We won’t try to bat you on the head with the whole “retail is not dead” narrative. After all, it’s been proven time and time again that physical stores are alive and well, and people still love visiting brick-and-mortar shops.
Clearly, there is a ton of value in having a branded physical space — and online companies are increasingly taking note. Online-first companies such as Warby Parker, Away, and Bonobos have decided to set up shop offline and are continuing to expand.
That being said, if you’re a small or medium business, setting up a full-fledged brick-and-mortar store may not be feasible, particularly if you’re on a budget or if you’re unsure of how to implement a brick-and-mortar strategy.
And this is where pop-up stores can be useful. When done right, a pop-up shop can boost your real world cred, help you connect with existing customers, and allow you to get in front of new customers.
Also, since pop-ups are temporary, they’re more cost effective to set up and carry less risk compared to permanent storefronts.
This post will walk you through the ins and outs of pop-up stores. In the following paragraphs, you’ll learn everything from how to budget for your pop-up, to how to market it, and how to measure results. You’ll also see some excellent examples of other brands that have successfully launched pop-up stores.
Let’s get started.
A pop-up shop is a temporary store set up by a brand (usually an ecommerce company but not always). There are several purposes for pop-ups. They include to:
Drive brand awareness,
Test a market or location,
Test a physical retail strategy, and
Engage with customers in a more in-depth way.
The duration of a pop-up store can vary, depending on its purpose and goal. Some pop-ups are only around for a few days, while others stay for two weeks or even months.
How much should you budget for your pop-up? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this, as your costs will depend on several factors, from the duration and size of your initiative to your shop’s location and the shopping experience you want to provide.
For instance, a simple pop-up booth in a mall or at an event could cost a couple thousand dollars. Andrew Pearson, the owner of Asia Yogies, says that their pop-up store at a high-end mall in Hong Kong cost them 20,000 HKD ($2,500 US) for four days.
But the case will be entirely different for large standalone stores in prime locations, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars, if not more.
Here are some of the things to think about when budgeting for your pop-up shop:
Real estate will be one of your biggest and most important expenses, so it’s something you should think about early on. The main factors that will affect your leasing costs are the size of the space and location that it’s in.
Think about how you want your store to be designed and built. How will you utilize the pop-up space? What activities are you planning to run? How do you want guests to feel?
Depending on your budget and resources, you can choose to answer these questions internally or hire a design/architecture firm to help.
Whatever the case, there will be costs involved, so budget your internal time and resources or get a quote from a third party who can help design your pop-up for you.
Once you have your concept mapped out, you need to bring it to life through your boutique’s fixtures and other design elements. Think: lighting, furniture, shelves, displays, and more.
Consider the fixtures you need and the quantities for each item, then calculate the costs. For example:
Lights…………………………………..$50 x 3
Branded window and wall decals…..$15 x 10
POP displays………………………….$500 x 1
Instagram wall……………..…….……$200 x 1
Next, iron out your staffing costs. How many employees should be in your store and for how long? Calculating this should be pretty straightforward. Simply list how many people you need in your location, along with the rates that you’re paying them and duration of their shifts. Then, do the math.
For instance, if you’re paying Amanda Sellmore a rate of $17 an hour and you’ll need her for three 8-hour days, then the cost of hiring Amanda will be $408. Now, do that for the rest of your pop-up’s staff and you’ll have a solid idea of how much to budget for your store’s staffing needs.
Next, you need to think about the costs associated with setting up, running, and maintaining your pop-up. These costs will vary, depending on the type of store you have and what your needs are, but generally speaking, you can expect the following costs:
Internet and phone line
Finally, you’ll need to budget for marketing costs. How will you get the word out? What channels will you use and how much are you willing to spend? The best way to figure all this out is to get organized. Determine the channels through which you want to market your business and list the budget for each one.
Facebook and Instagram ads………….$1,000
Are pop-up shops worth the investment? For many brands, they are. Let’s break down some of the benefits of setting up shop offline.
One of the downsides of running an online-only business is that you miss out on valuable facetime with shoppers. While communication channels like email, live chat, and social media have come a long way, nothing can replace real-life interactions with the people who are keeping you in business: your customers.
