How to Create a Retail Pop-Up That Wows

How to Create a Retail Pop-Up That Wows
Thinking about trying out a pop-up version of your business? Check out this guide.
by Meredith Galante Mar 27, 2019 — 4 min read
How to Create a Retail Pop-Up That Wows

If you’re an online-only retailer, or a business looking for a new revenue stream in a new location, investing in a retail pop-up concept store is a great way to engage new customers.

What is a retail pop up?

A retail pop-up is a temporary brick-and-mortar store, often operated by an online retailer. Usually pop-ups are in high-traffic areas and stay open anywhere from three days to three months.

Pop-up stores attract passersby with interesting design elements and an engaging look. The limited-time-only aspect can encourage customers to visit sooner since they know it’s a fleeting opportunity. And a location in the middle of a busy city center can help a retailer engage potential customers that it couldn’t reach online.

Here’s why pop-ups are important to retailers

The pop-up concept is a great tool for retailers because it offers flexibility while testing a new revenue stream. Especially for online-only brands, it can be a great segue into seeing if a brick-and-mortar store would perform well, without the risk of a long-term retail lease.

In 2016, pop-up store business was valued at $50 billion, according to Small Biz Trends. This may come as a surprise, but more than 90 percent of purchases are still made offline, and you want a portion of those sales.

Pop-ups allow online-only retailers to do market research on their higher-priced items that some shoppers prefer to touch. A recent study from ReadyCloud showed that 88 percent of customers research a product online before purchasing it in a store. This is also known as “webrooming.”

The same study showed that 68 percent of shoppers want to experience the product in person and 41 percent want to ask a sales associate a question. So make sure to train sales associates properly, even if the pop-up is just for a few days, to help improve customers’ shopping experience.

A pop-up lets you go where your customers are, generate brand awareness with a store sign, and educate new customers about your brand.

However, there are some cons to be aware of. Planning ahead is key. Pop-up spaces can often be hard to secure because they’re popular and located in places with heavy foot traffic.

The size of your retail pop-up location also determines how much stock you can display, so choose your items carefully.

Planning a successful retail pop-up

If you’d like to try a pop-up store for your brand, start by planning ahead and reflecting on your goals.

First you want to identify the type of customer your pop-up retail store is aiming to reach, and consider how this affects the space you plan to rent. For example, if Dick’s Sporting Goods has a pop-up space, but you’re a makeup brand, you might want to consider if that’s the best fit.

All of this is part of creating a location strategy: real estate is everything for pop-ups. Some landlords don’t like short-term leases, so space can be hard to secure. The popular pop-up spaces might already be taken, so do your research on the most successful ones and try to plan ahead to get a date that works for you. You can look for a spot to host your pop-up in other stores, at kiosks, or even in venues like hotels.

Next, create a marketing strategy. Think about how to get the word out. If the store is on street level, a strong sign helps draw in passersby. But you also want to email your current customers to let them know about the special event.

Next, consider reaching out to local influencers and asking them to stop by the store to help build social media buzz about your pop-up.

You also want to consider if you’re going to have any promotions that attract loyal and new customers. Sixty-one percent of shoppers listed wanting to purchase a seasonal item as a reason to visit a pop-up, according to Pop Up Republic. A holiday sale can be a strong attractor for new customers.

To ensure a smooth pop-up experience, invest in a technology system that can handle your payments and help manage your inventory. Switching your POS system to a solution that offers multiple products, including mobile solutions, can make it painless to handle payments on the go or in-store so that you never miss a step. 

5 brands that have had great pop-up success

The pop-up concept is hardly new at this point, and many retailers have had a booming success.

1. Warby Parker

Warby Parker, the eyeglass company that offers high-quality products at a lower price, took the pop-up concept on the road. It wanted to go where its customers were, which was across the country. Warby Parker repurposed a school bus and took a “class trip” to select cities to let shoppers try their trendy glasses on in person.

2. Bark Shop Live

Better known for its subscription-based Bark Box, Bark & Co. hosted a pop-up store in Manhattan to allow dogs and their owners to try out squeaky toys in person. Dogs wore vests that tracked which toys they played with the most. From Bark Box’s app, owners could see which toy their pup liked and purchase it.

3. Nike

You might already be familiar with shopping for Nike products in its stores or other sporting goods retailers. But when Nike launched its Nike iD Air Max, it created a pop-up in Hong Kong to allow shoppers to customize their shoes in a colorful and interactive environment.

4. Dagne Dover

Dagne Dover started its brand online with a women’s purse that had a compartment for everything — your iPad, workout shoes, water bottle, keys, and umbrella. The price tag of the average tote was well above $250, making it a luxury buy for most. To help potential new customers engage with the product and see just how much could really fit in the bag, Dagne opened a pop-up in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood to let customers interact with the product before purchasing.

5. sells well-known prints online, as its name suggests. To help build brand awareness and let customers gaze at Picassos in person, it opened a pop-up in San Francisco to take advantage of sales from foot traffic.

Meredith Galante
Meredith Galante is a freelancer writer based in New York City. She's been writing for Square since 2017 where she's covered everything from the best software for restaurants to use to maximize profit, minimum wage laws across the country, and tips for entrepreneurs to maximize their impact.


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