Roundtable Discussion: Pop-Up Stores
6 minute read
- Pop-up stores allow consumers the opportunity to interact with a brand outside of a grocery store or traditional retail environment, providing fewer restrictions on the brand.
- Although pop-up stores exist for a limited time, marketers can ensure that their impact extends beyond the life of the activation.
- The distinction between pop-up stores and permanent retail locations can be difficult for consumers, potentially leading to negative brand perceptions following the sudden disappearance of a pop-up.
Pop-up stores come in many shapes and sizes, from standalone kiosks, to refurbished shipping containers, to rental store-front spaces. However, all pop-up shops have one thing in common – they are temporary. Pop-ups offer consumers a chance to get up close and personal and experience products in an immersive setting. Whether open for a few days, or just for a few hours, pop-ups help build brand awareness, reach a new audience, and create a live experience with a product without a permanent physical presence. According to PopUp Republic, the pop-up industry has grown to approximately $10 billion in sales. While pop-up stores are available for a limited time, the trend of major brands leveraging pop-ups is here to stay.
The following is a transcribed discussion between MKTG’s Matt Klar, Brandon Mazerall, Theresa Boisvert, and Geoff Biss.
Why do you think pop-up stores have become popular amongst marketers?
What I like about pop-up stores is that they are as creative as the people and brands behind them. They are not restricted to a permanent physical space, and as a result, there is no limit to the creativity. In a lot of ways, pop-up activations have become a form of art.
Do you have any favourite pop-up activations?
I think a brand who does pop-up activations really well is Haagen-Dazs. For something as simple as customizing your Haagen-Dazs bar, they create a lot of hype and demand around their pop-up stores. Haagen-Dazs recently had hosted a pop-up in Toronto that was different. At night, the pop-up store became a 19+ bar, where they served ice cream pairings with different cocktails. Haagen-Dazs is a brand that keeps changing and redefining what they do with their pop-up stores.
I think another category that does pop-up really well is alcohol brands. A lot of alcohol brands are really good at selecting the placement of their pop-up activation. They will select unique areas where people can engage with their product. Heineken opened its BrewLock Pour Lounge pop-up on King Street West. I think drinking in a unique or trendy spot is a draw for a lot of people.
If you’re a packaged goods or alcohol brand, you are in a lot of ways reliant on a retail environment that you don’t control. In many cases, these brands are limited to an end-of-aisle display. You have less flexibility when it comes to creating a unique activation in-store, so pop-ups offer an opportunity to build your bricks and mortar presence outside those restrictions. Nespresso launched a pop-up coffee shop in Toronto this summer to promote its new line of Nescafé's Sweet & Creamy Sachets. The brand was seeking to create a coffee shop experience without high prices or complicated menu, to prove the affordability and simplicity of its product. If you’re Nespresso, creating their own retail experience was a highly effective way to do this.
One potential challenge for these types of activations is that they exist for a short time. How do marketers make sure the impact of the pop-up extends beyond the life of the activation?
Pop-ups have to live on digitally or through media awareness beyond the activation itself. Even though pop-up stores are open to the public, they are temporary. They are exclusive in that there is a limited window of time to see it. The experience has to be something that is highly shareable on social media or attracts media to the pop-up location for it to live beyond the activation.
Retail brands have to be careful when they create standalone pop-up experiences outside their stores to make sure that the experience is not so unique that it deviates from their offering at permanent stores. While pop-ups aim to do something special and differentiated, you may create an expectation that every engagement with your brand looks and feels like that, leading to a set-down effect. I think retail pop-ups are effective when they unveil a new strategy or tease a new store concept that is carried out beyond the activation. Even though pop-ups are temporary, they need to still link back to the brand’s core attributes.
A brand that has done a good job tying pop-up activations back to a more permanent product offering was Tim Hortons. Their Perfectly Uncomplicated Latte pop-up activation was a way for the brand to associate Tim Hortons with lattes, while still maintaining its simple, easy, trouble-free brand attributes. As soon as the pop-up activation ended, the latte was available in-stores.
Do you think we will ever grow tired or de-sensitized to pop-up stores? What do marketers need to keep in mind moving forward?
I don’t think so. As long as pop-ups remain unique, and offer an immersive experience, people will want to continue engaging with brands that leverage them.
Brands who continuously activate through pop-up stores need to change the experience, and not rely on what they’ve done before, in order to keep it fresh and interesting.
As more and more pop-up shops appear in shopping districts and neighborhoods, I find it becomes increasingly difficult to understand what is a new, permanent retailer, and what is a temporary pop-up shop. If I’m a permanent retailer who is opening a new retail store, I might want to be mindful of the pop-up trend and be very clear in my communications. Likewise, if you’re a pop-up marketer, you need to be clear of the start and end dates, making sure consumers know there is urgency and limited time to engage with the activation. Sometimes I’ll see shops come and go, and it won’t even occur to me that they were a pop-up until afterward.
The distinction between a pop-up activation and a permanent store can be difficult for consumers. Marketers need to be careful of that. Consumers can associate the sudden disappearance of a pop-up with an unsuccessful business, creating a negative perception of the brand. I’ve seen pop-up stores that have left their branding up in the storefront window even after the activation is over. As a marketer, I would never leave brand signage lying around after a live event. I would never do that, so why is it acceptable for pop-up shops? Marketers need to be mindful and attentive to these details.