With businesses in various stages of closure, it may seem like an odd time to set up a pop-up shop. But as the world recovers, consumers will be hungry for real-life experiences. And while they’ve gotten used to the convenience of shopping online, they miss feeling connected to brands (and to each other) in a physical environment.
Plus, the pandemic has resulted in a surplus of retail space and widespread commercial rent decreases, leading to a market ripe for retailers and brands interested in adding a physical presence to their business. The US, UK, and France saw a 125 percent increase in available retail space listed between June to August, according to research by Appear Here. And as landlords are desperate to fill their empty spaces, they’re dropping their prices and easing up on lease terms, too.
We believe that low-budget, short-term, quick-install pop-ups are set to surge in the coming months. To help you plan, we’ll cover everything from cost to marketing strategies, and share examples of brands leading the charge in trending pop-up experiences in a post-pandemic world.
What is a pop-up shop?
If you’re interested in testing out a retail presence for your business, but you’re put off by the financial risk and commitment of a permanent storefront, a pop-up shop could be the solution for you.
Pop-ups provide an ideal opportunity for emerging, digitally-native brands to trial a brick-and-mortar space. They allow you to meet your current customers where they live and put your brand in front of new shoppers. It’s also a direct way to encourage sales without pouring more money into online customer acquisition.
A pop-up can look like a regular store, but many brands use them to create a unique, engaging physical shopping experience.
How much does a pop-up shop cost?
Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer for this question. Location, duration, and size are just a few of the factors that can determine the total cost of a pop-up. The sky’s the limit as far as how much you can spend, but you also can pull off a short-term pop-up for as little as $1,500.
Popertee, a retail analytics firm, estimated the total cost of one 30-day pop-up at €29,085 (about $33,000), while Inkbox, an online temporary tattoo brand, totalled the cost of its 2016 two-week pop-up to about $15,000, plus $3,000 in furniture that it will be able to use for other purposes.
It’s worth noting that experts predict pop-up shop costs will be significantly lower for 2021. Historically low commercial rent prices means the bulk of your costs—rent—are more than 11% lower than they were in 2019.
Why run a pop-up shop?
Create an in-person connection with customers
Technology might make purchasing more economical and convenient, but there’s no replacement for face-to-face service and immersive in-person shopping experiences. A physical store allows you to connect with your customers on a human level—and people will be craving connection post-pandemic.
A physical store allows you to connect with your customers on a human level—and people will be craving connection post-pandemic.
A pop-up shop can also play an important role in the omnichannel experience offered by your brand. Consumers learn about products on social media, search engines, in print, and everywhere in between. Complementing your established online experience with an offline experience to match is an excellent way to build a network of loyal, engaged shoppers.
Build buzz and awareness
Scarcity is a proven sales tactic that drives action through a customer’s desire to purchase exclusive or otherwise limited products. A temporary pop-up shop with a definite end date encourages shoppers to visit before missing out.
This approach works especially well when promoting new products or collections, kicking off major campaigns, or simply looking to increase overall brand awareness.
Create a strong sense of urgency by letting your customers know the exact dates your pop-up begins and ends. Create a Facebook event page or send a broadcast to your email list. If you have a limited inventory and want to make your shop feel especially exclusive, consider promoting the closing date as whenever all items are sold out.
Balance customer acquisition costs
The pandemic has forced retailers and their marketing dollars online, driving up the cost of acquiring a customer through paid search and social media. But as ecommerce has boomed, the gap between digital acquisition costs and rental costs has gotten smaller.
But as ecommerce has boomed, the gap between digital acquisition costs and rental costs has gotten smaller.
Indeed, rising consumer real estate vacancy levels have forced commercial rents to record-low levels—37.5% lower than they were in 2019 in places like SoHo, New York City, according to CBRE. To address vacancies, landlords are reportedly relaxing lease terms and eagerly seeking pop-up tenants just to keep their storefronts activated.
This presents an unprecedented opportunity for brands to test out the retail waters, and diversify their marketing to include foot traffic alongside web traffic—in a low-risk, lower-cost environment.
“Soon, a physical impression is going to be more affordable and higher quality than a digital impression,” says Ben Seidl, Founder of Neyborly, a platform that matches brands with commercial spaces.
