Top Pop-Up Store Tips From An Experiential Design Expert

As the founder of experiential retail studio, Whereabout Studio, Gabriela Baiter, has tons of experience in creating pop-up stores and designing offline activations. Working with brands like Uber and Fellow Products, her team has helped conceptualize store revivals, pop-up series, and experiential roadshows, and she has tons to share about the future of retail and our experience-focused society.

We sat down with her after her latest launch for Floyd, to discuss the best pop-up store strategies, why brands should never sacrifice the consumer experience, and the power of temporary activations.

  • Why launching pop-up stores is a good strategy for brands?

It couldn’t be a better time to pop up. With today’s consumer craving personalization and connection, they are seeking out experiences above anything else. Pop-up stores are a great way for brands to align themselves with their customer’s lifestyle aspirations and work toward building a deeper relationship than they ever could online.

Inside the GRAMMAR NYC pop-up store’s opening reception where brand ambassadors had a first look.

In a world of 18 tabs, customers are faced with a plethora of choices, making it harder and more expensive for digitally native brands to cut through the noise. By showing up in the real world, brands can differentiate themselves and close the confidence gap in an isolated environment with limited downside.

  • What are 3 good reasons to launch a pop-up store?

1. Education Gaps + Sensory limitations
If your brand has a complex offering, technology, or sensory limitation, pop-up stores can be a great way to educate customers and help them better imagine the product integrating in their lives. Live demonstrations, expert consultations and unique sampling concepts are all ways to help inch weary customers closer to purchase.

2. Build buzz around launches
In a crowded world like today, brands need to do a whole lot to stand out, especially when it comes to product launches. Pop-up stores can be a powerful tool to cut through the noise and create an amazing first impression on press, existing and new customers. The pop-up experience is super important here to make it worthwhile for people to attend and spread the news within their social circles.

3. Testing & Experimentation
Pop-up stores are a great way for brands to gain insight on their customer base. Think of it as a small scale test kitchen for experimentation and ideas. Past clients of mine have popped up as little as 1 month to test a new market, gauge interest from a new audience, or simply to collect feedback on new products. With the right tech in place, you can learn so much more than you think within the walls of a store.

Brompton pop-up shop in NYC
  • How do pop-up stores strengthen marketing strategies?

In marketing, pop-up stores shouldn’t be considered the sole sales channel, but supplementary. Experiences are more powerful when you can bring them to to life across channels, creating a seamless customer journey that drives sales.

If you think back to the last time you bought something, did you consider what channel you bought it from? If it was at a store, you most likely researched the product endlessly online or even followed the company’s Instagram account for a few months before pulling the trigger. You’re not alone. This is similar to the habits of 90% of other shoppers who research products online before purchasing in the store (Inreality 2017). On the flip side, stores can also be a place of discovery for new customers, resulting in a meaningful spike in web traffic during the course of a pop-up stores.

  • What are the 3 keys of a successful pop-up store?

1. Rotating Discovery: Programming locations with a constant overhaul of products and experiences adds depth to the brand while reinvigorating customer interest again and again.

2. Urgency: Stores with limited time frames bring a sense of urgency to the consumer, thus increasing foot traffic.

3. Storytelling: Retail is a dynamic and emotive channel for customers to experience the story behind a brand in person. By combining product, people and place to solve a customer’s pain points through interesting content, a store can become a powerful media channel.

  • What key learnings did you get from previous pop-up stores you’ve launched?
    • Establish clear goals up front. Identify a single primary goal for your pop-up and a way to measure it. Without this, you have a lack of focus, putting your pop-up at risk.
    • Don’t sacrifice the customer experience. You don’t need a huge budget to create a great experience for customers, but it is important to set aside a significant investment to get it in front of the right audience.
    • Keep things interesting. Programming is essential to give people a reason to visit your pop-up store and keep coming back throughout the month.
The Floyd Home pop-up showroom in LA. (Photo: Michael Friberg)
  • What is your most recent pop-up activation?

Our studio has worked with some amazing digitally-native consumer brands design their pop-up store and in some cases open up their very-first retail locations.

We’ve just launched a living showroom inside an actual home for Floyd, a direct-to-consumer furniture brand based out of Detroit. The home is located at Blackbird, an experimental community in contemporary urban living that we reimagined with 10 other brands. We created a Block Party to announce the opening, and a week-long Housewarming celebration complete with a fully stocked pantry, design library and pop-in shop.

  • What is the most complicated thing about launching a pop-up store?

Thanks to platforms like Storefront, space is now the easiest part of the pop-up process. I often find that our clients get “stuck” after the space is finalized, defaulting to the traditional means of a store. Our strategic process was designed to help make this part easier by co-creating a Retail Story that solves each brand’s unique challenges through a combination of products, people and place. Once we nail down the right story, all aspects of the execution becomes far easier.

Ready to find the best space for your next pop-up store? Browse +10,000 listings all over the world!

Arielle Crane
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