This week, Business Insider reported that Amazon would open dozens of pop-ups across U.S. shopping malls over the next year. These storefronts would act as a way to showcase tech products like the Echo speakers. In a job post hiring for these stores, the company said that pop-up stores have “emerged from the test phase with a goal to expand and grow.”
Amazon is the latest major brand to experiment with pop-ups, temporary storefronts that brands use as test beds or a way to communicate with customers who normally shop them online. Pop-ups have long been around for artists to open temporary galleries or chefs to test new dining concepts. (The history of pop-ups is unclear, although experts say that Commes des Garcons’ 2004 pop-up in Berlin was the real turning point for retail brands.)
But more than ever before, the rise of online shopping has got big retailers suffering from pop-up fever. Pop-Up Republic, a database tool for retailers, said that as of March, the pop-up shop industry is valued at $50 billion, although that includes other temporary outings like food trucks and flea markets. The consultancy said that as U.S. retailers are seeing increasing online shopping, they should provide a real-life experience that can be more exciting for shoppers.
According to an April report created by J. Walter Thompson in collaboration with Women’s Wear Daily, pop-ups are a direct response to the growing phenomenon of “frontierless retail,” where digital and physical realms are merging. That means that retailers are grappling with more people turning to online shopping (87 percent of U.S. millennials regularly buy things online) but also need to fill the physical gap, since those same millennials say they want to have more “experiences.”
“Brands are able to control the environment in these pop-up stores; they can create a holistic experience,” said Ben James, executive creative director at JWT, who pointed to the example of Capital One’s “cafe” pop-up in New York that had little to do with home loans but more about creating this idea that banks could be a place to hang out. (It’s now closed.)
Pop-ups eliminate the need for expensive overhead since they are usually smaller and temporary, and they give retailers flexibility to only push certain products, at certain times.
For example, running brand Tracksmith earlier this year opened a pop-up shop just for the Boston Marathon with a twist: You could only buy certain products if you had qualified for the race. And Obsessee, a “social” brand launched by Clique Media Group, hosted a pop-up at The Grove in Los Angeles in August to give its target market, digital-native Gen Z-ers, “real-life experiences” to bridge the online and offline worlds.
According to the brand, it saw a 13 percent brand life in followers across platforms during the pop-up and the store sold over 1,700 items.
While retail brands are big into pop-up stores, it’s also en vogue among others. Refinery29 is running this week a 29-room pop-up space for people to experience fashion week. Magnum Ice Cream held a pop-up event in June for people to make customized ice-cream bars. Singaporean beer brand Tiger hosted a pop-up shop in Soho in June so people could come in and look at modern Asian art and design. It’s a way to combine product sales, experiences and a brand presence all in one, on the (relatively) cheap.
In some cases, pop-ups are used as test beds. That can be to test a market: Canadian retailer Kit & Ace credits that strategy with how it was able to open 63 locations in two years — a five-year pace. Lacey Norton, head of retail at the company, which was founded by Chip Wilson’s wife and son, Shannon and JJ Wilson, said that opening up pop-ups is a way to be first-to-market without committing too much. It’s also what Elizabeth Arden did this year when it took its first temporary boutique in Paris and turned it into a large flagship store.
And for some retailers, it’s used to test new types of products. In March, Kate Spade opened a pop-up shop for its collection of home goods that only ran for two months. “Our brick-and-mortar stores are the pinnacle of the Kate Spade New York brand experience,” the brand’s CMO, Mary Beech said. The pop-up both increased brand awareness, it also had an impact on the company’s e-commerce business, she said. “We saw our penetration of NYC-area home customers on katespade.com nearly double.”
For fashion retailers that want to test different logistics methods of showing and delivering to customers, couture designers are also able to use temporary stores as a way to see if it’ll work, with minimal risk. Alexander Wang used a pop-up truck method at New York Fashion Week to test “see-now-buy-now” logistics. “We’re getting to this place where the brand and the product are coming together to mingle in the single environment,” said James.
The pop-up store has become a go-to marketing strategy for retailers looking to extend the brand and introduce new products. The pop-up industry has grown to approximately $10 billion in sales, according to PopUp Republic.
Pop-up shops are being developed in a variety of shapes and sizes, as well as locations. They can be found in a traditional brick-and-mortar store — as a store-within-a-store — as a standalone kiosk or even via a motorized vehicle, taking the lead from the food truck craze.
