Pop-Up Shops: Beyond the Basics to Help Temporary Stores Thrive

The term “pop-up” isn’t new to retail, yet how pop-up storefronts have evolved over the years continues to introduce new ways to excel at them. Identifying the right location, positioning a pop-up near like-minded yet non-competitive businesses and marketing your pop-up to your target audience are all key components to achieving pop-up store success. But what else can you do to help strengthen your pop-up storefront experience?

Melissa Gonzalez, Founder and CEO of the Lionesque Group and Author of the book The Pop-Up Paradigm, suggests that pop-up stores should aim to have a “multi-prong strategy” to market their stores, as well as introduce essential trainings, budgets and design into their overall planning and execution. Expanding on this, Gonzalez offers the following advice:

A pop-up store must tell a story. You can pick one angle or a couple, but a customer should be able to walk in and walk out of your pop-up store with a clear impression of who you are and what you are selling them,” shares Gonzalez.

To help strengthen your next pop-up store, consider the following tips. 

Tip #1: Incorporate employee trainings into your pop-up strategy.

Often, pop-up stores hire temporary employees since like their employees, the store is temporary. The challenge of this, however, is that these employees are often not engaged and familiar enough with the store inventory and overall brand experience – therefore not best representing the pop-up event. To avoid this, aim to train employees prior to the pop-up opening so that they can best represent the inventory, brand and entire pop-up storefront. The training should cover everything from store operations to inventory details to marketing messages to customer communication and all other necessary details that will uniquely impact your store success. To further support this, be sure to include an employee hand guide that can be easily accessed by employees working at a pop-up experience. How-to-instructions, POS step-by-step details, customer communication ideas and more should all be a part of this guide.

Tip #2: Identify branding well in advance to your pop-up execution.

Considering that pop-up stores are temporary locations, it’s common for the lead time building up to a pop-up not to be grand. Even with extraordinary time to prepare, it’s still important to be well organized and have a firm understanding of your design and branding details prior to walking into your secured pop-up space. Using themes, creating your design around a holiday or linking a pop-up to a nationally recognized event such as Small Business Saturday are all angles to consider when planning your design and branding. Additionally, Gonzalez suggests that when creating a pop-up store, using mood boards is beneficial.

“Creating mood boards with Pinterest is key, allowing you to pick color palates and key materials that will further introduce the ethos of your brand,” shares Gonzalez.

Expanding on this, it’s also important to remember while defining what you need to create your store experience is critical, it’s also valuable to be flexible when occasions arise that need you to be. 

Tip #3: Market before, during and after your pop-up event.

Capturing consumer attention is the goal of any pop-up experience, so be sure that beyond your inventory and storefront planning you also prepare strong marketing to confidently gain customer visibility. To help, do necessary research on the local demographics of where you plan to host a pop-up shop – then proceed to identify where your target audience is to further promote your pop-up to them. Possibly you can partner with like-minded yet non-competitive businesses to cross promote each other’s stores or maybe you can gain media attention from the local press. Better yet? Aim for both strategies, as well as incorporate social media, email marketing, flyer distribution, radio publicity and more. When it comes to marketing, you should have ongoing efforts that lead up to the pop-up opening, continue throughout the pop-up experience and conclude summarizing the success and excitement from the event.

Tip #4: Create an “urgent” approach to your marketing and in-store efforts.

Unlike traditional storefronts or selling online, pop-up shops are not designed to be returned to again and again and again. Because of this, it’s important to factor in how you can encourage customers to “buy now” versus browse and shop later. As part of your employee training, incorporate appropriate messaging into your customer communication that encourages consumers to jump on the pop-up bandwagon and buy what they love right away versus wait. Additionally, market products as limited editions or first come, first serve so that customers are more likely to want to make a purchase impulsively rather than spend much time thinking about it. And as Gonzalez explains, “pop-ups need to appeal to something that customers really want to participate in.” This, of course, includes spending so be sure to capture dollars through “urgency” when you brand and market your pop-up business.

Tip #5: Incorporate all the senses of customers.

Visual appeal is undoubtedly a huge part of creating a successful pop-up experience, but what about touch? Smell? Taste? Scent?

When you plan your pop-up store, incorporate strategies that appeal to all the senses of a customer. A signature store scent is always a good idea – particularly if it’s one that is known to be inviting, warm and appreciated by most customers, such as the scent of vanilla or warm baked cookies. When possible, use a scent that compliments your store inventory and branding, but be aware that too bold of scents can turn customers away. Additionally, offering complimentary fresh lemon water or small bites of chocolate are great ways to engage your customers while also introducing taste into your store experience. As for touch? Your entire store should welcome this, offering customers the chance to engage and connect with your inventory and overall environment.

Final thoughts

Finally, remember that a successful pop-up doesn’t only depend on marketing, branding, customer visibility and the in-store experience. It ultimately depends on the revenue you make… or don’t. Keeping this in mind, begin with a budget and be sure to accurately track this during all stages of pop-up execution. Upon the conclusion of your pop-up, you’ll be able to identify where the most money was spent, saved and made – as well as identify if your event was truly a success.