Consumers love the allure of exclusivity and brands love the unmatched opportunity to experiment.
Pop-up shop ideas
Your goals will dictate the type of popup experience you want to create and how you will implement it.
1. Temporary retail space
When you move your business from online to stationary, you can use a pop-up shop to simulate the retail experience and gain valuable insights into aspects like operations and demand … without the risk of involvement and effort.
2. One-time event
Even if you don’t test out the local retail market, an event-style popup that the press and public can attend can generate a lot of buzz for your brand. By taking advantage of the exclusivity of the occasion, you can use the event to generate interest. Make it a party!
3. Immersive experience
A physical space gives customers the opportunity to see, feel and experience your brand. With that in mind, you can use your popup shop to provide a unique, immersive environment. This could mean interactive ads or other unexpected physical elements that add a wow factor.
How to make a pop-up shop
Building a successful popup is an endeavor that requires a lot of planning, scouting, and marketing to get started. Here are the main steps to consider when setting up:
1. Assess your goals and choose a topic.
Are you testing the market for a more permanent location? Or do you create buzz? Knowing your goals can help you determine what type of space to look for, what type of pop-up shop to run (see above), what supplies to buy, and how to market and operate them.
2. Search for a location.
Since your popup is only temporary (at least at the beginning), you don’t get the benefit of word of mouth or brand / location awareness. That means you need to choose a location with a lot of pedestrian traffic to maximize your impact.
This consideration, of course, needs to be balanced with the cost of renting the space and the availability of a short term lease.
Good places to consider include:
- Outstanding stands or kiosks
- Empty shop window
- Art or gallery spaces
- Marketplace or exhibition stands
You can also use services like Peerspace or We Are Pop Up to explore locations.
3. Buy equipment and accessories.
Once you know where to set up the shop and how long you will be there, you can plan your space. This includes buying home furnishings like shelves, as well as accessories and decor to make your theme stand out.
4. Plan the launch and opening.
Since your popup is a fleeting experience, you won’t benefit from long-term customer building. Success depends on the marketing in the run-up to the market launch (more on this later) as well as on the dynamics achieved on that day. Because of this, give yourself enough lead time before it opens to spark interest and create an experience that gets people talking.
4. Start and enjoy.
Remember, the purpose of a popup shop is to connect with your customers. Sure, it’s all about your brand, but your brand is for them. Their intricate planning creates the foundation for an incredible experience, but so does your interactions with them. Be ready to provide a level of service where your customers will spread the word, come back, and remember your brand once you’re gone.
5. Analyze and determine what went well.
Check out the foot traffic, sales, revenue, and social media engagement you’ve received.
What worked and what didn’t? What was your ROI? Is it worth opening a permanent store or repeating the experience elsewhere? What would you do differently?
1. Don’t be afraid of PR.
The media will be your friend when it comes to getting the word out. Reach out to local publications to see if you can get a feature and write a press release to see if you can deserve coverage. It may even be worth sending exclusive invitations to some journalists on your launch date.
2. Reach out to local influencers and bloggers.
Influencers and bloggers may have a smaller reach than traditional media, but their followers will likely be very targeted and engaged. Find out how much advertising could be and don’t be afraid to offer discounts!
3. Create an event on Facebook.
Promote your existing Facebook followers by creating a Facebook event and inviting them. This will raise awareness of your existing fans and increase the reach of your popup marketing efforts.
4. Advertise on Facebook.
Facebook has advanced targeting options for audience type and geographic area. This makes it an ideal channel to let prospects know you don’t already know. Read more about how to create a Facebook ad.
5. Submit your database via email.
Tap on your existing customer base and let them know through your popup with email marketing. Your campaign will be even more successful if you can segment your database and target your customers in the region.
6. Use direct mail.
One of the best ways to promote a local event is through direct mail campaigns to residents in the closest zip codes. Mailers act as invitations to the general public. You can also push the promotions you have run.
7. Generate Buzz and FOMO with Promotions.
FOMO (fear of missing out) can motivate buyers to show up and get involved. You can take advantage of this with exciting promotional strategies like contests, freebies, discounts, and door openers.