Test the market for a permanent physical location
Pop-up shops require little upfront investment, which makes them a great testing ground. A successful pop-up can be a good indication that your business is a candidate for expansion into physical retail. If your shop doesn’t end up as successful as you’d hoped, you might need to regroup and find a new way to test your expansion plans. (We’ll look at some post-mortem metrics later.)
Eyeglass brand Warby Parker is a one-time digital-native brand that initially tested physical retail through pop-ups. Its experiment was so successful, the company opened several storefronts, and now has nearly 90 retail locations.
Drive more sales during busy seasons
Black Friday Cyber Monday and any other peak sales periods are excellent times to open a pop-up. A pop-up can drive retention long after your shop is closed and the holiday season is over, turning seasonal shoppers into lifelong customers. If you host seasonal pop-ups regularly, you’ll build a sense of anticipation among your most loyal customers. Denver’s annual Christkindl Market is just one example of a pop-up locals and tourists alike bookmark the date of every year.
Test new markets and gain traction in existing ones
One of the most important things for a new business to do is validate demand for its products—and real product validation only happens when money changes hands.
Manufacturing a small batch of merchandise to test at a pop-up is one way to validate customer demand before investing in a larger number of units. If you have an idea for a new collection or product line, for example, start with just one or two items to see if they have traction.
Pop-ups can also let you test different pricing, product bundles, and merchandising ideas.
Selling in person gives you the added benefit of receiving direct, unfiltered feedback from customers by seeing their initial reactions and finding out if they’re willing to spend money on what you’re selling (and how much).
If you’ve already established your business online and know you have a strong customer base in a specific region, a pop-up shop can help you literally be where your best customers are. It can also assist with word-of-mouth marketing in an area where you know your target demographic resides.
Unload older inventory
Holding on to dead stock is more expensive than you might think. You’re not only missing out on sales, you’re also paying for carrying costs and tying up money that could be invested elsewhere in your business. Plus, that inventory could eventually age out and no longer be sellable, which means lost revenue and capital.
Pop-up shops are a great way to breathe new life into aging stock—especially seasonal merchandise with a short shelf life—by using fresh displays and enticing visual merchandising elements to attract new shoppers. Encourage impulse purchases by offering special deals, such as buy-one-get-one-free, or bundling items together.
How to pick the perfect pop-up shop location
It’s important to find the right spot for your pop-up. There are a number of factors to consider, and one of the most important is determining what type of space makes the most sense for your event. There are a few common spaces used for pop-up shops:
- Vacant storefront. An empty storefront is a retail space just waiting to be used. All you have to do is customize it to your brand. Look around for vacant storefronts in your ideal area or contact a local real estate agent for help.
- Shopping center or mall. Many shopping malls have kiosks, booth space, or vacant in-line stores available to rent. Mall space may be less cost effective than other venues, but it can put you in front of the best kind of foot traffic—consumers who are looking to spend their money.
- Pop-ins. Pop-ins are stores within a store and a great way to piggyback off an existing brick-and-mortar brand’s success. Pop-in@Nordstrom, for example, is a series of pop-in shop collaborations with other brands, like Away luggage. Hotels are also a great location for pop-ins.
- Gallery/event space. Gallery or event spaces, unlike pop-in shops, offer a blank canvas for translating your digital brand into a physical space with eye-catching displays. These venues are also primed and ready for events, unlike some typical brick-and-mortar retail environments.
- Mobile. If you don’t want to limit yourself to one location, consider going mobile and renting a truck or bus to host your own traveling pop-up shop. In 2017, Casper’s Nap Tour traveled from Vancouver to Toronto, offering customers throughout Canada the chance to test out its mattresses. This opens you up to operating in various locations and maximizing your reach—you can set up at a farmer’s market, park, or any public setting that you think your customers would be frequenting.
How to choose your pop-up location
After you’ve determined what type of pop-up you want to have, you can begin deciding on a location. Knowing what your shop’s goals are is one important factor to consider. If you’re looking to launch a new swimwear collection, somewhere tropical or near a beach might be best. If you’re trying to decide whether to make a permanent move into physical retail, use current sales data (if you have it) to figure out where most of your existing customers are.