Research shows that consumers feel more connected to brands with physical shops. A survey by Google found 61% of respondents would prefer to shop from retailers with a brick-and-mortar location than with those who only operate online.
A pop-up store can bridge the physical-to-digital gap between retailers and their customers. By establishing a physical space, you’ll not only get the opportunity to converse with your shoppers, but you’ll see first hand exactly how they interact with your products and brand. That, in turn, can shed light on insights you can use in product development and business strategy.
To say that the ecommerce space is crowded would be an understatement. PipeCandy estimates that there are between 2–3 million ecommerce companies in the world, excluding China.
And with more and more companies selling online, it can be difficult to stand out. That’s why it may make sense to establish an offline presence through pop-ups. Having a physical space gives you real-world credibility. A pop-up shop also drives buzz and awareness and it puts you in front of people who may not have been aware of your brand.
Buzz and awareness are great, but we’ll do you one better: a pop-up store can also increase your revenue.
The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) found that offline shops create a halo effect around a brand that translates to higher sales.
According to the ICSC, when a customer spends $100 online and then visits the retailer’s physical location, that shopper will on average, spend $131 more. The boost is even higher when the customer buys offline first, with the total spend over a 15-day period amounting to $267.
If you’re already considering setting up a brick-and-mortar store but are on the fence about taking the plunge, a pop-up shop can provide a happy middle ground on which you can test offline selling.
You can set up a temporary storefront and, based on its performance, make an educated decision on whether or not brick-and-mortar retail is for you.
If you’re planning to expand to a new market — say you’re an East Coast brand looking to expand to the West Coast — then having a temporary pop-up will give you the data you need to determine if it’s worth having a presence in another region.
Now let’s talk about what you should look for in a pop-up store venue. It’s important to take your time with this step. You want to rent a space that accommodates your needs and positions your brand in the best possible way.
Here are some of the factors to consider when deciding on a pop-up shop venue.
First things first. Think about the type of store that you want to establish. Figuring this out starts with determining your objectives. Is your main goal to generate buzz? Get to know your audience at a deeper level? Do you want to drive sales? Getting clear on these things will determine the kind of store you need.
Let’s look at your options below. (Note that your store can be a combination of any of these pop-up types.)
If you want to have a store that sells products, then you must rent a property that can support that. Fortunately, most empty commercial spaces can easily be converted into a retail location. You just have to make sure that the space you choose is large enough for your products, shelves, racks, and other equipment you require.
If your objective isn’t to sell, but to provide an experience, then set your sights on spaces that have the capabilities to support immersive brand activations.
Figure out the kind of experience you want to create by listing the activities that you’ll hold in the store. What will guests be doing? What do you want them to see, hear, smell, and feel? Use the answers to these questions to guide your pop-up strategy.
Many brands incorporate events into their pop-up, and for good reason. Events like press previews, customer parties, classes, and speaking engagements are a great way to bring people together and showcase your brand story.
To that end, you should lease a space that has the room and equipment to support whatever event you’re planning to organize. If you’re inviting speakers, for instance, then you’ll need a space with the right audio-visual equipment. Serving food and drinks? You may want to look for something with a kitchen or a bar.
When the fashion e-tailer Showpo had its LA pop-up, the company held a launch party the night before. Showpo invited several influencers for a night of food, drinks… and lots of Instagrammable moments.
Whether or not we want to admit it, people like to judge things by their appearance. In the same way that readers judge a book by its cover, customers judge retail stores by their exteriors.
For this reason, you need to evaluate the external components and features of the properties you’re considering. Here are some of the things you should look at.
Signage: Does the space have enough room for your store signage? If you’re open at night, are you able to illuminate your sign so people can see it?
Overall look and feel: You want the space to jive well with your company theme and style. If you’re a modern brand, for example, then your pop-up should be in a contemporary-looking building. Going for a classic or rustic look? Then a traditional exterior might be a better option.