8. Delete signs.
The signage will help you draw the attention of nearby pedestrian traffic. So invest in flyers, banners, and window stickers that are attractive and will grab the attention of passers-by.
To inspire your next brand experience, we’ve compiled a list of these innovative and visually stunning pop-up events.
15 Examples of Next Level Pop-up Events
1. COS Los Angeles
The experimental architecture firm Snarkitecture was inspired by mirrored surfaces and simple silhouettes when designing this temporary retail space for LA-based fashion label COS. The Snarkitecture staff transformed an empty industrial room into two identical, monochromatic rooms – one white and one light pink. – put the focus on two racks with minimal clothing. The reflected space “creates an unexpected and changed world that visitors can experience and share.”
Image credit: Snarkitecture
2. BarkShop Live
Shouldn’t your dog be able to buy their own toys? Bark & Co, the e-commerce company behind BarkBox, is convinced of it. For a week in June 2016, the dog-centric retailer opened a store in Manhattan, inviting dogs and their owners to try out their squeaky, bouncy, and chewy deals in person. The lucky puppies in attendance were equipped with RFID-enabled vests that tracked the toys they played with the most. Owners could then view and purchase their dogs’ favorite toys right from the event’s custom mobile app.
Video from Digiday
3. Glossier Summer Fridays Showroom
In the summer of 2015, online makeup and skin care brand Glossier redesigned a floor of their Manhattan headquarters as a temporary retail showroom – most likely in their beautifully curated Instagram feed. The space had Glossier products for sale, but as founder Emily Weiss explained, selling tubes of moisturizer and lip balm wasn’t necessarily the top priority of the pop-up. “It’s not really just a business,” Weiss said in an interview with Racked. “It’s almost like this is a huge mood board for the company we’re trying to build.”
The penthouse was designed under the direction of set designer Marguerite Wade and contained individual flower arrangements by Meta Flora and an installation by multimedia artist Grace Villamil.
Image credit: Glossier
4. Fast food aid
The creative directors Ikkyu and Junya Sato of design studio Kaibutsu discovered that young adults in Harajuku had a serious fast food problem – and decided to do something about it. To promote the organic food chain Dohtonbori, they launched Fast Food Aid, a pharmacy-inspired vitamin popup that offers a variety of nutritional supplements for junk food lovers. And all it costs is a receipt from a fast food place.
After a guilty indulgence, swap your receipt for a bespoke bottle of nutritional supplements that will replenish the nutrients missing from your last meal. Each canister is aimed at a specific junk food – ramen, pizza, hamburgers, etc. – to make sure your system is getting what it needs.
While Dohtonbori doesn’t actually sell anything for a profit in the store, it was able to educate visitors about health and wellness and hopefully make them opt for healthier foods in the future – like Dohtonbori’s own restaurant.
Photo credit: Fast Food Aid
5. Pantone Café
How does color taste? If anyone knows the answer to that question, it is Pantone. The world’s best-known color company has been running a pop-up café in Monaco for two summers, selling a minimal selection of pastries, lunch dishes, coffee and fresh juices – all with Pantone’s signature color patterns.
So does this mean Pantone is constantly branching out into the kitchen? Not quite. The seasonal restaurant makes perfect Instagram bait and has generated a lot of press coverage. It’s a perfect example of a pop-up event where a company can take creative risks with its brand by moving away from its typical business model.
Photo credit: Pantone Café
6. Real life at work
To give passers-by a glimpse into their world, London-based advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy invited graphic designer Emily Forgot to transform the front window of their office into an imaginative, cartoon-inspired pop-up workspace. With exaggerated monochrome images, Forgot created a bizarre office scene out of paper with a typewriter and a clock running backwards.
For a few weeks, real agency employees took turns “working” in the window. The whole thing was then streamed live via webcam on the agency’s website for anyone curious enough to see it. The popup was a unique opportunity for W + K to shake off the stereotype of the advertising agency that takes itself too seriously – and it was a creative opportunity for the team to engage with the community.