Consumers expect that the pop-up shopping experience will be unique — different from the average brick-and-mortar visit. They also look to pop-ups for more specialized shopping. For example, 61% of shoppers list seasonal products as the main reason to shop at a pop-up store, according to a PopUp Republic poll. Pop-up shoppers also are looking for:
“The great thing about pop-ups that we find all across the board — whether it’s a pop-up store, pop-up restaurant or event — is that they have this ‘fear of missing out’ quality to them,” said Jeremy Baras, the CEO of PopUp Republic. “Customers are attracted to exclusivity. They’re attracted to a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ type of concept.”
In this feature article, Baras and other industry experts share tips and tactics to help retailers build brand exclusivity and decide if a pop-up store fits into the overall marketing strategy. Topics include:
Retailers including Best Buy, J.Crew and Nordstrom have ventured into the world of pop-ups. Examples from these and other retailers highlight different strategies and scenarios worth exploring.
Choosing A Pop-Up Model That Works
Starting a pop-up shop can serve as a hybrid for businesses looking to ease their way into a new niche while minimizing potential losses. In fact, launching one is approximately 80% less expensive compared to opening up a traditional brick-and-mortar location, according to StoreFront.
For retailers unsure about setting up a standalone pop-up location, the store-within-a-store concept can be a viable alternative. Several brands have partnered with major retailers, such as Best Buy, Nordstrom and Sears, to showcase and sell related relevant items via in-store pop-ups. These partnerships enable brands to introduce their products in an atypical store offering, with the goal of broadening their appeal among new consumers.
Best Buy has allowed partner companies to use store floor space to set up store-within-a-store models, such as the Samsung Open Houses recently opened in two Minnesota stores and one Chicago location. The electronics retailer expects to open 200 more Open House pop-ups in different Best Buy locations by the end of 2015.
Nordstrom hosts its own “Pop-In@Nordstrom” specialty shops, which are a recurring series of in-store sales on products not typically found in a Nordstrom location. From July 3 to Aug. 2, 2015, the upscale fashion and apparel retailer featured luxury and designer goods from London-based department store Liberty in five U.S. Nordstrom locations. This partnership was Liberty's official entrance into the U.S. market via a brick-and-mortar store.
Nordstrom initially launched the “pop-in” concept in late 2013, spearheaded by Olivia Kim, Director of Creative Projects. The concept features unique brands on a near-monthly basis, and Kim curates the brands herself, giving massive exposure to retailers that may not sell often to consumers that purchase at Nordstrom.
Sears also is testing out the store-within-a-store concept, presently working with four independent partner retailers. As part of the deal, Sears will showcase appliances and lawn and garden equipment in the partners’ stores. These partners include:
The partnership is designed to allow independent furniture and related home category store owners to expand their product lines to better cater to consumer demand without the need to purchase any inventory. Additionally, Sears can expand reach into smaller markets without having to operate a full department store.
Depending on the level of these types of store-within-a-store partnerships, brands have a varying amount of input regarding merchandising and the overall presentation in the host’s store. Either way, decreased costs for both inventory and appearance management and fewer labor expenses make the model an intriguing concept for both large and small businesses.
“It comes down to how much the control matters to you as a brand,” said Erik Eliason, Co-Founder and CEO of Storefront. “If you have the mindset that ‘this is my experience, my store and my customers,’ then sure, rent your own space and really control that. We’ve seen a lot of retailers driven by the collaborative economy that end up partnering with companies with similar customers so they can set up a two-week pop-up inside another store. It’s equally as prevalent, just not as well covered, in a lot of mom-and-pop shops. These businesses will have an up-and-coming designer or e-Commerce brand that will come in and use their space. For the brand that’s renting, typically that would be at least half the cost than it would to set up a shop, if not less.”
Strategizing For Standalone Pop-Ups
Traditional standalone pop-up stores suit retailers that are interested in controlling all aspects of the store and are willing to take the financial chance to rent or purchase real estate. To create the exclusivity and sense of urgency necessary to build a standalone store, these retailers must plan to cover all facets of merchandise buying, location, design and marketing. Since the pop-up concept offers a different retail experience compared to the typical brick-and-mortar location, retailers must start the planning process at least three months before opening a pop-up location.
