Pop-ups: more than just a trend

Everyone loves pop-ups right? They’re exciting, they’re new, they’re fun and you have to hurry and get there while the getting’s good. Especially during the holidays. It’s the cool new merchandising trend.

But pop-ups are becoming, and will continue to become, more than just a trend. They are increasingly an important element of the marketing mix. I define the next phase of pop-up shops as focused physical presentations that integrate e-commerce. Here’s what’s coming next.

Customer acquisition
Take, for example, BaubleBar (http://www.baublebar.com). BaubleBar is a young, apparently successful online retailer of quality costume jewelry. The premise, as I understand it, is to bring great accessories to women at a markup that is lower than what traditional bricks and mortar department stores add. But they faced a major hurdle acquiring customers online. Women simply didn’t trust the quality of the goods by looking at a screen image. They needed to see the products live and touch them. The answer? A Pop-Up Shop. BaubleBar’s first two were so successful that they just opened 35 pop-up shops in Nordstrom running for 8 weeks, proof that pop-up shops have become a key tool for customer acquisition. It’s becoming all about business.  

Consider also the Travelling Tailor Shop of the Canadian online mens’ retailer Indochino. Or, similarly, the Guide Shop for Bonobos. These “pop-ups” allow a potential customer to feel the fabric, understand the fit and even, in some cases, to get measured for custom clothing. Although they are “temporary” in that they often move to new locations, they have become a regular and consistent element of the marketing plan. That is because again, it is a key customer acquisition initiative. Indochino will do 12 more pop-ups this year to continue to build their customer base.  

New Product Introduction
I can think of two companies right off the bat that are considering pop-ups as a key element of introducing a new product. One is a product that combines fashion shoes with orthodics — what a wonderful innovation. The problem is the average woman doesn’t even know what orthodics are or why they make practical sense. So this company faces a serious customer education issue, and a well thought through, well planned pop-up shop strategy can solve that problem. I can envision demonstrations with an exciting event in the location right where the customer is.

The second company has a new way of fitting bras based on volume. Again how innovative. But women just don’t understand what this means and how it benefits them in terms of comfort and appearance. This company has figured out the pop-up strategy but is stalled in rolling it out while looking for the perfect retail storefront. The issue though is not necessarily the perfect storefront but the right partners with the right customer at the right time. That could mean a traditional concession based shop in shop. Or it could mean a partnership with a mammography lab in the right neighborhood at a moment when women are already undressed!

Reducing the Cost of Returns
Ruelala told The Wall Street Journal that in 2012, they spent five million dollars on returns. That’s right: five million dollars! Starting with Zappos, I believe, the customer has been trained to expect free shipping. This means that every bedroom in America has been turned into a fitting room. Does that make good business sense? I don’t think so. What if an etailer took their top 10 sellers, or the products representing 80% of their business (the 80/20 rule), and put them in a pop-up shop located in a place where the customer already is going? What comes to mind are the mailboxes that Amazon recently put into grocery stores for this very same reason. How about taking it a step further and installing a pop-up shop, including a room to try samples on? Offering this to the customer could replace the free shipping offer and reduce unnecessary costs dramatically. 

How do the top traditional Retailers get in on all of this? With shop-in-shop etail partnerships. Etail needs bricks and mortar. Bricks and mortar retailers can use etail to test new categories for their stores and generate interest that drives more traffic, all while reducing costs using a concession model. The etailers already have the e-commerce worked out so inventory is simplified. I envision a flexible co-retailing future with partnerships between bricks and mortar and etail, both large and small companies, that build business for them both!

Janet Valenza is president of Pop-Up Artists, a strategic marketing agency that creates focused physical presentations that integrate e-commerce. In a world where everyone is always tearing you down, Valenza and her team get a kick out of building you up using pop-up shops as the marketing tool. Janet can be reached at 917.497.5319, janetv@pop-upartists.com, www.pop-upartists.com.



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