A growing trend in the past few years has been that of the pop-up store. They often appear out of nowhere on our high streets and in shopping malls before vanishing into the ether. 

Pop-up stores are popular with artists and designers, who create temporary boutiques and galleries, but they’ve also been used by big name brands such as Levis, Adidas and Nike, as well as retailers like Target, JC Penney, and Gap.

Pop-ups have also been set up by various online pureplays, such as lastminute.com and The Foundry. For these companies it is about experiential marketing, as much as anything, but they can also be used as sales channels. 

Here’s a video from lastminute.com that explains what the ‘goodstuff’ pop-up store was all about, and what it looked like:

I see a real opportunity here for more online brands to go multichannel, at least temporarily, by launching a pop-up store. If I worked for a pureplay retailer or travel firm I’d be seriously lobbying for a pop-up (or several).

So here are my 14 reasons for investing in a pop-up store:

  1. Brand. Pop-ups allow you to extend your brand into the offline world, helping to put a face (or faces) to your online brand name. There is also scope to grow brand awareness among people who might not otherwise know about it.  
  2. Sales. You don’t have to sell anything, but you can if you want to. Some pop-ups are geared up to drive sales and can benefit from scarcity (of time / products) to drive demand. You can sell offline in the store itself or online, by allowing shoppers to access your website from within the store. Help them with walkthroughs and suggestions. Multichannel personal shopping FTW.
  3. Buzz. Pop-ups can generate heaps of buzz from the crowd and the media. It’s the nature of the beast: the fact that they’re here today and (possibly) gone tomorrow means that there’s a short window of opportunity for people to talk about what you’re doing. By interacting with shoppers face-to-face you encourage them to talk about it to their friends and colleagues, and spread the noise via Twitter / Facebook etc. It makes for rapid – and relatively controlled – viral activity. 
  4. PR. The media loves to write about this kind of thing. The chances are that your competitors haven’t yet launched a pop-up so why not do it first? You should be able to attract journalists to visit and / or write about the store. It’s a good chance to network with the media, so don’t forget to send those invitations to your launch party!
  5. SEO. Buzz and PR = links. Go figure.
  6. Love your customers. Pop-ups allow you to get up close and personal with your customers. Make them feel special. Think about giveaways, goodie bags, competitions and special offers (all useful for your pre-launch marketing efforts). Your customers will love you for it, and it gives them a reason to visit the new store.
  7. Get more from your viral marketing budget. The next time you think about spending a five-figure sum on the creation of a viral video, game or competition, consider what else you could be doing with that budget. Viral games and videos are oversaturated and most require a seeding budget, on top of the creative costs. Bloggers are swamped with ‘feel free to post this’ requests. It sucks. So it might be better to take that budget and do something special with it. If you want to go viral, then try a pop-up store.
  8. Low rents. The fallout from the recession is that many retail outlets are now vacant. Rental rates have fallen dramatically and landlords are more open to short-term projects / leases. The commercial real estate sector is begging you to launch a pop-up store. Make hay before the sun starts shining again…
  9. Offload stock. A pop-up store can be a great way of shifting end-of-season stock, especially if positioned as a time-limited sale with a finite amount of bargains. You can also run specific offers and tie-ins with product manufacturers / brands to move stock fast.
  10. Make a real shop window. Merchandising online is a skill based on offline techniques. A pop-up will help you think about the basics of product displays in a way that entices shoppers to enter your store. By showcasing your products offline you may learn how to improve online merchandising.
  11. Education. Some brands are easier to understand than others. Some websites are more complicated than others. If your online brand is difficult to understand, or your website difficult to use, then there may be some advantage to personally educating customers in an offline environment. 
  12. Product development and pre-launches. What’s the best way of determining whether or not a product will sell? How can you attract the right kind of customer feedback to help improve products? Pop-ups can support product development and can help you gauge the market reaction to new launches. 
  13. Video testimonials. Use this opportunity to film the good things your customers will be saying about your brand. Handing out a glass of champagne prior to filming works wonders. Use the video on your website to add depth, trust and credibility. 
  14. Test the multichannel-flavoured water. In the next decade I reckon we’ll see lots more online brands open up high street / offline stores. Launching a pop-up store is effectively placing your big toe into the water to see how warm it is. 

Hope that makes some kind of sense. I’d love to hear from you if you launch a store, or have one in the offing, and whether or not they’re a good investment.