shopper marketing

How to make a pop-up shop go boom!

Pop-up shops are now a firm favourite in the retail marketer’s arsenal, utilising dis-used retail space for short periods, in high-footfall areas to deliver experiential activity to passing shoppers.

Small retailers trying to battle their way onto the high street are finding the tactic is a no-brainer; dodge sky-high business rates, test the viability of a wider retail idea and drive sales into the bargain, great.

On this kind of activity, customer-facing staff make up the most critical aspect of your brand experience. Successful projects give these guys the tools they need to succeed. They prep them on the importance of first impressions and non-verbal communication, smiling and body language; and give them the brand knowledge and opening gambits they’ll need to engage visitors in conversation.

For new brands, and established ones trying something new, pop-up shops are a straightforward trial and test initiative. Get up close and personal with the target audience and see how they react.

For bigger brands aiming to drive awareness, the benefits and the delivery of a pop-up project are more complex. No matter how big you get there’s still value in getting face to face with your audience, providing a level of emotional engagement that’s very difficult to match through other channels.

Success relies on being able to deliver a rich story or a compellingly exclusive offer, a relevant, memorable experience in congruence with the brand ethos.

The tactic can work well for firms that don’t have a physical presence in the consumer environment, particularly online brands. Bringing a one-dimensional relationship, which usually takes place on either side of a computer screen, into the real world was a tactic implemented by Amazon, and more subtly eBay, in the run up to the recent Christmas holidays.

But the hidden value in an engaging pop-up experience can be in how you stretch it to touch vicarious audiences through amplification strategies.

Our client Virgin Atlantic launched its Little Red domestic UK air routes last year. Following the launch, we staged a world-class pop-up experience in Manchester, promoting the service to a local audience, people who would potentially begin their holiday by using the new flights from Manchester to Heathrow as a trans-Atlantic connection.

The activity, housed over three floors of the Virgin Money Lounge in Manchester, offered various internationally-themed experiences to get visitors holiday-ready, including a nail bar, photo booth service and Virgin Holidays advice. The pop-up provided a taste of international glamour to a local audience that might choose to start its holiday with Virgin Atlantic Little Red.

The Virgin Atlantic Little Red pop-up delivered its unique brand experience to just over 700 people. Street teams on the ground in Manchester city centre helped generate buzz around the brand and the pop-up, handing out over 3,000 scratch-cards that looked like boarding passes that offered the chance to win free Virgin Holidays, or Little Red flights .

That’s almost 4000 people, before amplification. But don’t stop there; PR and digital worked hand in hand for us to drive buzz in Manchester; fashion icon and former Made in Chelsea star Millie Macintosh attended the shop’s opening, attracting both local and national press, and shared an image of herself sporting cabin crew uniform and beehive hairdo to her 460,000+ followers on Instagram.

The PR element delivered national, regional and broadcast coverage, while the online social element resulted in over 1.6 million impressions across various platforms.

It’s a large-scale example, but it illustrates the value in seeing how far you can stretch the buzz around a pop-up experience using amplification techniques:

  • Use all the tools available to make it ‘an event’
  • Include a digital social element; post on local event pages.
  • Contact the local media; give them exclusive access prior to opening and invite them to a wrap party
  • If you can, rope in local celebrities to appear at the store; make the most of it!

The temporary nature of a pop-up is one of the aspects that helps drive buzz around such an activity, but it’s how well you can amplify what you’re doing that will determine how far word of mouth takes you, allowing a wider audience to engage vicariously with your brand and its pop-up creativity.

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