Expand Your Brand’s Reach with These Pop-Up Shop Ideas

kayne west's pablo pop up in chicago

Once a go-to marketing strategy for hip indie brands, pop-up shops are now decidedly mainstream. But even if pop-ups have lost some of their street cred, they haven’t lost their effectiveness. Pop-up shops are tried-and-true methods of raising brand awareness, boosting sales and testing the market for permanent brick-and-mortar shops.

There’s not just one type of pop-up, so part of the fun is experimenting with locations, spaces and concepts to find the right fit for your brand. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Go the street market route

When you’re trying to launch a new business or expand into the offline world, it helps to go to a place with guaranteed foot traffic, like a weekend flea market. Street markets like London’s world famous Camden tend to attract a relaxed crowd that’s open to discovering new vendors, making them ideal spaces to introduce your company and get to know potential customers. Plus, you can often rent a space by the day, so you don’t have to sign up for a long-term commitment.

Partner with a like-minded business

Think about your customers and the other shops where they shop. Are there any natural partnership opportunities there? Team up with a similar type of business (but not a competitor) and open a short-term, shop-within-a-shop within its brick-and-mortar shop. For example, Harrods often hosts pop-ups for new high-end brands or current brand collaborations – while a spot in the UK’s premier department shop isn’t the most realistic of goals when starting out, it’s a good example of how your target market can dictate your location. If you sell ceramics, for example, approach a local cake shop and follow the lead of Square seller Albatross Café, who serve cake on pretty dishes that customers can buy.

Put your pop-up on wheels

Looking for a novel venue? Instead of renting a shopfront, try a mobile option (as in, get yourself on the move). A vintage Airstream trailer, repurposed food truck or even a dolled-up van make for an irresistibly unexpected shopping experience and this gives you the freedom of bringing your brand to multiple towns and cities, all you need to do is lock up the back, get in gear and head off.

Make it a limited-time engagement

Part of a pop-up’s appeal is the sense of urgency created by its short-term nature. But when a pop-up lasts weeks or even months, that urgency dissipates. Instead, try motivating shoppers to visit ASAP with a one-night or one-weekend-only event. Even rapper Kanye West opened his own pop-up shops in multiple cities including London and Amsterdam. The exclusivity of the whole thing inspired people to buy, or at least inspired Kanye to claim $1 million of merchandise had been purchased in 2 days from just one of the pop-up locations alone – a twitter performance that, in its own Kanye way, boosted interest and engagement with the pop-up effort.

Team up with a local animal shelter

What makes shopping more fun? Shopping amongst adorable dogs and cats. Join forces with a local shelter to put on an event at which shoppers can peruse your merchandise while meeting with adoptable pets. To sweeten the deal, pledge to donate a percentage of your event sales to the shelter. Work with the shelter to cross-promote the event on each other’s social media accounts. A London pug café was so popular it became a permanent fixture

Think beyond the traditional pop-up

When you think of a pop-up, you probably think of product-based businesses, like boutiques selling clothing, jewellery, home decor items, etc. But pop-ups are also a fun option for everything from exercise studios to spas. Nuclear Winter and Kino Vino joined up to offer a culinary journey through the soviet union to London foodies, the unique theme and rarely explored cuisine got people through the door. So keep in mind that pop-ups can be just as successful when offering experiences or services.

To settle on a concept, think long and hard about your goal. Is it to raise brand awareness? Drive sales to your eCommerce site? Test the waters for a possible permanent brick-and-mortar shop? Your goals should help you determine the venue, time frame and concept for your pop-up.

How to market your pop-up

Once you’ve settled all the details (when, where and what your pop-up will look like), you need to make sure that people know about it. To get people in the door (so to speak, since your pop-up may not have one), you need to invest in marketing.

There are numerous marketing tools that you might use to promote your pop-up.

First and foremost, social media is a powerful tool, so do your best to maximise appeal by making your pop-up as Instagrammable as possible. Think over-the-top (or stylishly understated) wall decor, art installations, crazy food and drink creations, etc. Create designated hashtags for visitors to add to their posts (and hopefully inspire their followers to follow them right to your shop). Give your social media audience an exclusive preview and build excitement before your opening with a Facebook live sneak peek of your space.

Also, reach out to local blogs, TV news stations, newspapers and other media to invite them to visit — the more unique and experiential your pop-up is, the more likely you are to attract media coverage, and even more attention.

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