You should also look at the property’s state in terms of wear and tear. Shabby-looking buildings are a huge turn off, so make sure everything is in top shape (or at least have the option to upgrade the space’s exteriors if necessary).
Accessibility: People should be able to easily get to your store. If you know that most of your customers are driving, then choose a property with lots of parking. If you’re catering to cyclists or commuters, go for a space that’s conveniently accessible via public transport.
Now let’s move on to the inside of your store. Here are some of the interior pop-up shop factors to consider when looking at your space:
Square footage: You want a property that’s large enough for you to do your thing, but not too big that you end up paying for space you don’t use. The amount of space you require will depend on what you’re planning to do. If you’re selling lots of merchandise, see to it that you have adequate stock space. Holding an event? Get an estimate of how many guests will attend, and make sure the space can accommodate them.
Lighting: The shop’s lighting should showcase your items in the best possible… well, light. If the current ones aren’t a great fit, ask the property manager if you can install your own lighting.
Internet connectivity: It’s nearly impossible to function without internet connectivity these days, so you’ll need a space that’ll allow you to go online easily. If you’re planning to give your guests internet access, set up a separate network for them. For security reasons, it’s best to keep your store’s internal internet network (i.e., what you’re using to process sales) accessible only to staff to keep data secure.
A great idea for your pop-up? Check.
Adequate budget? Check.
A cool space that paves the way for amazing experiences? You’ve got that too.
The next step is to map out how you’re going to market your store. Here are a few ideas:
Identify the influencers that your customers follow as well as the reporters covering your industry, then offer them an exclusive preview of the store before opening day. This is an excellent way to generate buzz on the days leading up to your launch, which can ultimately lead to a higher turnout.
One brand that did a great job with influencer and media outreach is Daily Harvest. When the company set up shop in Los Angeles, it reached out to reporters and bloggers and invited them for a special “VIP Preview” of the space.
Note: unless you’re planning to cover travel expenses, only reach out to influencers and reporters who live locally. In addition to making your pitch more relevant, targeting local individuals increases the chances of them actually showing up.
Publish posts and stories in the days and weeks leading up to the launch of your pop-up. This will get your fans and followers excited.
Take a leaf out of Showpo’s playbook. To promote its pop-up, the company published several photos, videos, and stories on social media and even created a Facebook event inviting everyone to check out the store.
Get in touch with your existing customers so they’re aware that you’re planning to pop up in their city.
That’s what Shein did when it opened up a temporary store in San Francisco.
The company sent out an email to its subscribers, inviting them to swing by the shop.
The best way to determine if your pop-up was a success is to look at the data. The following metrics are a good place to start when evaluating the performance of your shop.
Sales are critical to success for just about any retail business. Be sure to track how much products you’ve sold in — and as a result of — your pop-up. To get a clearer picture of the sales you’ve generated, pull up reports according to the following parameters.
Sales per product / category: This helps you see which products or types of products resonated most with your audience, so you’ll know what to stock in the future.
Sales by date and time: Knowing when sales are occurring lets you figure out your store’s peak hours and downtimes, so you can optimize your staffing and operations.
Sales by customer: This will help you get to know your customers better and give you insights into their spending habits, product preferences, and price sensitivity. Your “sales by customer” report can also aid you in building shopper profiles, so you can personalize the customer experience.
Online sales in relevant zip codes: As mentioned earlier, physical retail stores can influence your online sales. It’s a good idea to measure the impact of your pop-up by looking at the online sales that you’ve generated from customers who live in the places where you have a physical presence.
For instance, if you launched a pop-up shop in New York, you can measure the impact of your store on ecommerce by looking at web traffic and sales from users in NYC and neighboring areas.
For obvious reasons, it’s important to track the amount of traffic you’ve attracted to your store. The number of visitors who’ve walked through your doors is a great indicator of how effective your marketing efforts are.
It’s fairly easy to measure foot traffic. There are plenty of people counters and sensors in the market that can automatically do this for you.
And if you want to go even deeper, take your foot traffic data and compare it with your pop-up store sales to figure out your conversion rate.
You should also look at your social media conversations and media mentions. These metrics can indicate how well your pop-up resonated with guests and whether or not the community deemed it as interesting and newsworthy.