Once you have a general area in mind, look at some other factors to help you zero in on an exact spot.
Nearby retailers and events occurring in the vicinity are other important considerations. Look to see if surrounding retail stores are complementary or competitive to what you’re offering. Complementary is good, but you may want to steer clear of direct competitors. When established shops feel threatened by competing stores, you lose out on making a potential ally. Take the time to introduce yourself and establish a rapport with other shop owners in the area. From them, you can glean valuable information on what makes your shared target demographic tick.
Finally, one of the biggest considerations has always been foot traffic. Is the neighborhood or street you’re considering a high-traffic area? Are there plenty of people walking by the location you’re scouting—and, most importantly, are those people your target customers?
But buzzy downtown destinations may no longer be on the top of the list for pop-ups. Following the pandemic, brands have increasingly popped up in local neighborhoods and suburbs. For example, in London, the five hottest pop-up locations have been Westbourne Grove, Neal Street, Curtain Road, Columbia Road and Golborne Road, while Paris’s top five are rue de Turenne, rue Pierre Lescot, rue du Roi de Sicile, rue de Charonne and rue Debelleyme, according to data from Appear Here.
Following the pandemic, brands have increasingly popped up in local neighborhoods and suburbs.
Still, other brands are staying put in cities and adapting their experiences to accommodate a more cautious consumer mentality. Ultimately, it comes down to who your customers are, where they are, and how they want you to show up.
💡TIP: Analyze your customer email data to see where customers are located and if they’re congregated in certain cities or neighborhoods.
Things to consider when choosing a pop-up shop venue
Here are a few more factors to help you narrow down your venue options:
Type of pop-up shop
First things first—you need to figure out what type of event you’re having and understand what specifically makes that appealing to a pop-up shopper. There are a few common types of pop-ups:
- Press preview. Usually an invite-only/exclusive look at your shop for local journalists and bloggers who can help you spread the word about your store.
- Launch party. Pop-up shops make for great launch parties, whether it’s your pop-up debut or the launch of a new product line. Remember, if you’re billing it as a party, you need to deliver on your promise. Consider hiring a DJ, serving food and drinks, and promoting social sharing to further your reach.
- Experiential. Entice visitors with immersive experiences they can’t get anywhere else. Think about what types of featured workshops, speakers, and individuals work best for your brand. For example, HutchLA once ran a pop-up shop with a tattoo artist on premise because it aligned with the brand.
- Influencer party. Tap into an influencer’s audience in your niche by allowing them to host, curate, and be the “star” for the night. Ask them to build anticipation before the fact by posting about it on social media, and view the opportunity as a collaboration that ends up paying big dividends for both parties. They’re presented with a unique opportunity to do a meet-and-greet with their fanbase—and their fanbase becomes your customer base.
- Sponsored event. While even a one-off piece in the media can be advantageous, investing in a sponsored event can land you even more coverage. A partnership with a local magazine in your niche, for example, can provide you with coverage before, during, and after your pop-up happens.
- Frontage. Does the storefront have a sidewalk for walk-ins and foot traffic? Is the frontage big enough so that you can easily manage curbside pickup orders? These will be important considerations for pop-up venues in the coming months.
- Signage. Check to see if the location you’re looking at comes with signage and, if so, whether you’re allowed to customize it. Some spaces may already have branded entrance or storefront signs, which could prevent people from noticing your shop. Other spaces may not allow signage at all. Determine what you need and how customers are going to find your pop-up.
- Condition and cleanliness. Landlords typically ensure the interior of a pop-up space is pristine, but the exterior can be susceptible to the elements. You’ll likely have to assume responsibility for its cleanliness. Get out there with a broom, bring your own potted plants, or invest in a bottle of Windex to get every last face smudge off of the venue’s windows.
- Parking and access to public transportation. The easier it is to visit your store, the more customers you’ll have. An on-site parking lot is ideal, but not always realistic. So create accessibility any way you can. Research public transit routes, check on parking meter rates and times, and look for nearby paid parking lots.
- Browsing space/square footage. Even as stores begin to reopen and the pandemic abates, health and safety will still remain a top priority for shoppers. that the space is big enough to allow shoppers to browse while keeping a distance.