“The ideation for big companies usually starts very early,” said Melissa Gonzalez, CEO of The Lion’Esque Group, a pop-up store architect. “They tend to get projects approved before everything comes together months later. If you were to isolate it, preparation should start a solid three months at minimum, including ideation, approval, finding the location, then rendering 3D mockups of the store. Then we need time for buildout, and decide if we are renting or buying the real estate. We would definitely like to have no less than three months to plan it out, and we’ve had times that were longer that makes the process much better. We’ve worked in less time and it’s a rush game, but even if it works out, it’s not ideal.”
To promote the brand exclusivity of the store, these shops generally remain open for just a few months — making every minute count when it comes to creating brand awareness. For example, J.Crew launched a pop-up shop inside its Prince Street store in New York City on June 12 that only lasted 24 hours. At the shop, J.Crew sold merchandise from three brands (Public School, Juan Carlos Obando and Marc Alary) — finalists of The Council of Fashion Designers of America/Vogue Fashion Fund. To promote the event, the retailer launched an online presale of the brands for a few weeks prior to the opening, with some of the pieces nearly selling out.
Attracting The Right Consumers To Your Pop-Up Experience
Location is arguably the most significant factor to consider when building a pop-up shop. With very little time in the spotlight, pop-ups must be located in an area that will attract the right attention from targeted shoppers. By collecting and analyzing shopper data from online purchases, retailers can pinpoint the best location to open a pop-up.
“It’s all about your target market,” Baras said in an interview with Retail TouchPoints. “Who do you want to be your ideal customer? If you want your customer to be Millennials, most likely you would set up shop downtown, or set up in a location surrounded by other stores where Millennials shop, or in a shopping mall. Tailor your location not necessarily to heavily populated areas of towns or cities, but rather go into places where your target market exists and build a following that way.”
Marketing also is a crucial element in pop-up store success. As more pop-up shops enter the market, competition is heating up and retailers must push the envelope when it comes to creative campaigns. Some brands have found success tapping social media or events marketing.
When it comes to social media strategy, retailers and brands should focus on their powerful influencers who are advocates of the company’s message and products. Influencers can be bloggers or unofficial spokespersons who interact with the brands’ social media pages often and generate buzz in the lead up to the store’s opening. Gonzalez also recommended retailers to hold cross-promotions with non-competing brands to add value to the experience and introduce the product to a newer audience.
“If you already have a following, have them engaging with you,” Gonzalez stated. “You can even invite a major influencer to host a night in your shop, where they can invite their own following. Open up the doors for them for free."
Additionally, Gonzalez noted, look to engage "guerilla marketing street teams. As long as street teams hand out something intriguing and thought-provoking, and will make people want to check out the store.”
M&M'S World, a pop-up store in New York City’s SoHo district that opened July 17 and is set to run through Sept. 2015, will deploy street teams to distribute coupons that will drive awareness and visits to the store. Also, guests who follow M&M'S World on Instagram will receive a special discount at check-out.
Retailers also can use special events to spread the word about their pop-up. This tactic is called “programming the store,” according to Eliason, of Storefront. “It’s moving from a pure warehouse retail store to a platform for events,” Eliason said. “Every night, what events do you have within the store that can attract your customers?”
For example, in July, Sprite opened up a corner store in New York City that only sells Sprite soda. Throughout August, the bodega-styled “Sprite Corner” will hold events including a cooking class taught by celebrity chef Eddie Huang and numerous performances from local hip-hop artists.
How Can Brands Measure Pop-Up Success?
The best metric that truly gauges the success of a pop-up shop is the number of people that visit the store, according to Baras of PopUp Republic.
Store visits outweigh overall revenue and sales, Baras asserts. “Yes, retailers want to make as much money as possible and there’s a certain amount of success that’s measured through revenues and PNL statements. But the amount of customers walking through your store shows that they are interested in and aware of your brand, which arguably is just as valuable as making that sale, because that means that you have the potential for them to be loyal followers of your specific brand.”
Additionally, retailers can measure success via sales lift in both their in-store environment and their e-Commerce site, particularly if they offer deals in the shop that consumers can redeem online, according to Eliason. Not only are retailers looking into how many people enter the store; they also look at how many people sign up for email lists and engage through social media.
“In a digital setting, these pop-ups are ideal for social media,” Eliason said. “The brands are looking for compelling content to share and the consumers are looking for compelling content to engage with. They might get 30,000 people to come into the store to come into the event, but there might be another 300,000 impressions online.”
