigns, while collecting useful data that can inform a better, more seamless customer experience.
What needs to be considered?
As with any emerging channel, there are a handful of challenges that can deter brands from creating the perfect pop-up.
Set a clear objective
The allure of experimentation is powerful, but an unsuccessful pop-up store is generally defined by its lack of direction and purpose.
Setting a clear objective is king. Establishing clear brand intentions and goals to determine what you want to accomplish before entering into pop-up territory is vital.
Are you trialing a new product line? Testing new markets before establishing a brick-and-mortar store? Generating awareness of your brand? Whatever you’re trying to achieve, make it clear from the offset and ensure that any decisions made, be it day-to-day or long-term, are closely aligned to that goal.
For instance, if you want create buzz for your brand, make sure your pop-up surprises and delights customers. Why not offer free product giveaways, competitions, or launch a customer loyalty program?
Stand out from the crowd
This is not so much of a challenge as it is a pitfall. Brands that treat pop-ups as half-baked brick-and-mortar stores typically don’t perform very well. Customers need a reason to visit, particularly if they have the option to order your products online or if they’ve not come across your brand before. So, there’s an opportunity here to use your pop-up to experiment with exclusive offers and more engaging services to attract attention.
For example, for two consecutive years Amazon ran a Black Friday tie-in pop-up shop dubbed the ‘Home of Black Friday’. Based in London’s Soho Square it featured 100 curated products and five themed rooms, showcasing top deals in the week preceding Black Friday.
Visitors were able to purchase products by scanning a QR code to open up the product page on the Amazon app. And a dedicated Prime Now delivery area in the lobby of the venue allowed shoppers to have their Black Friday deal purchases delivered to the pop-up within two hours for them to collect.
As well as shopping, there were workshops hosted by small business owners, master classes, cocktail tastings and makeup tutorials by popular YouTubers, and competitions.
Time is of the essence
The success of your pop-up also relies on the ability to facilitate transactions as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Leveraging mobile checkout experiences will allow you to achieve just that, as customers can bypass the long lines that often cluster in these smaller retail spaces.
Brands also need to ensure they very quickly adapt to the unique, exceptional experiences that customers demand, whether that’s interactive in-store displays or apps to enhance their engagement in store, and ensure they are set up in multiple locations.
Implementing an API-first commerce strategy will enable you to achieve all of these things, as it allows brands to quickly establish connections to back-end systems as opposed to launching a major implementation project for each location.
This means that you can leverage the same shopping cart across all touchpoints in the customer’s journey if they’ve already shopped with you online for example, and also provide real-time data and analysis on how they interact with your brand. Such insights are priceless in order to compete and gain customer loyalty. It also means you can add a commerce experience to any touchpoint, so an interactive mirror that enables you to purchase what you’re trying on and walk out of the store becomes a possibility to impress and delight your customers with.
Against the wider picture of high street retail woes, pop-up stores point to an optimistic future. As it stands, 90% of overall retail sales are still made within brick-and-mortar, and pop-up stores can be seen as part of a larger effort to revitalize the sector. The market has proven that the pop-up model is a terrific strategy for brands looking to offer engaging experiences, test new ideas and gather invaluable data. However, the benefits can only be actualized with a unified vision and strong technology to support it. Using an API-first strategy primes the business to better respond to the customer’s journey and on a grander scale and should be high on the agenda for any brand.