Chances are you’ve visited a pop-up store before. After all, who wouldn’t? It’s a well-decorated and unexpected place, with unexpected goods inside. It’s quite easy to become captivated.

If you’re a business owner or advertiser, you’ll at least have an idea of what a pop-up store looks like. You might’ve even considered starting your own. But do you truly know what that entails?

In this blog post, I’ll give you an in-depth rundown on what a pop-up store is, and how to create one that’ll stick in your customers’ minds forever. Most importantly, I’ll teach you how it all fits into the realm of outdoor marketing. 

Table of Contents:

  • What’s a Pop-Up Store?
  • Which Companies Use Pop Up Stores?
  • Uses in Outdoor Advertising
  • Finances
  • Success Rate
  • What it Takes to Open a Pop Up Store

What’s a Pop-Up Store?

So, what exactly is a pop-up store? This term describes the process of opening a short-term retail establishment in a given location. They often appear as a means to take advantage of a fad within a specific area.

A pop-up store’s appearance can vary greatly depending on budget, location, and overall purpose. They range from your average makeshift cabin or tent to a rented-out building in the city.

The venues can honestly consist of anything. From your average retail items, such as clothes and food, to extravagant services such as cocktail parties and spas. Pop-up stores are truly what you make of them. 

The main defining factor is that these establishments are deliberately temporary. These stores can quite literally “pop up,” seemingly overnight. They then disappear within one or several days, just as mysteriously as they came. 

Which Companies Use Pop Up Stores?

In the 21st century, pop-up stores are commonly associated with small businesses. That being said, the market has expanded in a way that can also involve huge corporations.  Let’s see how each business type can benefit.

Small Businesses

When it comes to small or local businesses, there are so many benefits to opening a pop-up store. First off, they create an organic and interactive way to advertise your brand. Managing a small business of your own can be a tough job. Pop-up stores take the edge off by taking care of multiple things at once; they help sell specialty products, while also promoting your brand.

Put yourself in the position of a customer for a second. When buying from the pop-up store of a small business, the products or services will have a mysterious allure to them. This is due to the company being unrecognizable. If they’re satisfied with a product, they’ll likely inquire more about your brand, its website, and any permanent locations. 

Big Businesses

Many well-known brands, including Adidas, Samsung, and Louis Vuitton have opened temporary shops around the world. Though with their massive budgets, they have a lot more advertising options to choose from.

So why would a household name use pop-up stores?

Among their endless array of permanent stores, large corporate brands have a unique opportunity when it comes to temporary shops. First off, they likely own a bunch of brick and mortar stores all over the globe; ones that require careful planning and large commitments.

Think about it; if you’ve got a big space rented out in multiple important locations, all at a high monthly cost, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to experiment with them. Doing something out of the ordinary with their regular store would put thousands, even millions of dollars on the line. 

So, what do you do if you’re a billion-dollar company that wants to try out that niche idea? You open a pop-up store. 

Oh, and did I mention market research? Huge companies like Adidas or Louis Vuitton will often want to learn about the demographics of a certain area. Demographics help companies determine how their advertisements will affect certain onlookers.

When it comes to pop-up stores, businesses can closely observe how many people from a given location are interested in their products. For instance, let’s say that Macy’s places a pop-up store near a college campus. If the establishment sees a great return on investment, then Macy’s will know to market its brand more to college students. If it’s unsuccessful, Macy’s will turn to different demographics for their future, more important campaigns. 

Among other things, both big and small brands share one main benefit. Pop-up stores can provide any business with a new outdoor advertising strategy. 

Uses In Outdoor Advertising

Allow me to put another image in your head.

Let’s say that you’re frequenting a certain park within the city. Perhaps you pass by the area when walking to and from work. In this city park, you always witness the same scenery: the bed of flowers, the benches, and the sprinklers which activate during warm weather. 

