Comment: Are pop-up shops marketing gold or is it time to fold?

Pop-up shops are literally popping-up everywhere and they’ve been hugely popular with consumers, but can you have too much of a good thing?

And does it still work as a good use of marketing spend or is consumer fatigue setting in?

Daniel Todaro, MD, at full service field marketing and experiential agency, Gekko, sets out his stall on how to get the max from this most human of marketing tools…

Daniel todaro-gekko
Daniel Todaro, Gekko.

The Guardian today reported that pop-up shops have increased by 18% this year, no doubt fuelled by the plethora of empty shops around the UK and available at accessible rates.

But are they still working for brands? When there’s so many, do they drive intrigue, awareness or bring in incremental revenue, or have we reached a point of consumer fatigue?

Pop-ups require significant investment, so it’s crucial to think about the objectives you need it to deliver. If it’s purely an exercise in increasing sales, you may be sorely disappointed.

If your pop-up is in a high footfall area, it’s more likely to increase brand awareness and if your business doesn’t ordinarily have a high street presence, it can elicit valuable feedback on your product or brand.

And of course, pop-up shops are also a great way to create talkability and shareability on social media, offering consumers and influencers the ability to create eye-catching content that will see your brand splashed across their channels.

But to achieve this and avoid consumer fatigue, your pop-up needs to be more than just a shop. It needs to be creative and novel, relevant and aligned with popular culture, and add value to the everyday customer experience.

Inspired creativity

Think about how to pack a punch for your brand with collaborations that are creative, add that novelty factor and give customers an experience they can’t get elsewhere.

We saw this in the Summer with Anya Hindmarch’s The Ice Cream Project. Instead of hosting a pop-up shop to sell handbags, Anya Hindmarch came up with the idea of creating exclusive ice creams using her favourite cult food brands including Heinz Tomato Ketchup, Lea & Perrins and Coca-Cola.

Linking back to her village and café, it was clever, novel and had people queuing round the street. It had that all-important talkability and shareability, which raised awareness of the Anya Hindmarsh brand in general and the creativity at its heart.

Link to popular culture

In June we worked with sports lifestyle brand ’47 on a pop-up in Soho, just in time for two Major League Baseball (MLB) games coming to town.

With the increased awareness of the MLB, ’47 was perfectly primed to welcome fans of the US sport, giving them another way to soak up celebrations beyond the ballpark.

With no UK store, it was timely, relevant, and it fulfilled the unmet appetites of US fans living in the UK as well as Londoners intrigued by the spectacle coming to their city.

Plus, with the start of the NFL season in September the ‘47 pop-up is getting a fresh surge in custom.

Be timely

Ensuring that there is appetite for the type of pop-up shop you have in mind is essential. Do you have customers who will come out specifically for your pop-up?

Does the trend or pop-culture moment you are linking with have enough fans? If your audience will not be excited by your pop-up, it’s time to think again.

Recently, we saw SHEIN, the global fashion brand, opening a pop-up shop in Birmingham with queues weaving around the Bull Ring.

The brand has exploded in popularity, and it was the first time that consumers had been able to physically engage with the brand in the UK, offering them something new, and the added awareness and talkability created demand from new customers – the hype was immense.

It is particularly sad to see an empty pop-up shop – and if you don’t have the audience or creative for the experience to go viral, then you need to invest in creating the demand yourself with additional marketing.

This adds to the cost, so it is important to understand what you are trying to achieve and what success would look like in terms of ROI before you commit.