by Nick Bendiak, Retail Account Director
It’s easy to see why pop-up shops are all the rage these days. Short-term, retail spaces and engagements (such as the one we did for Amazon above) generally require much less investment than traditional brick and mortar. And the costs of online customer acquisition continue to climb — so pop-ups let companies reach new customers without having to pay through the nose for every click. And then there’s the inherent buzz and coolness associated with a pop-up. The here-today-gone-tomorrow nature of this kind of space can go a long way in reaching emerging customer demographics.
So what’s an established brand — with a well-established retail channel — to do? In short, learn, borrow, and/or steal everything you can from your pop-up brethren. And leave the rest.
1. Play to the strengths of physical retail
Once customers have ventured into a traditional retail space for the first time, they more or less know what they should expect from the space — the kind of merchandise on display, the playlist of appropriate music, type of seasonally refreshed POP and decor, and, well, that’s kind of it. And that’s where so many traditional retailers drop the ball.
Under such circumstances, unless you have the exact item that your customer wants in stock and at a price that’s better than online retailers, you’re not giving your customer much of a reason to return. Which means learning to leverage the strengths of the physical.
This is where many pop-ups seem to have cracked the code. The experience economy is real; a 2017 report from McKinsey found that spending on experiences has grown almost 4 times faster than expenditures on goods. Successful pop-ups make their money by providing customers with novel experiences. Host an event. Give your customers an opportunity to engage. Take a risk. Just don’t be stale.
Recommendation: create a bridge between your physical retail environment and your customers’ desire for experience — it will help grow your brand’s bottom line.
2. Test and refresh
It’s no secret that many established brands have struggled to adapt to the new rate of change. Small, nimble companies can pivot on a dime to keep up with shifting customer expectations. Well-established Goliaths (such as Nike) are having to take steps to make their supply chains more responsive.
What is true for product development cycles can also be said for retailers. Pop-ups can adapt quickly, try new things, and deliver brand new experiences to customers in a way that most brick and mortar can only dream of. Meanwhile, traditional retailers that follow the formulaic patterns of yesteryear are shuttering their doors.
Recommendation: Iterate, test, repeat. It will allow you to adapt to your customers’ preferences and help you be in touch with their tastes and desires.
3. Create brand touchpoints
Many of the companies behind the recent wave of pop-ups share a similar genesis: they were launched (and grown) as purely digital brands. Customers can buy products with one or two taps pretty much anywhere in the world. The fact that many of these companies are beginning to foray into the physical realm speaks volumes to the importance of creating a well-rounded brand that offers multiple kinds of experiences and touchpoints.
Customers (Especially younger millennials and Gen Z) want to have human, physical relationships with brands. Chatbots are not a perfect replacement for knowledgeable, face-to-face sales associates, and looking at (or interacting with!) 360 degree images of products is not the same thing as touching them in real life. That’s not to say that the importance of digital is going to wane any time soon. Ecommerce continues to gain traction and we are more addicted to our digital devices than ever.
Rather, physical pop-up shops are being leveraged to create interactive, experiential brand touchpoints that strengthen brand perception and create loyal customers. Retail spaces are no just a sales channel — they need to be viewed as another place where customers can engage and experience the vitality of a living, breathing brand. Retail should fuel online — and vice versa. Regardless of where a customer ends up buying, a good retail experience will strengthen your brand — and it today’s brandosphere, that’s almost just as important.
Recommendation: Don’t just aim to create a physical space where customers can buy your products — aim to create a compelling, consistent brand touchpoints.