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Pop-up stores – Engaging with customers

27th Dec 2016
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Whether we like to admit it or not, ecommerce companies will always be at a disadvantage when compared to the more traditional brick and mortar retail businesses. At least this is the situation at the moment, according to Gallup. In the future, people might be completely over the actual physical visit to the store and the experience that comes with it. At the moment, however, ecommerce customers simply cannot experience the same engagement they can at a physical store.

The good news is that there is a way in which web-based retail companies can nowadays introduce this traditional face-to-face experience to their loyal customers and their potential new customers by setting up a pop-up store.


What is a pop-up store?

In the sense in which we will be talking about it today, a pop-up store is a physical retail space (it often is not even in form of a traditional store) where a company that usually only sells online puts on a more traditional shopping experience.

The history of pop-up retail dates back to the 1990s LA and The Ritual Expo event that caught the attention of many and that later visited other American cities. At the time, these were companies that already had their stores, but which wanted to feature a temporary retail space in specific circumstances.

Over the years, pop-up stores became more and more outrageous and they have been done by everyone from Samsung to Fourth Element whose pop-up store was actually underwater.

While this sort of pop-up retailing still exists, today we will be talking about a more modern iteration – a pop-up store where an otherwise web-based company sets up a temporary retail space in the physical world.

For such companies, setting up a store like this is equally a branding thing as it is a customer engagement, or at least that is the way it should be.

Getting the team on board

The first thing to do when opening up a pop-up store is ensuring that your team understands this is an opportunity for customer engagement and not just a promotion thing, or a sales thing. In fact, it has almost nothing to do with the sales. The point of a pop-up store is not to sell. It is to attract a whole new customer base. Today, we learn it is also about engagement.

To begin with, you will need a team. Your regular employees will not be able to handle manning your new pop-up store and you will probably have to build a team from the ground up. This is something you should never rush and during this building of the team, you will want to emphasize the fact that you will be looking to engage new and existing customers as part of their experience in your new store.

A few things to try out

There are a few things that you will want to try out during your pop-up store experience, regardless of what your original idea was – launching of a new line, diversification of your offer, testing of a new market, etc.

For one, you will want to make sure to take advantage of being able to speak to your customers face-to-face. This is extremely important since they are far more likely to provide truthful insights this way than when filling out different surveys you send them online. You will also be able to observe their browsing patterns and other aspects of their behavior that can be somewhat complicated and time-consuming to analyze in their online purchasing.

This will also be a chance for you to reinforce your brand in their mind as online shopping often gets done in something of a tunnel-vision on the part of the customer who is only looking for a checkout (or, worse, a way off your website). You can be more "aggressive" with your visual identity through displaying your logo and your colors more prominently. Later, they will subconsciously be more recognizant of your brand online too.

Of course, you will also be making sure that your pop-up store customers get as much information about your business in general, where they can purchase things online (some pop-up stores don't even sell in person) and how they can become loyal customers with perks and special deals.

Working in unison

It goes without saying that your pop-up store experience will have to be coordinated with your "traditional", online existence. Long before you open your pop-up store, you will be promoting the event as aggressively as possible online.

During the experience, you might want to organize some kind of interplay between the two. For instance, when someone purchases something in your pop-up store, they get some kind of a discount in your online store for the next 12 hours or so.

You should also coordinate your two teams – those who keep your online store running and those who are manning the pop-up store. They should have separate numbers and your pop-up store needs to be an independent entity, keep that in mind, though. Instead of patching the calls to the pop-up store to your regular ecommerce people, a virtual receptionist service might be a better idea.

It is a fine balance. Your pop-up store needs to be strong on its own and yet it will work best in unison with your everyday, web-based operation.

Closing word

For companies that sell exclusively online, a pop-up store can be a fantastic way to engage and reengage with customers, both to attract new ones and to retain the already existing ones.

Combine this with a branding opportunity and opening a pop-up store becomes even more alluring.


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By PaulChau
20th Apr 2018 08:21

I think who is actually at a disadvantage remains to be seen at the end of the day. I handle a number of self storage units at my facility that belong to online businesses. They too need a location for storage of their products at the end of the day. But those that are successful really do not require an actual brick and mortar presence because they are capable of finding solutions to engage their customers well and provide excellence after sales care. The customer experience is what matters the most and convenience may be the key to some markets!

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