Why you should give pop-up shops (the Snapchat of retail) a go

A growing trend in the past few years has been that of the pop-up store. It often appears out of nowhere on our high streets and in shopping malls before vanishing into the ether.  Historically, pop-up stores have been deployed by artists and designers, who create temporary boutiques and galleries, but of late it has also been used by big name brands.

Pop-up shops are the Snapchat of retail.

Most of their magic comes from its temporary and “get-it-while-it-lasts” nature. Not only can the location of a pop-up vary, but brands use them for a wide array of purposes – from creating an unforgettable and branded experience for consumers that generate buzz and brand awareness, to quickly testing and experimenting in what used to be costly retail waters.

Here are seven reasons why every brand – retail or e-commerce or otherwise should give pop-up shops a “go”:

1. Awareness to engagement to sales – all under one roof:

Pop-ups can generate awareness not just from the traffic that comes in. By interacting with shoppers face-to-face, encouraging them to talk and post about it on their Social Media timelines – one can create heaps of contextual awareness and buzz. It’s the nature of the beast: the fact that pop-up stores are here today and (possibly) gone tomorrow means that there’s a short window of opportunity for people to talk about what you’re doing and drive a sense of marketing urgency – be it offer/promotion/limited edition whatever drives the Sale.

2. Educate and engage:

Maybe you’ve got a crazy new invention that hasn’t made it over into the mass consumer subconscious yet. Well guess what, even if you’re just looking to drive pre-orders, giving your potential customers a live demo or walking them through how your product works, is a great way to get through to those early adopters. It is especially relevant for consumer durables, gadgets and devices or even a gourmet food product that once tried; leading to immediate sale. Pop-ups are a great way to demonstrate the value of your product and get people hooked right from the get-go.

3. Test and pilot: New product or revenue stream:

In the good old days, companies used to do STM or a restricted-city launch to test out a new line extension or product. With an integrated O2O campaign, you can pretty much achieve what a STM would give you – at a fraction of the resource intensity. Pop-ups can support product development and can help gauge the market reaction to new launches.  The face-to-face interaction with shoppers will also provide valuable intel and feedback to understand what makes it work (and what doesn’t).

Not only that, if you are in the e-commerce space, a pop-up store can be a smart way to explore adding an additional revenue stream to your existing e-commerce business. The reason being that it doesn’t cost nearly as much as going all in when you get started with temporary retail, and secondly if you happen to be in the right place at the right time, you could rake in significant profits for your business minus the traditional risk retailers incur.

4. Thank you ‘Mr. Customer’:

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 are useful for your pre-launch marketing efforts. Your customers will love you for it, thank you for it and talk about it proactively on their own timelines, giving you valued word of mouth. Take it one step further – you can this opportunity to film the good things your customers say about your brand and use this on your social digital assets to add depth, trust and credibility – a much sought after KPI in today’s context.

5. Tap into “Mass-clusivity” and create a “Get-it-while-it-lasts” urgency:

There’s something about scarcity that causes people to take action. Cialdini’s principles of scarcity confirms this, Thus, when people walk into a pop-up store, the thought that the items won’t be around for long causes consumers to be more willing to purchase something on the spot. This would work twice as well if what you’re selling in your pop-up store is nowhere else to be found and is an exclusive promotion for whatever time period you’ll be there.

Exclusivity and scaricity together can make for a very potent offer compelling shoppers to purchase.

6. Low cost of rent:

There is no denying that pop-up stores have the financial edge in the competitive retail market place as the overheads can be incredibly low. Empty shops on the high street are not good for the community, the landlord or the mall operator.

However, pop-up stores are not just a rent a shop for three months. Many shop owners and brands are realising that renting a small amount of space (shop-in-shop) is a great way of increasing foot fall and impact on its brand. Choosing in store partners wisely, with products that compliment its own, and in a similar price is a great way of sharing the rent for a while too. Pop-up retail can initiate a great new avenue about creating partnerships with like-minded brands that are not direct competitors.

7. Go to where your customers are:

The other benefit of a pop-up store versus investing in a long-term physical retail space is that you are free to go where the wind takes you – I mean, where your customers happen to be perusing. The benefit of being able to select a certain side street, kiosk, or vacant gallery space is that you can match your wares with the personality of a given demographic and go to where they go. You can even chose to operate on weekends only or weekdays only whatever gives you more “bang for the buck”.

Regardless of whether you are considering your first pop-up or have done a few before – pop-up retail is here to stay and is a very lucrative business proposition. Time to make the most of it.

The writer is Mahesh Neelakantan, CEO Newton TAC Malaysia and strategic investor in Newton Lanka.

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