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Retail commerce | Marketing

Pop-Up Primer

image: young shoppers happily walking down a street while seeing something of interest across the road
Mall kiosks, festival stalls, mobile vans, and pop-up shops can give brands a physical presence for selling goods, testing products, or increasing awareness

Pop-up stores, which give a temporary physical presence to brands that don't usually have one (or don't have one in that particular locale), may seem like a modern phenomenon. The general concept, however, is far from new. When a utility company or a charity sets up a stall at a fair, it's in effect operating a pop-up shop. The same goes for a gifts merchant that sells its wares at a mall kiosk during the holiday season only.





First, why create a pop-up?

To make a success of your pop-up store—or kiosk, stall, truck, or stand—you first need to determine its primary goal. In their white paper "Pop-Up Stores: Conquering a New Frontier of Brand Expression," real estate investment company Klepierre and market research firm QualiQuanti list several key purposes for pop-ups:


to launch a product or brand

to test a market, a location, or a product

to meet customers

to strengthen your brand presence during a specific season

to educate consumers about your brand or your products, especially if you are an online-only merchant

to create buzz

to take advantage of an event that is attracting attention and traffic

to sell product


Obviously if you plan to sell merchandise, your needs are different than if your aim is to create brand awareness. Your goals influence the locale you choose, the equipment you need, the staff you require, and the way in which you promote the pop-up.


Among the potential sites of pop-up shops are

shopping centers and malls. These can range from a stall in the car park to a kiosk in a mall walkway to an actual storefront leased for a month or a season. These are generally best when selling product or testing a bricks-and-mortar presence is the goal.

stores within stores. Your pop-op shop can benefit from the credibility and halo effect of the store in which you're located.

public spaces such as parks and squares, as well as transportation hubs such as train stations. These can provide exceptional foot traffic—important if you're testing a new product or if your brand has mass appeal. If you sell a niche product, though, it's not necessarily your best choice.

fairs, festivals, and trade shows. These can enable you to home in on a more targeted, prequalified audience. For instance, if you sell flooring, you can choose from numerous home shows; if you specialise in toys and books for kids, consider a presence at family-friendly events.



Keys to success

Creating a successful pop-up shop requires investments of time, money, and manpower. To ensure that your investment pays off, keep the following in mind:


Draw up a detailed budget first. Especially if you don't already have a bricks-and-mortar presence, you might be surprised by some of the items you need to budget for. Ecommerce software provider Shopify cites the following line items to include:




internet access

point-of-sale equipment and checkout counter

credit-card fees

furniture, merchandising fixtures, and lighting

paint, decor, and props


marketing and promotion—not just prior to the event but for the pop-up itself, such as catalogues and giveaways

food and drink



Not every pop-up requires all of the above: If you're not planning to sell product, for instance, you don't need to worry about POS gear; if your "shop" is actually a tricked-out truck, you don't have to worry about furniture.


Pick your locale with your audience in mind. We touched on this above, but it bears repeating. Let's say you sell high-end handcrafted ceramics. A kiosk at a mall might benefit from more foot traffic than a stall at a crafts fair—but a far higher percentage of the fair attendees will probably be interested in your wares than of the mall shoppers (especially if those shoppers are primarily teens and less-affluent consumers).


Make the entertainment factor a priority. This is especially important if your shop is one of many at a fair, a trade show, or some other sort of special event. People attend fairs and festivals to be entertained; they attend trade shows to be educated. Attendees at the former are out for a fun time, while attendees at the latter appreciate anything that breaks the tedium of what is often a hectic grind. And at any and all venues you need your presence to stand out. Samples (including food, even if you aren't a food seller; there's a reason so many trade-show booths give away candy!), product demos, fashion shows, contests, music, live entertainment (from jugglers to face painters)—these all add a sense of fun and interactivity to your offering.


Educate your staff. Both employees and any temp workers you may hire—to hand out samples, for instance—need to be educated not just on their duties for the day but also on your company and your products. Launching a food product? Your workers need to know the ingredients and how it's made. Demoing equipment? Staff had best know the ins and outs of the gear. Operating an on-site photo booth so that visitors can instantly upload pictures onto their Instagram and Snapchat feeds? More than one person had better know how it works.


Promote your pop-up. Of course you're going to tout it via your website and social media channels, but you want to go beyond the audience that already knows you. So send out press releases to local media—not just media in your locality but also to those that cover the area where your pop-up presence will be. If your shop will be at a festival or other event, contact the management of the gathering to see how you can be included in its marketing collateral. And don't forget to reach out to specialty blogs and social media feeds, such as the Facebook page of the town where your pop-up will be.


Give visitors a souvenir. It can be a brochure, a catalogue, a balloon, a magnet, a photo, a product spec sheet—but providing attendees with a tangible reminder of their visit will only reinforce your brand in their mind. And make sure the souvenir includes your URL, phone number, logo, and any other pertinent information.


Collect information from visitors, and follow up afterward. Whether you have attendees write their name and address in a visitors' book or drop their business card into a fishbowl or have a staffer input attendees' email addresses into a tablet, gather contact information from as many people as possible. Then take advantage of the information and stay in touch: Send an email thanking them for stopping by, with perhaps a discount toward a purchase from your website; send them a catalogue or coupon in the post. Don't forget to track the response from these attendees so that you can determine the cost-effectiveness of the pop-up.


author: Sherry Chiger

Sherry Chiger

The editorial director of Your Commerce, Sherry Chiger is an award-winning writer and editor. She was formerly editorial director of Multichannel Merchant and Catalogue e-business magazines.


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