Pop up stores have always existed. They can be seen in shopping malls selling seasonal products for holidays, and can be traced all the way back to ancient times when merchants sold newly imported spices or silk on street stalls.
But there is more to it lately, making pop up stores the new trend in eCommerce.
The emergence of eCommerce disrupted the retail world. Powered by developments in technology, it brought benefits to both merchants (lower costs, easier geographical expansion etc) and consumers (convenience, lower prices etc). But instead of waving goodbye to brick-and-mortar stores, eCommerce businesses started giving their customers a physical experience through pop up stores.
The benefits of a pop up store for an eCommerce business
eCommerce brands use the pop up store concept in order to drive brand awareness and demand generation to their online business.
The novelty element for the potential customer of encountering a new temporary shop in their neighborhood is luring them into the pop up store where they can physically experience and buy the brand. Once convinced to take out the credit card and purchase the items, customers are given either the typical bricks-and-mortar POS option, or they are directed to screens where they can self-purchase from the online shop and have purchases delivered to their home.
The model is adopted by eCommerce brands from all industries, ranging from electronics (for example, Amazon made news recently by opening pop stores) to fashion, which is very popular in the pop up market as people understandably prefer to try on clothes or shoes.
A pop up store can display all items or a limited assortment, but encourage customers to buy more online. Using the example of a fashion brand, they know the fabrics and the fitting size so they can access and buy more SKUs (Stock Keeping Units) through a few clicks.
Besides driving brand awareness and sales, a pop up store can also help the eCommerce business gain feedback and insights, as now they have the chance to physically interact with customers and drive conversations. It also works the other way around, as a chance to invite brand evangelists and top customers to interact with the people behind the eCommerce business.
Depending on how creative the pop up stores are, they can get media attention too - so inviting journalists and industry bloggers to the launch party is a must.
Pop up stores generated a considerable number of news headlines in the past two years, capturing the attention of journalists ranging from small, local and niched media up to big names like Forbes, The Guardian and more - Oh, and Wired actually had its own pop up store too since it is all the rage lately.
Besides the fame and glory, all the media attention that a pop up store can get will also benefit the online shop, through the backlinks that will boost the website’s SEO.
How to manage the logistics of a pop up store
Even though they are temporary locations, pop up stores still require:
- Choosing and renting a location
- Hiring temporary staff or training the eCommerce team on front sales
- Defining and implementing a store design
- Managing the inventory
- Choosing payment options
Now all this might sound like considerable costs for your business, but think of investing in a pop up store just like in any customer acquisition channel. Perhaps experiment with switching budgets from ads, vouchers and give-aways to building a pop up store for a few days. And then compare the results in sales, both during the pop up store period and afterwards online - you might be surprised by the outcomes.
Besides the obvious task of finding a high traffic area and the contractual agreement for the space, it is important to ensure that there will be a reliable WIFI connection. As your main business is online and you want to encourage pop up visitors to explore your online shop and eventually order directly from it, a fast and secure internet connection is extremely important. This is also true if you are thinking of a creative campaign and you want to encourage people to share their in-shop experience through social networks.
If you are targeting locations like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco or Chicago, we recommend you use StoreFront, a service, similar to Airbnb, for pop up store locations that are available to rent in major cities.
Similarly, if you are looking to rent store locations in the UK, you might like We Are Pop-Up, a marketplace of temporary locations suitable for pop up stores.
If you go through the route of hiring temporary staff, you need to make sure you have enough time to train them on the details of your brand and products - always easier if you have training programs and materials already in place. Visitors will be experiencing your brand for the first time, at least physically, so you don't want to harm your ability to properly communicate your brand.
If you go through the route of repurposing your eCommerce staff on in-shop sales, you need to make sure they are the right people for face-to-face interactions and can handle all the rush time.
Either way, a demo day with friends is highly recommended in order to make sure everything is in place and everyone is delivering as you envision.
3. Store design
Pop up stores seem to be competing in creativity. Think of store design both in terms of furniture and merchandise, but also in terms of the in-shop experience. A well designed pop up store can win not only the hearts and wallets of customers, but also the news headlines - and we’ve seen it happening for both the good and the bad (“Zalora’s digital interactive pop up store could have been better” by e27).
A good source of inspiration is the online jewelry retailer BaubleBar that has opened a few pop up stores in SoHo in New York. They took the opportunity to work with digital agencies in order to create the best in-shop customer experience. From a bar serving Godiva cocktails to a website section with user-generated content by encouraging visitors to upload photos, BaubleBar has it all. (source)
For more examples, here is a whole Pinterest board with lots of examples of pop up stores to get design inspiration from.
If you mainly sell online, having a pop up store will disrupt a bit your operations in terms of inventory management. You will have to make sure you have enough stock in the pop up store, but still be able to sell online without overselling or underselling. Hello multichannel sales!
But don't worry, there are tools for that! Our software, TradeGecko, can help you manage multiple inventory locations and sell through multiple channels (e-Commerce platforms built with Shopify, WooCommerce or Magento, marketplaces like Amazon and pop up stores), while keeping everything in automatic sync in order to avoid human errors and out of stock situations.
Even more, TradeGecko can help you easily see the sales results of each channel, so any pop up store sales report will be at your fingertips in real-time.
The decision is yours if you want to:
- Offer a full physical retail experience and get orders through a POS system
- Encourage customers to purchase directly from your online shop via in-store available computers and tablets
- Substitute monetary payments with social media advocacy
In August this year, Marc Jacobs fashion brand has opened a "Tweet Shop" where people could get samples of the new fragrance Daisy in exchange of tweets hashtagged with #MJDaisyChain. (source)
For lower budgets: try the pop up window shop
The online luxury retailer Net-a-Porter had a very interesting mix of the online and offline worlds during the Fashion’s Night Out back in 2011: a pop up window shop. It was a huge digital display of fashion items that people could scan with the Net-a-Porter mobile app and order the outfits online. (source)
Kate Spade Saturday is another fashion brand that explored pop up window shops back in 2013 in Manhattan. For one month, visitors could access the shop not via a door, but via a touchscreen on the wall that enabled browsing of items. The payments would be made via a mobile app and the purchases would be delivered to any prefered location. (source)
In order to add a pop up window shop for your brand, you will have to:
- Rent a well-positioned wall!
- Build the big digital display and make sure it has an appealing and outstanding design (the easiest: a vinyl display with codes to scan; the more complex: an interactive digital display)
- Ensure a way to bridge the offline wall display with your online shop (the easiest: have codes people can scan and be directed to your online shop, with instructions on how to scan on the wall display; the more complex: build a mobile app dedicated to the pop up window shop)
If done right, it can create a great buzz for your online shop, both through people sharing their experience on social networks and through media, as well as a boost in sales volumes.