One day, while you’re walking to work, you notice something that wasn’t there before; something big and bold that looks as if it’s been set up the night before. The large structure has big colors, a unique shape, and a giant logo that lets you know who they are.

At this point, there are so many paths you could take as a potential customer. Of course, you could ignore the shop and continue on to work, or you could visit and examine the prices. Regardless of your engagement level, one thing is for certain; the image of that pop-up store just functioned as its own advertisement.

Still lost? Let me explain. While pop-up stores are primarily used for retail purposes, the exterior can be noticed in a way that allows them to function like display ads. They create brand awareness through impact and exclusivity. 

I like to think of them as an upgraded version of the mall kiosk. And when I say “upgraded,” I’m talking about a huge upgrade. Pop-up stores can be spotted in various locations, from concerts to parks, to even well-populated suburban areas. The possibilities are nearly endless.

Pop Up Stores and Stealth Marketing

Photo credit: Sean Sedlezky

Regardless of the complexities, your average customer is always going to see a pop-up store as just that; a surprising store to shop at. Little do they know that the mere sight of the said store is enough to keep a brand name in the back of their minds.

Stealth marketing describes the act of advertising a product or service without your audience’s knowledge. This is normally seen in the form of product placement, undercover advertising, and subliminal messaging. 

In certain cases, pop-up stores fall more into the subliminal advertising category. While they tend to be more flashy than your average stealth ad, they are great at deceiving the viewer. 

While you may have walked past a simple billboard or bus ad, a pop-up store could peak your intrigue in a way that no other ad could.  A decorated truck in the middle of a driveway? Who would’ve guessed that you’d be fishing through the clothing racks inside?

Frankly, as long as your store has been noticed, your company has succeeded. It doesn’t need a catchy slogan or a call to action.

Pop Up Stores and Ambush Marketing

from smh.com

When it comes to outdoor advertising, location matters so much. Marketers dedicate much of their time to scouting the perfect location for their highway bulletins, poster ads, and even pop-up stores. 

This is not only important in terms of demographic reach, but also competition. Now, most advertisers would try to steer clear of placing their pop-up stores near a competing brand. Though in some instances, I’d call that a missed opportunity.

Ambush marketing describes when a company takes advantage of a huge event without paying to be an official sponsor. It is often used as a means to upstage a competitor.

A pop-up store can accomplish this by opening up near a company-sponsored event. A great example of this is Apple’s launch event in Sydney. As people prepared for the insanely large line to get their hands on the iPhone 4S, Samsung did the unthinkable. They opened a pop-up store just down the street, selling their smartphones for only $2.

I’m personally a big endorser of Apple over Android. But in that situation, there’s no way I’m passing up a $2 smartphone. 

Ambush marketing is a perfect way to boost sales while gaining attention from media and news outlets. Some advertisers may be afraid of a little controversy, and that’s understandable. But I’m here to tell you; controversy sales. After all, negative press is much better than no press. 

Pop Up Stores as Interactive Ads

Pop up stores, by their very nature, are interactive. Again, much like mall kiosks, they can also advertise themselves through service.

Let’s say you’re interested in this pop up store in the middle of your local park. You decide to go in, take a look, maybe buy some clothes for yourself. You speak with the employees there and get to know the brand, its purpose, and its history. The people are sweet, they help you try things on, and they check out your items with a smile.

In this scenario, you’ve just interacted with an elaborate advertisement, one that provided a fantastic, memorable experience. Every retail brand knows that great service is the key to gaining loyal customers. When it comes to pop-up stores, this become incredibly crucial. You want to provide the best experience possible in order to ensure that they use your service in the future. 

Finances

So, you may be wondering; how much would the pop-up store cost me? Well, the answer is somewhat complicated. 

Due to there being a plethora of pop-up store options, its cost will vary greatly. They can cost anywhere from $1500 to $100000. If you’re familiar with the cost of brick-and-mortar stores, however, you’ll find most variations to be rather reasonable. 

