How to make your pop-up store a success in 2024

Considering brick & mortar? Test the waters with a pop-up shop. Learn how to reach new markets and preview products with potential customers.

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Opening your first physical store is a seminal, coming-of-age moment for a retailer, particularly in the age of starting businesses online. Many entrepreneurs are enjoying rapid ecommerce success, building burgeoning brands. But opening and running a physical store is a different ball game.

It’s a juncture that the vast majority must cross, and one that’s crucial to get right. However, the rising costs of operating a business, especially with a physical location, have made this leap harder than ever.

Pop-up stores can bridge that gap. They allow retailers to experiment with in-store operations and experiences without the burden of fixed leases and overheads.

Retailers can experiment with their location and design, as well as experiences that could appeal to customers, while at the same time testing the logistics of running a store and physical point of sale. This is invaluable insight for business owners who have only sold products online, and can help them learn how to make physical retail work for them.

Pop-up stores have their place on the high street

Much has been said about the “death” of the high street after 17,500 chain stores closed at the start of the pandemic, but this shouldn’t deter retailers from opening stores.

In fact, physical shopping is rebounding as a touchpoint for new brands and products, with Shopify data finding that nine out of ten (89%) shoppers are now just as likely or even more likely to discover products by browsing in a shop than they were a year ago.

If you think that a pop-up store could be a worthwhile investment for your business, here are some considerations and recommendations to help you make it a success.

Which type of pop-up store is best for your business?

Not all pop-up stores are created equal. There are different types, so it’s important to identify which is best for your business.

Perhaps you want to tie your pop-up to a time of year. In that case, seasonal pop-up shops can leverage seasonal characteristics to drive traffic and sales. The most common type is the holiday pop-up shop. These tap into peak shopping season, which, for some businesses, accounts for one third of their annual revenue.

Holidays such as Easter, Halloween, and Christmas can be open goals for seasonal pop-ups, given the loveable decor and treats that go hand-in-hand with these occasions.

Another popular option is experimental pop-ups, which help brands to trial the introduction of new products, markets, merchandising, or retail experiences. Clothing brand Blakely used a pop-up to launch its Life & Style collection, creating over 300 gift bags for customers and getting hundreds of consumers through the door in the process.

Delivering a slightly different concept to a business’ main offering, experimental pop-ups are an opportunity to gather valuable data, such as consumer interest in a new product or even brand identity.

Finally, there are pop-in stores. These are spaces within larger stores that small businesses can rent. Pop-in stores can be particularly valuable as they are typically within physical spaces that have been purpose-built for retail, and where consumers already have a higher intent to purchase.

What should you consider before opening a pop-up store?

If you’re considering expanding your ecommerce business into brick-and-mortar stores, launching a new product line, or pursuing a new target market, a pop-up shop may be the best way to run your experiment.

But, while a pop-up store can be a valuable mechanism to learn the nuances and operations of a high street presence, it’s important to have a full understanding of what it entails before committing to long-term agreements.

One key impact to factor in is rental costs and the additional utilities that you’ll need to pay for either upfront, or while the store is open. It is therefore critical to research different locations to identify the best option based on factors such as customer traffic, costs, and whether there are other similar companies nearby that could draw in more customers or even be competitors.

It is also important to plan a store layout that optimises the customer experience, while also factoring in the realities of the space, such as windows and countertops, to ensure displays and signage are maximised.

How to make your pop-up store a success

Ahead of and throughout the duration of the pop-up store’s operation, driving awareness to encourage customers to visit is paramount. A strong marketing strategy is therefore critical to success.

That marketing strategy should start with your existing customer base online, as they’re already advocates of your brand. If you don’t have one in place yet, create a newsletter to share with those customers, informing them about the store and what will be available. It may also be valuable to further entice them through in-store-only deals and discounts.

Social media is also one of the most powerful tools for driving interest and traffic to a store. Sharing behind-the-scenes content and deals, and encouraging consumers to post about your business, can be invaluable.

When coupled with influencer collaborations, all these efforts can help deliver results. Influencers bring their own engaged audiences and, by connecting with your brand, can potentially bring more customers into the pop-up. It may be best to target micro-influencers, which can receive up to 60% more engagement than larger influencers and so can be more cost-effective.

Another way to drive consumers to your pop-up store is by working with local publications that list events, or are relevant to your customer base, to raise awareness. This helps you connect with the local community in which you are operating.

Finally, a good point-of-sale (POS) system is key to your pop-up store running smoothly. By investing in a solution that can synchronise your inventory, payments, and customer data, you could gain access to live information and insights to manage the store more effectively. This will enable you to evaluate your store’s success using data on product sales, peak activity, and how much customers were spending.

You’ll take crucial learnings about your pop-up from the process of analysing your operations, so retailers need to capture as much data as possible.

Why should you consider a pop-up store?

Pop-up shops offer an affordable first step for online brands to establish a physical presence. While temporary, they enable businesses to explore how in-store selling operates and to test the most effective mechanisms.

Just as importantly, they can help identify any potential points of failure without the same level of risk that a long-term store could bring.

Online will always be a key sales channel, but when combined with a physical retail space, there’s an opportunity to create a unified online and offline storefront that engenders long-lasting connections with customers on the high street.

And, as UK inflation slows down according to the latest ONS figures, and consumers potentially start to gain more spending power, startup retailers have a huge opportunity to reach customers as fully connected omnichannel brands.

Deann Evans - Shopify
Deann Evans, Managing Director, EMEA at Shopify

Deann Evans’ career spans over two decades in ecommerce and SaaS leadership roles. She currently oversees the European expansion of Shopify, the global commerce platform powering millions of modern, high-growth brands including Gymshark and Huel. This role enables Evans to empower merchants through Shopify’s substantial partners and developer community.

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