- Internet access. WiFi is usually included with most spaces, but double check with the leasing agent to make sure high-speed internet access is available. This is critical for your point of sale software to run smoothly, but also for your customers to be able to browse your online channels while exploring your physical store. It also means you can equip your sales representatives with a mobile POS to help pull up customer profiles on the spot and personalize the in-store experience.
- Stock space. Visible inventory not on display can make even the largest spaces look cluttered, so make sure you have a storage area. Many spaces won’t have a back stockroom, so see if it’s possible to create a makeshift separation or partition using curtains or a room divider. This will make the space seem more professional and tidy.
- Lighting.Proper lighting sets the mood and makes your merchandise stand out. The right lighting for your store ultimately depends on the mood you want to create. If your brand is more modern, brighter lighting may work. Soft lighting pairs well with brands that feature a classic aesthetic. Ask to see if the bulbs are on dimmer switches or if lamps and portable lighting are available as an alternative.
- Anti-theft features. Tyco Retail Solutions estimates that 34% of retail shrinkage is due to shoplifting and crime. Find a space that has adequate loss prevention measures in place. Surveillance cameras and alarm systems are both great tools for preventing shoplifting. If a retail space doesn’t have cameras, see if other tactics were employed by previous pop-up vendors.
- Display space. Every space is different, so make sure the spot you’re considering is equipped with whatever you need to display your products or materials.
- Speaker system. Music is important for setting the mood in your store. It’s a big bonus if the space comes equipped with a speaker system. If not, make sure to bring your own bluetooth speakers and do a sound test before you launch.
Where to look for pop-up shop venues
You can contact realtors directly to see if they have any pop-up shop venues. There are also many online databases you can search to book properties yourself. Here are a few:
Tips for closing the deal on your pop-up shop venue
There are several legal documents pop-up operators need to be familiar with before securing a space:
The lease is the most important document. Under a lease, the renter is considered a tenant and given exclusive possession for the time agreed to by both parties, otherwise known as the “term” of the lease. The term will outline what you’re allowed to do in the space, such as modifications, hours of operation, and several other key aspects.
When evaluating a retail space, request a comprehensive estimate of your monthly payment. Depending on your space, additional expenses could equal base rent, doubling your monthly payment amount. This could devastate your budget if you weren’t prepared to pay for it.
Depending on your geography and the length of your pop-up shop, you may need a license rather than a lease. A license gives you, the licensee, the legal authority to use the landlord’s asset. In some cases, without a license, using the property is unlawful.
Generally, licenses are given out for short-term occupants and come with a limited arrangement that sometimes doesn’t guarantee exclusive use of the property.
Each region has its own legal regulations and business permit requirements. Many cities, for example, require a permit to sell food and alcohol. So, if you plan to serve champagne at your opening, you’ll need to secure the appropriate permit.
To ensure you’re set for opening day, check with your real estate agent, landlord, and/or the city to make sure you’re doing everything local law requires.
Business insurance (or commercial insurance) is different from personal coverage. Without the proper insurance policies in place, you’re not only putting your business at risk, but your employees and customers as well.
Some rentals include insurance coverage, but you may want to look into consulting a risk management expert or firm.
Questions to ask before you book a space
To make sure you have a complete understanding of what you’re getting into, have the following questions ready for your property manager or real estate agent:
- What’s the rental cost? Find out the daily, weekly, or monthly rate (depending on how long you plan to be open). Be sure to check out multiple spaces and weigh your options, and don’t be afraid to negotiate on price before you sign.
- What’s included in the rental cost? Drill down on what you’re getting for your money. Make note of specifics like square footage, amenities, and occupancy dates—and get everything in writing.
- Are there any additional utility costs? Clarify any additional costs and how they’re split up. Make sure you determine which expenses you’re responsible for—and whether they’re reasonable. Utility costs for a pop-up rental can become a major unexpected expense.
- What’s the layout of the space? Have a good grasp on the shop’s current layout so you can visualize what your final presentation could look like. It might help to sketch out a scale drawing to make sure the space will work for your needs.
- What are the specific dimensions of the ceiling, windows, doors, counters, pillars, etc.? Know exactly what you have to work with—and work around. This information is good to have when you start designing your displays or printing signage, and it’ll give you a sense of how much or how little you’ll need to dress the space up.