Photo credit: Wieden + Kennedy London
How can you make inexpensive, packaged underwear attractive to high-end consumers? Just create a “luxury” lingerie popup with a fake, fancy name. CP + B Boulder helped client Fruit of the Loom open a deliberately sophisticated and ridiculously overpriced underwear boutique that features colorful intimacies hanging on exaggerated tree displays. Früt only sold Fruit of the Loom underwear, but buyers who normally wouldn’t buy the brand were drawn to the high-end disguise.
Photo credit: Wieden + Kennedy London
8. Organic Valley Coffee Shop
In a clever shot aimed at the artisanal coffee movement, the creative branding agency Humanaut opened a pop-up café to promote the new Organic Valley creamer. The temporary storefront in Manhattan stuck to all the typical hipster tropes – a minimal logo with arrows and X, modern glass cups and trendy sizes – Lil Bit, Double and Lotta. And they cast a real Organic Valley farmer as the folk owner of the business.
There was a catch: the store only sold measured parts of half and half. You ordered your milk jug from a barista at the counter and added your coffee separately. The parody was a huge hit. Unimpressed by the irony, New Yorkers lined up to order creams for $ 2 a pop. “Nobody had a problem paying $ 2 for a serving of organic,” said David Littlejohn, Humanaut’s chief creative officer. “In the end, the idea wasn’t as crazy as we thought.”
Video Credit: Organic Valley
9. 5-minute internship
Solve, a Minneapolis-based creative agency, wanted to revise their summer intern hiring process to attract recruits who can really think on their feet. So, of course, they created a portable, small replica of their office – complete with a receptionist manned micro lobby – and set off on an epic road trip on the college campus.
Students at participating locations were given a 5-minute challenge depending on their area of interest – and those who performed the best were invited to an on-site interview. The pop-up event tripled the number of applications the agency received for its internship position.
Image credit: Adweek
10. The picture house
Birdseye took advantage of the excitement for Instagram food photography and opened a temporary restaurant in London where guests could settle their bills with an Instagram post. All they had to do was take a snapshot of their food and add the hashtag #BirdsEyeInspirations. The event was a creative social media experiment that helped generate free advertising for the frozen company’s inspirational line of products. The brand agency Slice was behind the world’s first pay-by-picture popup.
Image credit: Slice
11. The period shop
For a weekend in New York, Kotex launched a pop-up to ease negativity and spread love for women during their periods. The store, developed by the advertising agency Organic, offered ice cream, manicure, chocolate, comfortable clothes and Kotex U products for sale. Women were invited to browse through the colorful offers and share their experiences. And all for a good cause. The proceeds were donated to a homeless shelter for women.
Image credit: Adweek
12. Birchbox’s Tour
Pop-ups give online retailers the opportunity to showcase their merchandise in person, interact directly with their fans and take their brand to the next level. Birchbox – which sells subscription boxes of curated beauty products – went on a national tour in 2015 and opened temporary stationary stores in several cities. In addition to selling beauty products, they also offered manicure and astrology readings to attract beauty lovers into the home.
Photo credit: Racked LA
13. Fendi Spring / Summer 2016 flower shop
The mobile flower shop that botanist Azuma Makoto designed for Fendi is proof that not all pop-ups have to be large-format productions. The artist adorned a three-wheeled Italian vehicle with an intricate flower display and equipped the side of the truck as an open shop front. The seller / driver sold limited-edition Fendi bags and vases with Makoto’s flower arrangements to promote the fashion label’s spring / summer 2016 collection.
Photo credit: My Modern Met
What can a designer do when he’s on a tight budget? Experiment with creative materials. This pop-up sales area for the Australian draper Arnsdorf was created with 154 pairs of tights in neutral colors. The effect is beyond the world.
Photo credit: Fast Company
15. The Poundshop
This design collective is a recurring popup platform for artists to offer their wares at affordable prices. “The goal of The Poundshop is to bring design to a wider audience by making it accessible through price and engagement,” explains the website.
The pop-up shops are just as visually interesting as the art they sell.
Photo credit: The Poundshop
With a little planning and a lot of preparation, you can create a splash with a popup that will delight your customers and generate interest in your brand.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated for completeness.