There are 4 key pop up store budget categories that you’ll want to keep in mind:

  1. Fixed Costs: Things such as rents, permits, wifi, electricity, and other utilities that keep the store running smoothly. 
  2. Operations: Who is working the cash register? Who’s stocking products? Managing the money? Interacting with customers? People will need to be hired for these activities.
  3. Store Designs: Pop-up stores need architects and construction workers.
  4. Marketing: Depending on the circumstances, you’ll probably want to promote your pop-up store. Small, low-cost ads will do fine. After all, your pop-up store is meant to be an advertisement in and of itself.

If you’re reading this and feeling a little overwhelmed, there’s no need to worry. According to Storefront, launching a pop-up store is approximately 80% less expensive than opening a traditional one.

Success Rate

Over the years, pop-up stores have consistently then changed the landscape of retail marketing. Around 80% of retail companies around the globe have been seen opening pop-up stores. It is estimated that 58% of those companies will use the strategy again in the future.

Let’s go over the best and worst examples, to discover exactly what makes these stores so successful.

Good Examples

From shopify.com

The company Birchbox was a subscription-based online beauty brand. At some point, they discovered the benefits of pop-up marketing and decided to try it for themselves. Explore their options with in-person marketing, Birchbox set up these colorful shops on a tour across the United States. The shops were complete with “try bars” as well as activities such as pedicures, manicures, and build-your-own makeup boxes. It wasn’t just the shop, it was an experience. 

As a result of this tour, Birchbox set up a permanent shop in New York City. This is a great example of market research and the promotion of experience many people discovered Birchbox solely through their physical pop-ups.

From shopify.com

Who doesn’t like a good Cafe? Despite not being affiliated with food at all, Pantone; a brand best known for its graphic design colors, decided to open cafes as a part of a promotional stunt. And it sure did get people talking. 

Stands were placed in multiple locations, selling color-themed food, plates, green drinks, and coffee. The structure itself was creatively designed she look like a shipping container, signifying what the beer brand is truly about.

From Dolce & Gabbana

Here’s another creative one. Dolce & Gabbana a luxury brand caught their viewers off. With their grammar s pop-up store… inside a trailer. Yes, that’s right, a glamorous trailer. I never thought I’d see those two words together myself. 

Taking a look at the above image, we can see that dolce & Gabbana understood the assignment. As always. The amount of detail, along with the color combinations gives everything a clear theme. And upon inspecting this trailer, their logo is clear and recognizable. 

Furthermore, this pop-up store, located in the Hamptons, wasn’t made to ” completely immerse people into the history of the Italian island”. So of course, it included many cultural activities based on the company’s roots and Italy. This was overall very fun, engaging, and eye-catching.

Bad Examples

Unfortunately, not all pop-ups can be great. With every form of advertisement, there is always room for learning.

Gucci

From trendland.com

Another luxury brand, Gucci, generated a lot of hype around their pop-up event in Soho, New York City. They launched the phone app along with throwing a celeb-studded party to celebrate the upcoming event. Gucci planned on promoting their capsule collection of boat shoes in collaboration with DJ Mark Robinson. So many celebrity names drop so much pizzazz you might be thinking what could have possibly happened? 

Well, frankly, people didn’t show up. Employees greatly outnumber the customers at this event. If I was to guess what truly happened, Gucci was trying too hard and pandering in an obvious way. And people don’t like to be pandered towards. Contrary to popular belief people don’t care as much about celebrity affiliations as they do about a genuinely good product. Regardless of who you are as a brand, when selling a new product please remember to talk about the product itself and how it will benefit your customer personally. 