- Can the space be modified? Know how much control you have over the space. If you’re sharing a gallery with multiple vendors, you might not be able to drill holes into the wall or make significant changes. Determine the landlord’s dos and don’ts and whether they’ll work for you.
- Who’s liable for what? Property owners typically will attempt to limit their liability, so read the fine print on your lease. If something happens, like a fire or a plumbing issue, it’s better to know ahead of time who’s responsible instead of disputing or creating a claim down the road.
- Is there internet or WiFi? You’ll need an internet connection to process transactions and accept credit card payments, whether you’re using Shopify POS or a mobile card reader. So determine if it’s included or if you need to set it up yourself.
- Will you need insurance? Getting property insurance is often a prerequisite when signing a lease agreement. This kind of coverage protects you from a number of things that could go wrong, including, but not limited to, theft, venue or glass repairs, and merchandise damage.
- How much of a deposit is required to secure the venue? Often, if your pop-up shop will span multiple months, the rental deposit is equivalent to a month’s rent. For shorter timelines, you might be expected to put down a third of the total rent payment. Be sure to find out how and when you’ll get your deposit back after the pop-up is over.
- What type of foot traffic can you expect? It’s a good idea to do your own research on foot traffic, but sometimes the property owner will have numbers they can share with you. This becomes even more pertinent if you’re getting a booth at a trade show.
Evolving your pop-up shop for a post-pandemic world
The pandemic will have a lasting impact on shopper behavior, so there are some key services you’ll want to consider offering to ensure a safe, convenient, and profitable pop-up experience.
We’re already seeing a demand for “dark stores”, where retail sales aren’t fueled by pedestrian traffic, but by curbside pick-up and same-day delivery. With proximity becoming the selling feature for your pop-up, alternative pickup and delivery options should be top-of-mind.
Consider offering the following:
- Curbside pickup. Also known as click and collect or buy online pickup in store (BOPIS), curbside pickup is a safe and convenient way to shop, allowing shoppers to order from you online and then swing by your pop-up shop to pick it up curbside or at a designated pickup point.
- Contactless payments. As health concerns grew in 2020, more consumers began seeking out safer options for transactions. According to our data, 62% of buyers are now more comfortable making in-store purchases with digital or contactless payments, according to Shopify’s Future of Retail Report 2021.
- QR codes. The use of QR codes makes the retail checkout disappear completely.With QR codes, mobile shopping is even easier. Shoppers can use their smartphone to scan a code and complete their purchase online via their mobile devices. If you’re a Shopify merchant, Shopcodes (Shopify’s QR code app) lets you generate QR codes within your store.
- Appointment shopping. Another option for safer shopping is to reduce the number of people who are in the store at a given time. One way to do this is with appointment shopping, where you only book one or a handful of shoppers for a particular time slot. According to Shopify data, 50% of shoppers indicated that this would be relevant to them—especially among shoppers in Italy, Spain, France, and the UK.
Try Shopify POS for omnichannel selling
Bring your in-store and online sales together with Shopify POS. Gain insights about your business from one view so you can work smarter, move faster, and think bigger.
How to market your pop-up shop
When determining your promotional strategy, remember what consumers go to pop-ups for: an immersive, unique, in-person brand experience. According to Retail Touchpoints, most consumers want unique services and products, localized assortments, and optimal pricing. If your pop-up offers any of those things, spread the word!
There are plenty of ways to go about getting PR for your event, including targeting traditional media, leveraging influencer marketing, and pitching your pop-up to local bloggers.
Targeting media and influencers
Keep your target customer in mind when creating a list of media outlets to contact, thinking about where they most likely find information on local events and what publications and websites they might regularly read.
Audience size isn’t always the most important factor when it comes to promoting your pop-up.
Micro-influencers may have smaller followings, but dismissing them completely could mean missing out on a potential partner who doesn’t have a large geographical reach but is influential in your pop-up’s area. Here are a few other tips to consider:
- Create a list of the key influencers, bloggers, and digital creators that best represent your vertical and reach out to them, highlighting different incentives for them to get involved. Set aside some budget to offer free products in advance of your pop-up launch if they’re not already familiar with your brand, and/or offer them an exclusive discount code to share with their audience.
