Pop-Up Shops: What You Need to Know

By Andreas Rivera
Business.com / Branding / Last Modified: January 8, 2018
Photo credit: Shutterstock

If done right, pop-ups can be a powerful marketing tool to drive interest and have folks talking about your brand both online and offline.

Pop-up shops, as a marketing trend, are becoming more popular. Onlookers are drawn in by the seemingly instantaneous appearance of a new store in their town, usually helped by an intriguing and unique appearance. These stores are meant to be temporary, lasting between months or days.

Why create a pop-up store?

There are numerous reasons to start a pop-up shop. One of the trendier reasons is for marketing purposes. You may want to open a temporary location to market a brand new product. Many pop-ups are tailored to showing off and selling the idea of a new item as part of a greater marketing campaign. Rather than just announcing a product through advertisements, pop-ups give customers a hands-on look at it and maybe the chance to be the first ones to own it.

Pop-ups can be an opportunity to just market the brand itself. Restaurants looking to expand can test how well they'd do in certain areas by opening temporary cafes and diners. Online-only retailers can physically interact with customers and direct them to their internet presence for more of what they offer.

Another reason to open a pop-up is to unload inventory. Renting a temporary space to sell old, outdated inventory to make room for new merchandise can be a fast way to clear out your warehouse and recover some profit from unsold items. If marketed properly, a physical clearance sale shop can result in old inventory being sold off quickly while also promoting your business.

Pop-up shop considerations

Several factors will ultimately determine if your pop-up shop will be successful or not. The when, where, why and how of your pop-up are important things you need to consider.

Time  

When you open your pop-up shop is important and could make or break the success of the project. A good time to start may likely depend on what you are selling. For instance, one of the most common pop-ups that you'll see in June, leading up to July 4, are firework stands. It wouldn't make much sense to open a firework stand when there aren't any upcoming holidays that use fireworks. Similarly, there's little point in opening a winter clothing clearance shop in the middle of summer.

The warmer seasons are optimal for most pop-up stores since you're likely to get more foot traffic. However, you should also consider the holiday season in November and December, if your product would make a good gift. Also, consider planning your pop-up around other large events, like festivals when you know there will more people in town.

Plan ahead and plan early. Decide how long your store will be open – how much are you willing to spend and how long will your inventory last? With a timeframe in mind, set a budget for the shop. The earlier you begin planning, the easier it will be to find a prime location for the shop and hash out the other expenses and planning for the shop.

Location

Just as vital as choosing the right time, the location will play a part in your pop-up's success. You'll want a space where there's lots of foot traffic and where you'll get noticed. Consider the demographic you're after – where are they likely to be shopping? Once again, it's important to stress that you need to plan early so you can find a good space.

Vacant retail spaces are available most everywhere, and there are plenty willing to accept a short-term lease. Such sites as Storefront and Vacant help you search for spaces that are pop-up friendly.

Consider sharing a space with another retailer, setting up a store within a store to drive more traffic and interest for both businesses while helping cover the rent. A mall is also an option, but be sure it's one that still gets lots of shoppers.

If you're willing to think outside the box, then you get really creative with your location by providing your own structure. Tote your pop-up wherever you go with a mobile shop. Trendier pop-up options are steel shipping containers that have been recycled and customized to become a mobile retail space. Popshopolis and Steel Space can rent out and help customize your shipping container pop-up shop.

Get creative

Creative decisions, such as steel shipping container shops, will make your pop-up project a success. Since your shop is only temporary, you'll need to immediately grab people's attention. The sudden appearance of a new store in town won't instantly draw interest. Get creative and turn your pop-up shop into a can't-miss event.

Entice customers using the five senses of sight, sound, scent, taste and touch, centering it on your brand and creating a hard-to-forget experience. Employ technology to make your shop modern and chic. Sight and sound can be provided with monitors and a speaker system like plenty of other shops, but go above and beyond giving both your storefront and interior a unique atmosphere and style. Let shoppers know how your brand is visually represented.

Don't forget the other senses as well. Install fragrance dispensers to fill your pop-up with pleasant scents. Your women's fashion boutique should smell of perfume, and your holiday candy stand should smell of peppermint and chocolates. Food can also be a big draw for people, with free samples and other culinary offerings at the ready, even if your business isn't in food. If you're selling athletic wear, for example, why not also have free energy bars on hand?  

Marketing agency Slice opened a pop-up restaurant for frozen food maker Birds Eye. Patrons were treated to a meal for the price of posting a photo of their food onto Instagram.

One advantage of a pop-up shop, especially if you're an online-only business, is that you can allow potential customers some hands-on time with your product (which addresses touch). If you're in electronics or home appliances, have stations where customers can view the product and presenters can show it off and answer questions.

The online service Birchbox, which ships boxes of different beauty products, held tours to give customers an up-close look at the merchandise they offered, according to Racked Los Angeles.

Creating a memorable experience will increase word-of-mouth to attract even more people. Use social media to your advantage by aggressively detailing what's going on at your pop-up with pictures and videos.  

Logistics

Getting creative with time, location and marketing can be the fun part, but don't forget about the important logistics behind running your pop-up. Along with getting a solid lease, you'll need insurance and the proper permits to do business in the city or state you're in. Do you have current employees who can run the shop? Would you consider hiring temporary employees to run it?

Of course, you'll need a POS system if you're selling merchandise. Mobile POS systems such as Square and ShopKeep can be useful on a temporary basis, and require very little hardware and setup.

Summary

Pop-up shops have the potential to not only bring you profit but more customers. If done right, pop-ups can be a powerful marketing tool to drive interest and have folks talking about your brand both online and offline.

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