12 Tips to Open and Run a Successful Pop-Up Shop

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While digital media, social networking platforms, and electronic devices have shifted the retail landscape, the importance of brand recognition and personal connections with customers in retail has remained the same.

Pop-up retail allows a brand to engage and interact with customers in a unique environment. A pop-up shop is a short-term retail space that appears seemingly out of nowhere, quickly drawing in customers, and then disappears when the optimal selling season is over. These shops, while small and temporary, can build up interest by consumer exposure.

Taking products to the customer, for both online or bricks-and-mortar business, gives you a chance to build an in-person relationship. And whether it’s taking advantage of vacant commercial real estate space or repurposing a truck or shipping container, it’s easier than ever to get started with a pop-up shop.

Finding a temporary venue is just the beginning of what it takes to open and run a successful pop-up shop. If you’re planning to follow the trend, keep these tips in mind:

Start Early

By planning several months out, you can increase the effectiveness of your pop-up shop and save considerable time and money. Make sure you create a budget and identify your objectives as early as possible. Line up an adequate amount of staff to operate the shop during business hours. Hire temporary staff if necessary.

Shop for a Location

Finding the right neighborhood or store location is critical to ensuring the success of a pop-up shop. This includes doing due diligence on area demographics, other retailers present in the neighborhood, visibility, foot and vehicle traffic counts, and neighborhood safety. Speak to neighboring stores for the real scoop.

Sometimes you can find a location by going online at PopUpInsider or Storefront, checking out Craigslist, or even taking a walk through local retail centers to look for vacant shop spaces. Ask if your landlord has ever done a temporary lease arrangement before. How accessible are they? Are they willing to work with you to improve the space? These are key questions that need to be asked during lease negotiations, and will weigh heavily in ensuring the success of your pop-up store.

How long a retailer should keep a pop-up store open depends on the business objectives and budget. Most pop-up stores are open for about three months unless you’re setting up shop for a specific event. Make sure that you give yourself enough time to see results – at least three to four weeks.

Think Outside the Box

Don’t consider only vacant traditional retail space. There are plenty of options to create your own brand experience only limited to your imagination. Boxman Studios works with some of the biggest brands on creating pop-up shops from old shipping containers.

“Often, especially in the Americas, pop-up refers to renting vacant space for a low-cost. Usually because the space is out of the way, limited in size, or another aspect that makes it unattractive to other tenants. We circumvent those limitations by custom building pop up spaces from modified shipping containers,” said Vinay Patel of Boxman Studios.

Avoid the Temporary Feel

The look and feel of a pop-up has to match other shops in your pop-up location. You want shoppers passing by your shop to feel your shop has a seamless, integrated feel with the rest of the area. Keep the shop organized as you would a permanent location and display merchandise attractively. Avoid blatantly giving off the impression that your retail shop is a temporary location. Or… do the exact opposite!

Use “Temporary” to Your Advantage

Just like promotions brick & mortar stores run to drive in-store traffic, having a pop-up shop for a limited amount of time can also create a sense of urgency from shoppers. Create a kick-ass pop up shop that stands out from everything else around it that customers don’t want to miss and must check out before you close up shop.

Be a Nomad

The ability retailers have to act like David Blaine and make store locations appear and disappear is a huge advantage, so use it.

“Pop-up shops take you to your consumer. You can head to the nearest park for the upcoming festival, or the outside of an amphitheater during a popular concert,” said Patel. “The pop-up shop is also great for seasonal trends. Stay in sunny Florida to sell flip flops during the summer, and then ship up to Vermont during the winter to show off your newest snow boots.”

“Working with Adidas we were able to set up shop at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, and we toured the country visiting different college campuses with Samsung. You can’t get that kind of reach with normal spaces,” added Patel.

Create an Experience

One of the biggest advantages of a pop-up shop is the ability to create a unique and unforgettable consumer experience. With more and more commerce-related activities happening online – product research, consumer reviews, purchases – an in-person experience and the touch and feel of a product is still much more powerful.

“Customer experience is pop-up. Without it, you’ve done nothing different,” said Patel. “Creating a brand experience within a pop-up shop is essential to creating consumer relationships, whether its through interactive displays, games, contests, music or something else entirely.”

Use Social Media to Spread the Word

Hopefully, your shop is in a high-traffic area and can reap the benefits of a natural steady flow of potential customers walking past your storefront. Whether or not that’s the case, you’ve got to use social media to let people know you’re in business.

Social media is a low-cost tool you should use to market your business. Post messages about your pop-up shop to your existing Facebook and Twitter followers. If you don’t have a large existing following, consider paying for ads on Google or Facebook. Using either will be more cost-effective channels than traditional advertising and will allow you to target by specific age groups, gender and even interests.

Educate and Train

A pop-up store is an excellent way to educate your customers on all that is great about your products. Make sure your sales staff is educated and trained on the unique selling points of your wares, and that they have a clear understanding of how you want them to articulate these points to customers.

Manage the Shop

Try to brainstorm and anticipate potential problems before you open your shop. Set up procedures specific to the shop to handle regular day-to-day operations plus any special situations – such as dealing with shoplifters.

Get Paid

Figuring out how you will accept customer payments in your shop is a big consideration before opening. Some retailers use sophisticated registers and software that are too costly for a temporary outlet.

Try something more practical like Vend or Lightspeed. Both point-of-sale systems can be operated on iPads, which eliminates the need for high cost, heavy set-up registers and allows you to manage your shop on the go. Both have affordable pricing that’s scaled to the size of the business.

Whether associates are accessing their POS through tablets or shoppers are using the retail store’s mobile storefront, mobile devices can play a crucial role in pop-up shops.

Follow Up

Once you close your store, you can continue to benefit from your shop. Try to collect email addresses from all of your shop customers and do follow-up outreach, either through emails or social media platforms. Keep engaging these customers, solicit feedback and build on new customer relationships so they’ll continue to give you their business.

Image credit: Boxman Studios