- Understand who you’re pitching and what their needs are. There’s nothing wrong with using a template, but you’ll still have to customize it to elicit a good response rate.
- Give the media enough advance warning about your event to leave them time to do a story. Aim for two to three months before launch for local print, and two weeks for online media.
- Keep your media pitch short and simple. Be considerate, and make sure all of the important information about your event is prominent and easy to find.
- Open your pop-up shop on a high note. Pretty soon, gatherings and parties will be safe again. When that time comes, consider throwing a launch party and inviting an exclusive list of who’s who in your local region. For example, when apparel brand Kith opened a pop-up in Paris, it had a fantastic turnout and received great coverage from influential local blogs read by its target demographic.
Build buzz for your pop-up shop with social media
Be ready to maximize your exposure through social media before, during, and after your event—not only with your current and future customers, but with the editors and influencers whose interest you’ve piqued.
- Keep any buzz you established with your initial outreach going. Include a branded hashtag in your press materials and other collateral to help you find and curate content posted about your event online.
- Identify co-marketing opportunities. Ask hotels and restaurants near your pop-up to mention you on their social media feeds, offering them some free promotion in return. Tourists love to return home with a unique product and story they discovered on vacation.
- Post behind-the-scenes content on your own social channels, showing your pop-up being built and set up. Give users a sneak preview of the products they can expect to see. Host an online contest and announce the winner at your pop-up.
- Send influencers, bloggers, and creators your products and ask them to post about them. The more products they can touch and feel, the more likely they are to connect with one of the products and post about them. Note: make sure to schedule this beforehand and get in contact with them 3-4 weeks before your launch.
At the pop-up
- Music for the mood. What kind of mood are you trying to create in your store? Make sure your playlist matches that. If you’re a streetwear fashion brand, orchestra music may not be the right fit.
- Encourage user-generated content. You have to create moments around your store that make customers want to take a picture or a video. In other words, you have to make your store Instagrammable. This could mean a selfie wall, a personalization of the product, or funny signage that people want to share and remember. You want customers taking as many pictures around the store and posting them online—you benefit from the free advertising and positive word of mouth. You can even gamify it to incentivize sharing with contests.
- Encourage influencers to create content. Taking it a step further, encourage Instagram influencers and TikTok creators to create and share content while at your pop-up. This will help you build a community around your brand—and bring their entire fanbase to your pop-up and/or website as well.
When Bev and Highline Wellness teamed up with Neyborly to launch a Valentine’s Day-themed pop-up called “The Dating Shop”, they invited TikTok creator David Suh—a photographer who creates content promoting self-love—to be a part of their experience. The pop-up provided David with a unique opportunity to do a meet-and-greet with his fans, while also creating fresh content featuring customers engaging with the products in real time.
At the same pop-up, florist brand Petal Mistry did a flower wall installation for couples to take photos in front of—a concept quite literally borne out of people’s commitment to getting the perfect Instagram shot. (And people are willing to trek for a perfect backdrop—especially when they’ve been stuck on their couch for a year.)
- Don’t let the conversation stop once your pop-up is over. Keep up the buzz you worked so hard to build and continue engaging with people talking about your brand and the pop-up experience.
- Leverage user-generated content on your website, social feeds, product pages, and other online channels. Bazaarvoice found that more than two-thirds of shoppers prefer real customer photos of brands, not just on display or professional shots. Interesting product page photos can increase conversions by as much as 24%.
- Use your point-of-sale to collect email addresses and run targeted social media ads to drive shoppers to your online store. The lessons you learn from your pop-up can inform future digital campaigns.
Evaluate your pop-up shop’s success
Among the first things you should do when planning a pop-up is identify your shop’s goals and set specific key performance indicators (KPIs). This will help you understand what you’re trying to accomplish and eventually help you determine whether your venture was successful.
Conducting a postmortem will show you what you can do differently next time and whether selling in person is an effective channel for you.
Be sure to closely analyze your pop-up’s metrics, such as sales, foot traffic, brand awareness, and new email leads.