Deliver On The Promise Of Unique Pop-Up Experiences
The best way for retailers to approach the launch of successful pop-up shops is to focus on building a combination of a 'can’t miss' attitude and making connections beyond the products being sold. As more retailers enter the pop-up space, they must reach for innovative ideas and take more risks to make their pop-up stores relevant and unique.
“The consumer has different expectations from a pop-up then they do from a regular store,” Gonzalez stressed. “They go to a pop-up to be surprised and delighted and be able to discover new things. I’d rather retailers go a little bit deeper into their inventory than have a store full of 100 SKUs and a confusing story told in the space, because the pop-up is your opportunity to tell that story to the customer what you offer that’s unique and different.”
So, you’ve decided to be an exhibitor at a trade show to network with prospective buyers and discover new opportunities. This is the easy part. However, before you spend your time and money building out a booth, make sure you’re choosing the right trade show(s) for your business. Here are three quick steps to help you choose which events you need to be a part of.
1. Establish your goals
Are you looking to launch a new product, raise brand awareness or simply network with buyers in your industry? No matter what you wish to accomplish by being an exhibitor at a large trade show, it’s important to have clear goals before going into the rest of the decision-making process. Identifying exactly what you’re looking to do will help you measure whether the event was a success. Some of the trade show goals we hear the most include:
· Generating leads
· Launching a new product
· Enhancing company awareness
· Distinguishing from competitors
· Receiving press recognition
· Performing recon on competitors
2. Determine how to measure success
It’s not all about the numbers. But measurement can help guide gut instincts and cut down on bad decisions. Figure out how you’re going to measure your success (or failure). Start by making a list of events you’d like to check out and figure out what success looks like.
Is it the number of scanned leads from your booth? If so, track it. Is it the number of social media impressions for your company? Product demonstrations in your booth? Amount of intel gathered on your competition? Dinners set up with prospects?
You get the idea. Just measure it. But know there’s a qualitative trait to ranking leads, interactions, demos, etc. Quantity is helpful, but try to rank what may happen.
3. Eat your vegetables
Do your homework and gather as much information as you can about the trade show(s) you choose. Knock out the obvious things first: browse the event website and reach out to the organization putting on the show. Maybe consider attending the event as an attendee? It’s less expensive than buying a booth – and you’ll be able to see firsthand whether it may help you achieve your goals – but just be careful not to go rogue and start selling your products without a booth. If caught, you won’t be invited back.
Can’t attend the event? Try identifying a few companies already planning to exhibit and reach out. Be candid about your call by explaining you’re merely trying to identify whether it’s the right event for your company. It helps if they aren’t competitors, and be sure to talk to more than one exhibitor; it’s amazing how different their feedback can be.
1) Attention. Attract attendees to your booth through banners, banner stands, giveaways, contests or prize drawings, literature, and interactive elements such as touch screens to gather customer information, demostrate a product, or conduct a survey. Choose a unique theme for your booth and make it interesting, fun, and engaging. Key sales and marketing messages, eye-catching signage, informative literature, appealing giveaways, and engaging elements will generate a higher volume of booth traffic.
2) Research. While it is important to thoroughly plan your trade show booth, it is equally as important to conduct some research long before trade shows take place. Determine which trade shows are appropriate for your business sales and marketing goals. Carefully evaluate the details of each trade show including: the number of businesses who exhibit, the average number of attendees (potential customers), attendee demographics by job function, and so on. If possible, interview businesses who have exhibited in past years, and ask for their feedback and opinions about the event. Exhibiting at trade shows can be costly. You need to research all details and gauge which trade shows will yield the highest return on investment.
3) Registration. Once you have decided which trade shows to participate in, register as early as possible. Many trade show organizers allow easy registration online and some offer advanced registration discounts, saving your company hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars.
4) Objectives. Set objectives for yourself and for your trade show booth staff. Create a list of objectives in order of their importance. Staff discussions should yield methods of achieving those objectives and help everyone to focus on achieving the most important ones. Examples of objectives could be: collect “X” number of sales leads with a leads qualification survey; coordinate “X” number of sales demonstrations; or gather research on competitor brands.
5) Publicity. Advertise your attendance at the trade show through a direct mail piece to confirmed attendees (or a targeted list drawn from the list of confirmed attendees); and announce it on your website, through email campaigns, in newsletters, on your blog, through social media sites, and in email signatures. If you plan to hold a contest or prize drawing to attract more people to your booth, be sure to advertise that too. Let everyone know where your booth will be located so they can find you easily.
