Pop-up shops present a low-risk opportunity for e-commerce businesses to try their hand in the physical realm. E-commerce businesses don’t always get to interact with customers face to face, and unlike traditional retailers, they have to create their own opportunities for physical engagement. Businesses can also try out new marketing strategies and promotional campaigns with pop-up shops.
There’s an added bonus to these real-world events: People tend to remember pop-up shops. If you want to give your audience a jolt of invigoration that they’ll remember down the road, it might be high time for a pop-up shop. For many brands both big and small, pop-up shops have paved the way for future opportunities. Let’s take a look at some of the most memorable pop-up shops in e-commerce and find out what some brands did right.
Customers tend to be receptive to your brand when it backs the same causes they do. Launching a pop-up shop and marketing campaign centered around an idea, message or celebration gives the whole project a more communal purpose. It invites—and in some cases even obligates—people to join in to support the cause themselves while building a positive association with your company.
Penguin Living, an offshoot of publishing company Penguin Random House, chose International Women’s Day as the focal point of their London pop-up shop. Those who stopped by the pop-up bookstore could browse through the written works of iconic female authors throughout the ages as well as participate in workshops and enjoy author appearances.
This pop-up shop was effective, and thus memorable, for a number of different reasons. First, brands are looked at more favorably when they show a sense of social and environmental consciousness and responsibility. Penguin did this by pairing their campaign with an important commemorative holiday. In addition to appealing to the fans, this also generates more media coverage and exposure for the brand. Finally, the proceeds from ticket sales for author appearances and workshops went to charity, which shows that the brand is willing to put its money where its mouth is.
Penguin hasn’t forgotten about the impact its pop-up shop had, and it decided to partner with Lululemon for another campaign in 2018. The book publisher and athletic brand teamed up to create a pop-up library where people can freely read, check out books, or listen to audiobooks.
Brandless’s 2018 pop-up shop in New York aimed to foster a community around itself. Brandless didn’t even sell any of their wide variety of products at the shop. Instead, they made things feel less “salesy” by giving out free samples with QR codes. Visitors could scan the codes and be brought to the Brandless online store, and the products they scanned would be delivered to their home addresses.
By inviting people to join the physical party and then directing them to the Brandless online store, the company practiced omnichannel marketing in a way that engaged and entertained participants. They even took it up a notch by closing the shop to the public during certain times so they could host live events. The money made from these live events was donated to charity, which always scores points with customers. Since it was obvious that the pop-up shop wasn’t some cash-grab charade, people enjoyed a deeper connection with the brand.
Brandless’s New York pop-up shop wasn’t their first, and part of the reason it was so successful was that it built on the strengths of its LA pop-up earlier in the year. They didn’t actually sell products at that pop-up either. In both cases, however, they created a unique experience in which fans and followers of the brand could sample products, interact with real humans, and ultimately make purchases online.
Shopping for a mattress online presents some unique challenges, so running an e-commerce business that specializes in mattress sales must present some of its own. Leesa found breakout success with their Dream Gallery, which was a pop-up shop created around their mattresses.
The shop was set up as a collaboration with the mattress company, a SoHo gallery, and an online marketplace for disabled or homeless artists called ArtLifting. People were welcome to enjoy the exhibit however they liked; they could look at new creative arts or try out comfortable mattresses without having to deal with pushy salespeople. The brand created a welcoming environment that allowed people to become familiar with their products without any pressure, and the effort was well-received.
Since the success of the Leesa Dream Gallery, the company has opened hundreds of permanent stores. This turned out to be a phenomenal way to use pop-up shops to break into the physical world as a budding e-commerce company. Leesa found a creative way to transform their mattress e-commerce business with a pop-up shop, so imagine what a pop-up could do for you.
Being memorable is exactly what Boohoo set out to accomplish when the UK company decided to open up a pop-up shop in the US. There were other goals in addition: learn about the markets they haven’t tapped into and get people talking about their brand. It’s easy to fly under the radar as “some foreign company online”, but it was much easier to pay attention to Boohoo when they popped up in real life.
The heads behind Boohoo decided on a two-for-one play in which they’d increase visibility and learn about potential customers at the same time with a pop-up shop. Their shoppable showroom let customers try out different outfits while they built a database of what products were popular and which ones weren’t catching any eyes. By encouraging shoppers to share their looks on social media, they were able to build an active following and substantial buzz.
Breaking into a new market that’s already saturated by the biggest names is intimidating, which is why many brands quit while they’re behind. Boohoo decided to take matters into its own hands and find out exactly who they appealed to in America, what products stood the best chance at selling, and how to carve an individual niche into an already bustling industry.
Some pop-up shops are genius to put it simply. Boohoo’s market research excursion was a good example of such genius, but BarkShop Live might have it beat. The e-commerce pet shop BarkShop.com opened a dog-friendly pop-up shop where dogs and their humans could shop together, but here’s where it gets really interesting: Every dog that entered the shop wore a vest that tracked its movement. This gave the folks at BarkShop a ton of data they could analyze to better understand the dogs they serve. BarkShop Live was a fun experience for pets and humans, and the experiment gave the masterminds plenty of ideas to consider for future brick-and-mortar endeavors.
When designed properly and used for a specific goal, pop-up shops can be invaluable experimental tools for any kind of e-commerce business. They’re a great way to test the water, try out new methods and products, and connect with your crowd in ways you haven’t before. The above brands were able to operate their pop-ups successfully and gain valuable insight as to how they can better their businesses moving forward. Focus on the good things they’ve done and apply the lessons we’ve learned from these other brands’ experiences.