Also, you should make sure that the exterior of your pop-ups is at least somewhat noticeable. In many cases, the exterior is more important than the interior. This place was located and New York City, which is a great densely populated area. However with crowds of people walking in different directions your exterior needs to be flashy to attract passersby. Gucci’s choices simply weren’t doing it for a lot of people. And I can’t say I blame them. The luxury brand spent too much money and resources on celebrities and not enough on what truly mattered.

eBay

From eBayHoliday via Flickr

In 2009, eBay opened its pop-up shop on 57th Street New York City. Not as strange as the sounds I believe there are many creative ways they could have executed this. The route they chose, however, was less than ideal. Instead of selling physical items, this eBay pop-up shop used a bunch of computers to show people what they could possibly buy at the auction site. 

And that’s it. That’s what the pop-up store was all about. 

Pretty underwhelming if you asked me. Pop-up stores are meant to provide a service, whether that’s food, a massage, therapy, or just simply buying and selling clothing items. eBay sells so many things on its site. They could have had stylistic piles of unique items found on eBay; hats, vintage items, video games, makeup kits, you name it. 

But instead, they wasted their potential and their customers’ time. Well, should I even call them customers if they couldn’t buy anything?

What it Takes to Create a Pop-Up Store

Now that we’ve examined the pop up store’s purpose in outdoor advertising, you may have a few more questions in your mind. What if you’re thinking about opening your own pop up store? What exactly will it take to get from point A to point B?

In all honesty, it requires at the very least, three months of planning. But when taking the following advice, it’ll be worth the effort.

Start with These Questions:

  • What does my company sell?
  • What does my brand represent?
  • Who is my general target market?
  • Am I looking to reach any new demographics?
  • Am I looking to gain new customers or build customer loyalty?
  • How many stores do I already own?
  • What does my budget look like?
  • What are my competitors doing?

These questions should be the backbone of your pop up campaign. It will give you a decent understanding of where you’d like to take this project.

Location

From: PYMNTS.com

As stated before, location is everything. You must place your store in locations that are heavily populated,  and reach your demographic of choice. Even when promoting your event online, pop up sales rely on people stumbling across them. Your customers will likely be obtained through convenience, and a sense of urgency. So, be sure to choose wisely.

Design

From: mooshwalks.com

The design of your pop up store depends heavily on its location. In the realm of pop up stores, subtlety isn’t usually your best bet. Even if your brand has a more subdued presence, you’ll want this store to stand out from the rest of the scenery.

There are multiple ways to go about this. Though the more common strategies used are;

  • Colors: A pop of color will go a long way in drawing attention. Bright primary colors are known for evoking strong emotions, each in a different way. Another way to go about this is using two or more colors that compliment each other.
  • Size: There’s a reason why they say bigger is better. If you can, try to rent a space that, well, takes up a lot of space. 
  • Shape: If you haven’t noticed, most buildings in today’s world are square or rectangular in shape. Change things up by creating a uniquely shaped structure. Even if it’s cheaply made, a dome or pyramid is far more likely to garner traction than your typical brick & mortar store. 

This is why hiring professional architects and designers are a good investment. These people know the ins and outs of color, size, and shape. 

Marketing/Promotion

Finally, you’ll want to promote your pop up store. Don’t worry; you don’t have to go all out with this marketing campaign. As previously mentioned, there are many low-cost methods to promoting a  new pop up store

The internet is a great tool for getting the word out there. Posting about the event on social media is free of cost, and won’t take up much of your time. Keep in mind that online promotion is best used for targeting your already loyal customers. New customers are more likely to hear about things through word of mouth.

Creating small posters around the event is an easy way to take your marketing outdoors. Using clever tactics, such as a wild posting, will help keep the costs to a minimum while drawing more attention to an upcoming sale. 

Some advertisers even use reverse graffiti. Stencils can be placed onto the ground to point potential customers in the direction of your event. Of course, neither of these things is an absolute requirement. They are simply creative suggestions that work to boost your sales. 

Conclusion

As you must’ve gathered by now, the temporary nature of pop up stores makes them difficult to manage. However, that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth the time and investment. In the end, you should gain new customers, new experiences, and a massive increase in sales. With your newfound knowledge, you’re now one step closer to creating a pop up store that “pops.”