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The Relentless Rise and Expanding Role of Pop-Ups

While the headline for this post may sound like a popover recipe (or some other tasty treat from the Great British Baking Show), this post is in fact about pop-up stores, which are highly relevant to our ability to determine the role of the store in modern shopping journeys. For many retailers, pop-ups are fast becoming a critical part of the store experience reinvention journey.

I know pop-ups are fast emerging because I see them popping up on many of my long walks around my hometown. I also know they are relevant to evolving experience strategies because research tells us so. One study from PopUp Republic reported that pop-up stores now account for more than $50 billion a year in revenue.

I also know how important pop-ups have become because I interviewed an expert in the field. I interviewed Melissa Gonzales of The Lion'esque Group for the first episode of The Retail Experience Project podcast series. Melissa and her team of retail strategists and pop-up architects™ have helped retailers and brands produce over 100 pop-ups. I was hoping Melissa would help me explore how pop-ups can help retailers with their store reinvention projects.

Pointing Out Pointers for Pop-Ups

And Melissa did not disappoint. She was full of insights and recommendations gleaned from her deep experience with pop-ups. Here are just a few of the many insights she shared with me during our 20-minute conversation:

  • Priority one for any pop-up program has to be location. "Number one: Do your homework to understand the best location," she explained. "And the best location isn't the one that is free. The best location is where your customer is."
  • Even though many pop-ups are funded by Marketing, successful pop-ups require close collaboration between Marketing and Merchandising. "For a pop-up project to be successful, all teams have to collaborate," she told me. "Because if the Merchandising team and the Marketing team aren't in step together, then there's going to be problems."
  • Pop-ups don't have to follow a "one and done" methodology. In fact, many brands will iterate and evolve their pop-up approach from location to the next. "There are a lot of different things that you see brands experiment with, and a lot of times they vary from location to location as they continuously learn what works and what doesn't work as well."
  • Don't underestimate the costs of a pop-up program. "Pop-up stores are certainly less expensive and less of a commitment than a 10-year lease, but to do them right and to really meet customer expectations these days is actually not that all."

A Popular Part of the Reinvention Journey

Despite the costs, Melissa strongly endorsed pop-ups as a valuable part of the experience reinvention journey.  She explained that there are typically three key ways she sees retailers using pop-ups to test new formats and strategies:

  • Retailers use pop-ups to conduct feasibility studies to measure the impact of a new physical experience within the complete, omni-channel experience.
  • Often retailers will launch and test new in-store technologies (like AR/VR) in a pop-up so as to create a carefully controlled environment to effectively monitor and measure shopper responses (and also to avoid distracting permanent stores)
  • Retailers often launch - and test - new product lines (and very often product drops) via pop-ups.

Melissa had a lot more to say on the subject, including her keys to successful pop-up programs and how to measure success. I highly encourage you to tune in to the full episode to hear more of what Melissa recommends.

You can find this and every episode of the podcast, as well many other assets designed to help you with your store reinvention journey, at The Retail Experience Project resource site. And we have several new assets ready to publish soon.

So check back often, you never know when something new will pop up.