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 as 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 stores.

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 flea 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. Flea markets like New York’s Brooklyn Flea tend to attract a relaxed crowd (it’s the weekend, after all) 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 or the weekend, so you don’t have to sign up for a long-term commitment.

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Partner with a like-minded business

Think about your customers and the other stores 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 store. For example, Madewell stores nationwide host in-store pop-ups with brands like French Girl, Milk Bar, and Settle Ceramics.

Put your pop-up on wheels

Looking for a novel venue? Instead of renting a storefront, try a mobile option (like, literally mobile). A vintage Airstream trailer, repurposed food truck, or even a tricked-out van make for an irresistibly unexpected shopping experience, plus you can hit up several neighborhoods, cities, or even states during the run of your pop-up.

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 Kendrick Lamar has gotten in on pop-ups, hosting a series of one-day events around the country in support of his new album and merch.

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.

Think beyond the traditional pop-up

When you think of a pop-up, you probably think of product-based businesses, like boutiques selling clothing, jewelry, home decor items, etc. But pop-ups are also a fun option for everything from exercise studios to spas. BeHive, an alternative health center in Los Angeles, recently hosted a Mini Retreat Meditation pop-up. 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 store? 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.

If you’re hosting an exclusive event, use your email marketing software to determine your most frequent, highest-spend customers, and then message them with an invite to the pop-up. An invite-only event is also a good opportunity to reach out to customers who haven’t shopped in a while.

For longer-term pop-ups, social media is a powerful tool, so do your best to maximize appeal by making your pop-up as Instagrammable as possible. Think over-the-top wall decor, art installations, crazy food and drink creations, etc. Create designated hashtags for visitors to add to their posts (and hopefully induce a little FOMO in their followers). Give social media followers 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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