6) Contests. A contest or prize drawing is a great way to attract people to your booth. When advertising your attendance at the trade show, ask attendees to visit your booth to complete a leads qualification survey and be entered into the contest or prize drawing. Choose a prize that relates to your business, products, or services; or a prize that has broad appeal to your current and potential customers. For example: if you sell survey software or survey research services, the prize could be a device to administer surveys such as an iPad or a tablet PC to conduct mobile surveys; or the prize could be a copy of the survey software so the winner can create and administer their own surveys. This is a great way to gain prospective customers. Follow-up with all contacts shortly following the trade show.
7) Preparation. Be sure to bring a good amount of supplies to the trade show so you do not run out of important literature, brochures, business cards, and giveaways. Review your research to know the number of attendees. Calculate a percentage of those attendees who may visit your booth and bring that number of materials. Realistically, not every attendee will visit your booth. Additionally, generate enthusiasm with all staff that will be representing your company at your booth. Make sure they are knowledgeable about the company, current and new products and services, market trends, and competitors, so they can carry on an intelligent conversation with prospective customers. Encourage them to interact and engage with attendees, gather contact information with the leads qualification survey, and visit competitor booths.
One of the methods we use to get in front of our customers and have some one-on-one time is attending trade shows. For us, as exhibitors, trade shows are extremely valuable, but these events are equally as valuable for you, the attendees.
One of the main benefits of attending a trade show is consolidating that purchasing process down from a timeline of weeks to a single day. In a survey conducted by Skyline Exhibits and EXPO Magazine, 88 percent of those polled said trade shows and conferences are “an important part of the product sourcing and buying process.” In the same survey, 91 percent of those polled said these events are “essential for comparing products and meeting suppliers in person.”
Trade shows present an environment in which vendors compete for your business. As you walk around, you can immediately compare numerous companies’ products, prices, and services. These are also good places for you to discover new companies. Often, customers attend shows with very little knowledge of who sells the type of products they are looking for. By attending a trade show, they can figure out which companies sell what they are looking for, and which solution is the best for them, all in just one day.
Trade shows can also provide you with greater confidence in your purchase. Being at a trade show gives you the ability to see the solutions firsthand and actually touch and work with various products. This affords you the opportunity to discover how easy the product is to work with, and the quality and speed with which the product operates. Trying to compare specifications can be tricky, especially when you aren’t sure what is being measured and how. By actually working with the products, you can see how the specifications come together to create a final product and more confidently compare the performance of the products.
While attending the shows is great for product comparison and a hands-on experience, simply attending a trade show can be daunting and leave attendees unsure of what to do. To get the most out of your experience you need to be proactive and prepared for what will be coming at you.
Have a clear idea of what you are looking for: do a little bit of research before you show up and have a basic understanding of the product you are looking for. Come up with a list of things you NEED out of the product and a list of WANTS that for the right price would be nice to have. The lists you make should be a guide, but be prepared to be a little flexible. There may be new features and products out there that you were unaware of that fit in your budget and provide you with a better solution than the one you originally set out for.
Take Extra Business Cards: A lot of exhibitors and attendees use business cards to keep track of who they’ve talked to and should follow up with. Figure out how many business cards you think you should take, then double that. You will also be getting quite a few cards so be sure to have a system to keep them organized. Many people write notes directly on the business card as reminders when they go to make the call a few days later.
Attend Presentations: Most trade shows will have scheduled presentations throughout the day. It’s usually a good idea to attend one or two, especially if a company who sells a product you are interested in is giving a presentation. These are often pretty informative and can provide you with good base-level knowledge about the subject. If you have any questions after the presentation or find yourself confused, you can always follow up with the presenter in their booth.
Strike Up Conversations: Not just with exhibitors but also with attendees. You will often find someone who is looking for the same type of product/solution as you. These are good people to compare notes with and discuss what you feel the best options are. You may even run into someone who owns a product you are looking at, who can tell you if they are happy with the product or if they have been having any issues. This kind of information is invaluable in the purchasing process.
Take Notes: Make sure to bring a few pens and plenty of paper to take notes with. You are going to get a ton of information, most of which you’ll forget if you don’t take detailed notes. When you return to your office, your notes will be a key part in the decision making process for you and your colleagues.
Sam+F Design is a full service trade-show / exhibit design and Pop-up Shop production company, servicing all of the United States & Canada.