Examine sales metrics
There’s more to retail than just sales, but strong sales is the ultimate end goal. When you dig into your data, consider the following sales metrics:
- Sales by date. Sales by date can help you determine the best timing for your next pop-up. Knowing which days or hours were particularly busy is also useful information for planning special promotions and giveaways and for knowing when you need to add more staff.
- Sales by customer. Sales by customer can be broken down to both the average total items and total dollars spent. You can use this data to create refined customer profiles, which you can then analyze to segment your customers. You’ll also gain insights into price sensitivity, purchasing habits, and product preferences that can inform online promotions and campaigns.
- Sales by product. Zooming in on things like sales by stock-keeping unit (SKU), variants (e.g. color, size, etc.), and vendor can help you evaluate your products themselves. This information can tell you which product lines to invest in and which to consider scraping. Your bestsellers will also inform your visual merchandising and window displays.
- Sales by employees. Knowing which of your employees generate the most revenue can provide insights you can incorporate into the hiring and training of future employees, even if you’re not running a traditional commission-based compensation structure.
Track foot traffic
In the past, measuring foot traffic was hard to do and often yielded less-than-accurate data. Now, there are foot traffic counters that make it easy to learn not only how many people are walking into your store, but who they are and what preferences they have.
Once you have a grasp on how many people entered your pop-up, you can drill down into other metrics, like conversion rate (the number of sales divided by the total foot traffic).
Measure social media mentions and engagement
What happens offline is only half the story. Just as important is how an offline experience impacts your brand online. One way to look at this is by analyzing your social media mentions and engagement before, during, and after your pop-up.
Look at how many conversations your promotional hashtag inspired and how customers engaged with it via user-generated content. If you used a branded hashtag, track and measure impressions or conversations. And if you ran a contest or specific giveaway, look at how many entrants you had and how many emails you gained.
Here are some tools you can use to get a clear picture of just how much traction your pop-up shop brought to your brand:
Qualitative analysis for your pop-up
Perhaps the most meaningful information you can take away from your pop-up isn’t a metric at all—it’s in-store customer interaction and feedback. Seeing customers react in real time to your products can be an eye-opening experience, especially if you’ve previously sold only online.
Being able to talk to your customers about everything from your branding to displays to products to layout can be vital feedback for thriving in a retail environment.
Examples of pop-ups to inspire new and emerging brands
Many of the qualities of a successful pop-up have stayed the same, but the pandemic has brought about some key changes in consumer behavior that are being reflected in the pop-up experiences we’ve seen recently. The desire for human connection, the interplay between online and offline, and profound support for local vendors are chief among these trends.
Below are some examples of emerging brands who have launched successful pop-ups—without huge budgets—that reflect the new shopping landscape. Keep reading for inspiration.
The Dating Shop
In this collaborative pop-up leading up to Valentine’s Day, human connection led the strategy. The pop-up was meant to raise awareness for sparkling wine brand Bev and CBD brand Highline Wellness. And while the products were clearly placed throughout the store, they weren’t the focal point.
In fact, to market this pop-up, singles in the Bay Area were asked to answer a personality quiz and applied in advance to be matched for blind dates while at the shop (socially distanced and with masks, of course). And they were incentivized to bring their friends. For couples, private bookings were taken for photoshoots in front of photogenic flower installations.
📌TAKEAWAY: People crave connection and miss social experiences. Although brands with existing customer bases will continue to benefit from the transactional element of pop-up shops (e.g. stores serving as locations for same-day pickup), most new and emerging brands will need to create immersive experiences to stand out from the crowd.
What was once an at-home business, Petal Mistry validated her business idea with a pop-up concept before launching her business online. This may seem like an unusual route, but it’s one that we expect to see more of in coming months as brands realize that some in-person acquisition tactics may actually be more affordable than digital advertising.
Setting up shop in a strip mall in Palo Alto, surrounded by cafés and complementary brands, founder and florist Priya filled the small space with her unique and tropical floral arrangements. She made more than a month’s worth of sales in just two days.
📌 TAKEAWAY: Pop-ups aren’t only valuable as a testing ground for a permanent retail space—they can also serve as a way to validate your business idea and build buzz before you launch your business online. Of course, this isn’t feasible for brands that require heavy product investment and manufacturing, and are best-suited for DIY brands like flower arrangements, candles, and similar at-home businesses.
