A Guide to Employee Training for Your Next Pop-Up Event

Launching a pop-up shop is a thrilling, rewarding risk. Testing new concepts and receiving real-time customer feedback are game-changing for your brand. But any pop-up store will fall flat without the right team in place. An associate-customer interaction increases the likelihood of a purchase by 43% according to a recent Mindtree study.

For e-commerce brands, venturing into physical retail is a huge leap. Hiring staff requires a lot of resources — the average cost-per-hire is $4,129, according to a 2016 Human Capital Benchmarking Report by SHRM, while the average time it takes to fill a given position is 42 days.

A plan of attack for avoiding this expensive headache: Staff your pop-up shop with employees you already know and trust.

  • Can Your Current Team Staff Your Pop-Up Store?

Here’s how to tell whether sourcing pop-up store staff from your current employee base might be your best staffing option.

  1. You’re constrained by time or budget
  2. Your pop-up’s duration won’t limit you in that allocating staff in different roles won’t negatively affect your business
  3. You have motivated talent within your team
  • Incentivize Participation and Select Sales-Driven Staff

It’s important to select the correct team members from your company to represent your brand.

“If you’re going to do a pop-up, do it well,” says Deborah Brown, senior retail consultant at MOHR Retail. “The service end is crucial. If you’re testing the waters for a new concept, that customer service interaction is going to be huge.”

Brown advises only selecting internal staff for sales floor roles if they have prior in-person service experience, partially because many people who do well working behind the scenes in e-commerce often don’t enjoy being in front of people.

“If you’ve got people with a narrower comfort zone […] they don’t do change quickly or well,” she says. “A pop-up environment is going to be very ‘ready, aim, fire.’ Find people where it will be less of a stretch.”

Brown recommends reviewing your past assessments of staff to quickly identify those top sales-minded teammates for simpler internal recruiting, especially in selecting a store manager.

Incentivizing involvement with temporarily higher hourly and overtime pay, a commission program or special benefits can make your pop-up store venture more attractive internally, but be sure to provide incentives that already align with your company’s culture and values.

  • Empower Your Employees Through Quality Training and Resources

Pop-up store customers may be different than a flagship store customer or e-commerce customer. To prepare staff, it’s important to have a robust training program, even if you’re on a tight schedule — and it shouldn’t stop the night before your pop-up store launches, either.

To effectively train staff for a fast-paced retail environment, think to break down the training content into digestible chunks so they can be consumed in minutes.

Some topics you’ll want to cover in your pop-up employee training material:

  • Protocol for clocking in and out for shifts and breaks
  • Guidelines for calling out sick or calling in late
  • Uniform and/or dress code information
  • Logins and codes to access important accounts for store management
  • Instructions to use the in-store point-of-sale system and any other in-store tools or tech
  • Product information
  • Store cleanliness expectations

Even if the clock’s ticking and your shop opens in a matter of days, you should still make sure your staff is properly trained, no matter what. 

  • The Power of Empathy

One important topic to cover is how to manage stressful interactions with customers, so that the staff is best able to handle any situation or person that walks through the pop-up store’s door. Providing an open space for staff to talk about recent customer experiences before the store launches can be helpful for each of them to be better equipped for any situation.

Staff can practice empathy, and learn how to manage customer emotions and get insights into the root cause of the issue so that problems are mitigated.

  • Sales Strategies

How is your pop-up store going to offer an experience your customer can’t get online? Staff must be able to engage customers beyond overtly selling. Brick-and-mortar stores have the ability to give customers a new type of personal experience (example, our recent pop-up store with FILA), and staff should be trained properly to deliver this message and story, depending on what the pop-up concept and mission is.

A friendly salesperson at the FILA pop-up store in NYC showcasing the sneakers on display.

Your staff will need some sales strategies in hand. A few things to keep in mind:

  • Try asking specific questions to get to the heart of what the customer wants, rather than “How can I help you?”
  • Approach shoppers thoughtfully; don’t make them feel like they have to talk to you but let them know in a subtle way that you are there
  • Try to get shoppers to open up to you so you can best address their needs (empathy works well here!)


  • Establish Expectations for Your Team Back at HQ

With your energy focused on launching your physical store, don’t neglect your team back at home base! Depending on how long your pop-up store lasts, you may have reduced staff managing your e-commerce operations for a weekend or more. Two ways to stay sane:

  1. Cover all your bases by making sure you have at least one designated responder for customer support requests so all your customers are cared for, not just the ones popping in.
  2. If your pop-up store is going to last more than a weekend, block off time in-store and at your office/online so you don’t feel you have to be in two places at once, especially if your pop-up is in a different city than your main office.

  • Conduct a Recap With Your Team

Revisiting your pop-up store goals in a recap meeting with your internal team is a crucial step that’s not to be missed.

Beyond evaluating sales goals, some helpful questions to guide your meeting include:

  • What new things did we learn about our customer?
  • Which products were popular, and which ones didn’t budge? Why?
  • What new practices from the sales floor can we take back to the office?

Empowered with these insights, your team can return to the office with a fresh approach to product and a deeper understanding of your customer.

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Alexandra Sheehan
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