The emergence of e-commerce and shift towards digital channels was seen by some as the death of traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. Apprehensive of the dynamic change, many traditional retailers opted for a conservative approach to the adoption of technology, using siloed executions of digital and physical channels. In reality, digital does not look to replacing physical channels, but rather be an augmentation to physical channels, adding new dimensions to retailing. As retail businesses are reaching this realization, the in-store experience is making a comeback, becoming an essential touchpoint – and in some form, serving as a gateway to the ecosystem of a brand. In addition to traditional retails adopting digital channels, pure online brands are opening brick and mortar stores – and this is a beacon pointing towards a retail revolution.
A New Driver in Retail
In their attempt at seamlessly integrating digital and physical channels, retailers are looking to pop-up stores. This phenomenon goes by several monikers – flash retail, temporary retail, pop-up shops or pop-up stores. Pop-up stores were introduced back in the 1990s in large urban cities, including London, Los Angeles, Tokyo and New York City. Pop-up stores are temporary retail spaces that have merchandise from any class. These temporary shops focus on engagement through creative execution. Located in high-traffic areas such as city centers, shopping malls and busy streets, these stores stay operational for 3 days to 3 months. These temporary stores open up to the brand opportunities for exploration and experimentation with products, locations, tenant-mixes and even commercial agreements. Again, pop-up stores let retailers spice up the in-store experience by getting to know the customers better through stronger relationships and test new waters. These also help the brand increase awareness by building up excitement surrounding new stores.
Why Are Pop-Up Stores So Popular?
As mentioned before, retailers now understand how instrumental customer experience can be to retail success. Pop-up stores aid the practice of experiential marketing through disruption of tradition. Like magic, pop-up stores are ephemeral and quick to capture attention. Due to their temporary nature, pop-up stores have an aura of exclusivity and can capitalize on people’s fear of missing out. This ultimately can boost brand exposure. A brand can deliver a captivating experience for customers in their pop-up store – just like dinner at an upscale restaurant – and form memories.
Modern retail also demands an emphasis on omnichannel. By nature, pop-up stores thin the line between online and offline channels. Through experimentation, this type of store can help businesses come up with creative solutions focused on integration. Opening up a new store can catch customer attention and boost sales, and insight from this can help reach new customers. Again, pop-up stores are much less expensive to set up than full-fledged stores, with expenses clocking in at 80% of that of traditional outlets.
Pop-up stores also give brands the chance to augment personalization through intensive interaction. These stores can have features that give customers the chance to experience products like never before, and this can help brands experiment with new personalization tactics.
As the previous discussion suggests, pop-up stores facilitate experimentation. Brands can introduce new products in their pop-up stores and test customer response. Brands with complex offerings can introduce their products to the audience in an intimate setting. This can also work for brands trying to break into a new market.
A pop-up store exists for a very short time, and this can create a sense of urgency among consumers, and encourage spontaneous purchases. Again, limited-edition exclusive merchandise can be made available at these stores, and this can help the brand. The brand can generate buzz among the customer base through these activities, making pop-up stores an effective marketing tool. The short-term commitment can make the brand more resilient and adaptive to changes.
Setting Up a Pop-Up Store
There are several key points to keep in mind while designing the pop-up experience. A pop-up store is all about engagement and experience. Hence, the store should be designed to be a community space. The store should bring people together under the halo of the brand. A tailored communal experience will let the brand connect to the customer. Attention to detail will add value to the brand equity and make the store and brand memorable.
The pop-up store should focus on bolstering customer relationship with the brand. Incorporating immersive elements in the store will help educate customers about the brand. The store should be a medium for discovery. This can create new customers and reinvigorate interest in existing ones. Events, programming and activities can add depth to the brand.
Going over and beyond expectations will bring the brand closer to the customer. Creating anticipation and meeting or surpassing them, also providing unexpected value will make the brand desirable. Storytelling through the store will enhance the experience, and this can be done by making the store a destination that one cannot miss. The service design should reflect care and love.
Case in Point: IKEA Play Café
Swedish Furniture industry titan IKEA created a pop-up in Toronto’s Queen Street West that was in place for 11 days. The store’s experience design rested on the three core areas: shop, play and eat. IKEA has a café in its stores that serves meatballs. The purpose of the pop-up was to highlight the food of IKEA without having to cruise through the giant stores.
The guests at the store could get a taste of the IKEA experience, which included a variety of games including oversized Pinball, electronic dance battles and a spinning wheel topped with a wall modified with children’s drinkware. The spinning wheel offered contestants chocolates and gift cards.
The Play Café displayed houseware products in addition to the dining experience. The installation tried to start conversations through defying conventions. The aim was to remind visitors of IKEA’s core values and consumer commitment through a memorable, gamified retail experience.