If your brand name gets a decent amount of online searches, you can measure a lift in brand awareness by looking at search volume. Use tools like Google Search Console and Google Trends to see if more people were searching for your brand in the duration of your pop-up.
If you’ve made it this far, you should have a pretty good idea of what type of pop-up you’re going to launch. Still, it wouldn’t hurt to check out what other companies have done in the past.
We’ve mentioned some of these pop-ups earlier in this article, but this section provides a more detailed view of what these stores had to offer.
Check them out!
The online fashion retailer Showpo set up shop in Los Angeles in 2019. According to Showpo’s founder Jane Lu and the company’s brand manager, Rosalie Molloy, they decided to set up shop offline to engage their US customer base. And since LA is one of their top markets, they decided to start there.
“We wanted to build trust with our customers and establish a better connection with them, and we felt like a good way to do that through a pop-up,” commented Molloy.
“The store allows shoppers to come in to touch and feel the products, try on different sizes, and see the breadth of what we can offer as well as the diversity in our range. Beyond that, the shop also lets people come in and be part of the Showpo world for a day, an hour, or even just 15 minutes if they like.”
Beyond selling merchandise, Showpo also had a social media nook in-store, which gave guests plenty of photo opportunities.
“We know that this is how our girl likes to interact with brands,” said Molloy. “She wants to shop, have a picture in-store, try on an outfit and take a mirror selfie. So we’ve kind of incorporated those elements into the shop.”
Pop-ups can also be used to educate and empower. That was the goal of Stacks House, a pop-up museum that featured attractive and Instagrammable installations that aimed to educate guests (women, in particular) on financial literacy.
The rooms in the pop-up contained facts and stats as well as installations designed to help people learn more about their finances.
While Stacks House is an experience-first pop-up, it also had a retail component. Towards the end, guests could purchase books, tote bags, jewelry, and more.
Daily Harvest, the direct-to-consumer online brand that sells smoothies, soups, and more, launched a “Refueling Station” Pop-Up in Los Angeles in early 2019. The shop had several interesting offerings, including complimentary smoothies and bowls, an on-site nutritionist, a coin car ride, and Daily Harvest products for purchase.
Fashion designer Josie Natori celebrated her 40th anniversary by unveiling her debut ready-to-wear line at branded pop-ups in various Bloomingdale’s locations.
The stores, which were open for a little over a month, featured “a special capsule collection that epitomizes the Natori lifestyle hand-crafted in the Philippines.” It was a great initiative that allowed Natori to bring her products closer to her customers, while still maintaining an air of brand exclusivity, thanks to the fact that shoppers can only access the products at Bloomingdale’s stores.
In 2019, the online fashion retailer Shein ran a 3-day pop-up shop in San Francisco. The store featured the company’s summer collection and was stocked with a range of products that shoppers could try on.
Pop-Up Grocer, “a traveling pop-up grocery store,” made a stop in Venice, CA, in early 2020. The hip and colorful store showcased hundreds of products from some of the most innovative and natural brands.
Unlike a traditional grocery store, which typically carries a wide range of common brands that can be found in many households, Pop-Up Grocer carries a carefully curated mix of items from companies you may not have heard of (yet).
“We’re not here for the purpose of your weekly haul of milk, eggs and toilet paper,” founder Emily Schildt told the Los Angeles Daily News. “We want to introduce people to the newest and most interesting products.”
Beautifully designed, the store has several Instagrammable colorful displays to encourage people to share their experience.
But to unlock all these benefits, you need a solid plan and you need to execute it in a way that truly “pops.”
Start with a compelling vision for your store, budget the necessary resources, and find a space that brings your vision to life. And to ensure the success of your efforts, market your store to new and existing audiences and come up with cool ways to make their visit worthwhile.
Francesca Nicasio is the Content Marketing Manager at Vend Point of Sale. She looks after all things content at Vend and she’s constantly sharing insights to help retailers grow and succeed. When she’s not in front of the computer, you’ll find her curled up with a mystery novel or spending quality time with her family.