Pop-ups: Making a noise in a crowded retail market

Pop-up stores are bang on-trend in retail right now. We all know the scale of the challenge physical retail faces – it’s a perfect storm of intense digital competition and raised consumer expectations. But the pop-up format is proving to be an ace up the sleeve for retailers as they look to fight back against the eCommerce onslaught.

It’s not a new idea, that’s true. When retailers open up these temporary spaces in otherwise unused or abandoned locations, they’re using a tried and tested concept. However, by blending the format with new digital technology and some smart new ideas, today’s pop-ups are proving they can be something more.

Connect with more customers

The flexibility of pop-ups is key. It means you can take your retail brand directly to the customer, and fit it around the day-to-day reality of their lives, rather than expecting them to come to you. Let’s face it, “destination shopping” is no longer the way many consumers think about their purchasing. They just don’t have the time to take a whole afternoon out to go browsing.

By opening a retail space in a place that shoppers can discover easily and effortlessly, retailers can insert themselves seamlessly into people’s daily routines. That might be somewhere on the way to work, it might be their office, it might be a hotel lobby or the local public transport hub, or simply somewhere people will be out socialising in the evening.

The key point is this. If you make your pop-up a fun and frictionless experience, and you put it in the right place, you’ve got a very powerful – and low-cost – channel for connecting with customers you might otherwise have missed.

Experiment with your retail ideas

Testing out new concepts, products and merchandising is a fundamental part of retail. What’s great about pop-ups is the way they allow you to do this quickly and inexpensively. That’s one of the reasons start-up brands love them so much. You don’t need a big investment upfront, but you still get a valuable testing ground for seeing which assortments and layouts work best.

This ability to experiment applies not only to what’s in the store, but also to where the store is. Retailers weighing up whether or not to establish a presence in a new location can use a pop-up store to quickly get a sense of the local market need and customer base. That kind of intelligence can be invaluable before committing to a high-value permanent investment.

Or consider another angle. The flexibility of pop-ups makes them an ideal way to maintain a presence in an area when a store has to close, whether planned (say for a store refit) or unplanned (store damage or other unexpected closures). They’re not just a great way to offset any lost revenue, they can also be used to remediate any negative brand perception that the closure causes.

Understand what works

We know the future of in-store retail undoubtedly includes a blend of physical and digital experiences. That’s not news. But because digital technologies evolve so fast, it’s not always immediately clear which are going to be valuable in retail – or how. What better way to try them out than in a low-cost high-impact pop-up experience?

For example, retailers can use innovations like computer vision and beacons to see and understand how customers move around a particular space and interact with different products or ranges. This can provide crucial insights, helping store managers cut through the noise and see what’s working for local customers, and what’s not. What’s more, when the data is collected and analysed in the cloud, you can get these insights near instantly.

Accenture worked with Scanlan Theodore on its pop-up at a trendy New York hotel. Together with By Reveal (a start-up offering turnkey pop-ups) we used video analytics, beacons, RFID tags, and traffic/heat mapping to analyse shopping behaviour with real depth over the course of a weekend.

With a curated selection of merchandise, beautifully arranged by colour, the pop-up encouraged shoppers to get hands on with the products, providing new insights into Scanlan Theodore’s customers. We discovered, for instance, evidence that the brand has a younger potential demographic than it had first expected.

This great success perfectly illustrates the power of the pop-up. They’re fresh and exciting spaces that offer a rich source of new retail insights, faster. In a crowded retail marketplace, the pop-up can be a great way to capture attention and learn about your customers.

To learn more about pop-ups keep an eye out for Essential Retail’s Top of the Pop-Ups feature series, analysing the latest pop-ups on the high street.

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