Not all pop-ups need a physical space—or even inventory. Take Paka Apparel for example. The brand’s clothing is made from one of the most functional and sustainable materials on earth: alpaca wool. Three months into the pandemic, Paka Apparel founder, Kris Cody, decided to go on tour with his two alpacas—Chaska and Luna—to meet customers in-person.
“While everyone was going online, I really wanted to go offline and connect with people. I saw how much fear technology and the media was causing. I wanted to give people a break from it. Alpacas are magnetic creatures, so I made them the focal point of my tour instead of pushing the products in an unnatural way,” says Kris.
Knowing that the bulk of his customer base was in the U.S. West Coast, he organized the “Paka Tour” down the coast with his alpacas and trailer in tow. All he had was his mobile point-of-sale and unique wood-carved $20 gift cards that could be used to purchase anything on Paka Apparel’s website. He brought his alpacas to farmers markets, parks, and surfing competitions, offering free alpaca hugs to whoever wanted them. “Without any product we created this incredible funnel from offline to online just by collecting emails in exchange for gift cards. We got 5,000 customers into our system over the course of two months,” says Kris.
📌 TAKEAWAY: You don’t need a physical space or even inventory to connect with your customers. Ensuring that you’re equipped with the right technology so that you can drive customers to your website at a later date is a low-budget and highly effective tactic for driving brand awareness and sales.
No Free Coffee
No Free Coffee, an LA-based coffee shop also known for their colorful merch, launched their Tiny Café pop-up concept in March of 2021—a hole in the wall (literally) decorated as a tiny door where baristas serve customers coffee from the other side.
The concept was inspired by wine windows that became popular in the 1700s during the bubonic plague or “The Black Death”. To help prevent transmission and keep society lubricated, wine producers sold their wine through small windows. Similarly, No Free Coffee knew their service was essential during the pandemic and went to great and creative lengths to safely serve their customers.
The brand shared promotional pre-launch videos and behind-the-scenes footage explaining the history of the Tiny Café and letting their followers know when they’ll be launching their tiny pop-up. The video content alone earned them over 100,000 views and grew their social media following significantly leading up to the launch.
📌 TAKEAWAY: Creating behind-the-scenes content and tapping into your online community is a powerful way to build buzz for your pop-up shop.
Neighborhood Goods is a new kind of department store with an online presence and three retail locations. They work with more than 100 hand-selected brands, from major international names to direct-to-consumer startups to bootstrapped local concepts. The company strives to bring together brands, restaurateurs, musicians, and artists to engage with customers and support local communities. And they’ve seen a lot of success recently in hosting local vendors’ pop-ups in their own stores.
For two weeks in March, Neighborhood Goods hosted a pop-up for Austin-based noodle cup company Chop Chop at their store in South Congress. Chop Chop’s founders offered mouthwatering specials for Neighborhood Goods customers while also selling their famous noodle cups.
And this summer, Neighborhood Goods is launching a pop-up space, Common Goods, that will provide a free platform for brands, restaurateurs, musicians, and artists whose businesses have been affected by COVID-19 to engage with their customers for the first time since the pandemic hit.
📌 TAKEAWAY: This “store in a store” pop-up concept will continue to rise in popularity in 2021 and beyond as brands increasingly seek collaborative partnerships. In particular, expect to see more big brands and department stores partnering with local vendors. These partnerships are mutually beneficial: brands can leverage each other’s mailing lists and marketing muscle, and also mitigate risk by using existing real estate.
Moving forward with your pop-up shop
A pop-up shop isn’t just a way to generate quick sales—they can be part of your overall brand strategy. They’re a powerful customer acquisition and retention tool, an accessible way to test ideas and gather data, and a great way to build buzz and awareness for your brand.
No matter how post-pandemic retail trends shake out, one aspect of pop-ups will remain unchanged: they offer an affordable first step into physical retail for digital brands who want to connect with their community. Online will always be a key distribution and marketing channel, but physical retail is where brands can create long-lasting connections with their customers.
As the world reopens, consumers will be looking for fun and safe ways to mingle with like-minded friends and brands. With this guide, you’re ready to plan, execute, and analyze your own pop-up—no matter what form it takes.