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Pop up trade secrets


OscarandFrank oPop up stores are more mainstream this year than any other year. I remember in 2010, telling all my friends about the cool Real Simple temporary store in New York, and no one knew what ‘pop up’ meant.

Today, they’re popping up everywhere. Chicago. New York. LA. Canada. London. Sydney.

What is a pop up store? Whether it be a wall, a school bus, a section built in a department store, or a tent outside, a pop up store is a temporary retail location that offers a specialised shopping experience.

They usually pop up during holidays, like Halloween and Christmas, but now they’re showing up any time of the year.

These types of stores are typically made when a brand wants to test the waters of having a permanent store, market a new product or line in a special way, or promote special collaborations for a seasonal campaign. All great opportunities for press.

Why even pop up?

Brands, retailers, and agencies tend to build pop ups for two reasons, says Ilona Taillade, co-founder and CCO of BrandSpots, a full service pop up provider in Europe.

“Firstly, pop ups are a tool to provide feedback and an opportunity to get to know the consumer. Secondly, pop ups are a testing spot to find out what works and what doesn’t,” says Ilona.

I’d also like to add in the reason of getting press.

Since pop ups are temporary stores that last anywhere from one day to five weeks, brands, retailers, and agencies can try anything in the space and see how their shoppers respond.

Whether they have physical feedback cards, look at blog posts from bloggers, or hope for print press, they are a great space to get feedback. The atmosphere is different to any permanent bricks and mortar, so shoppers are willing to have a different shopping experience.

They can draw in new shoppers and make old shoppers more loyal. No matter what, a pop up will tell you who your shoppers are and what new locations you should open in the future.

They provide a space where you can test new displays, environments, and sales strategies.

The who’s who of production

Generally, brands, retailers, advertising agencies, brand marketers, and producers are the masterminds of these specialised retail locations.

I had the privilege of talking to Lauren Austin and Dani Skoller of MKG, Jared Schiffman of Perch Interactive, and Chris Cummings of InnoMark Communications to see how each company contributes to the production of a successful pop up.

Brand marketers 

Brand marketers, such as MKG, are contacted by brands with certain goals and they have to come up with solutions.

The most buzz worthy solutions can be a pop up. They ensure press coverage and unique experiences because of highly interactive displays, photo worthy products and environments, special products, and the cultural hub they provide for shoppers.

The Docker’s General Store. Image: Freshness Mag

MKG build creative spaces that bring a brand to life. Since pop ups are temporary, they can use the latest technologies every time, have popular celebrities stop by, a DJ, or provide food, and have curated artwork covering the walls.

They will do anything to bring more shoppers in and get them sharing about their experience on social media.

One of MKG’s beliefs is “audiences like it when brands display ‘people-like’ qualities, such as humour, kindness, and intelligence.”

An example of a belief brought to life is the Docker’s General Store in New York. With the help of partnerships, MKG humanised the brand and made deeper connections to their shoppers.

The General Store was open for about 19 days and had more than 6000 visitors, 580 sales transactions, and added 1100 likes to Docker’s Facebook page. Docker’s had a 12 per cent increase in Twitter followers and gained coverage in the New York Times, which has 31 million per month circulation.

MKG has the capabilities to make and curate displays for the pop ups they’re involved in but some agencies do not. That is when producers come into play.


Producers are the people who make the displays interactive and unforgettable. Two companies experienced with pop ups are InnoMark Communications and Perch Interactive.

Cummings, from InnoMark Communications, says many pop ups need “a solution that [is] easy to assemble, cost-conscious, and durable enough to withstand heavy seasonal traffic”.

He says working with pop up stores means more creative freedom, but more focus. InnoMark is usually given a turnaround time of only four to six weeks. It has to make sure the first design is the final design, because “if you’re late, that’s a miss sell,” he says.

The positive thing about more creative freedom is that the producer gets the chance to create the atmosphere of the whole store. The displays sell the product and determine the shopper’s experience.

But enough about the time. What about the materials? Cummings says the materials don’t really change: it’s the internal structure and design that change.

The only time materials do change is when the displays are used outside. In that case, producers tend to use different substrates. InnoMark uses more plastics, stain resistant ink, and UV curing for better durability for rain, wind, and sun.

Magnum sydney
Magnum’s pop up in Westfield Sydney in 2013.

A different take on pop up displays comes from Jared Schiffman of Perch. It specialises in interactive table displays that get shoppers to pick up a brand’s product and create a buzz and has created displays for pop up stores like BaubleBar and Delta.

Perch creates a display that encompasses branding, storytelling, imagery, and a sense of place around a product. The product is not just in the store it’s in people’s lives. Perch’s displays make you experience a product before buying it.

No matter what producer you talk to, they’re going to say pop up store displays have to be more interactive to sell a product in a short amount of time.

Picking a perfection location

In the last year, we’ve seen locations in airport terminals, stores, and popular shopping streets.

Ilona Taillade of BrandSpots says says pop up stores are the ultimate way to reach a desired shopper. Since they are temporary, brands can plant stores wherever they want.

The key is to find the perfect space. Ilona says “to get close to the consumer, smaller spaces are more effective. The location of the space is also important. A high street location will have a different impact to that of a space in a shopping centre”.

It may be different in the US, but from looking at the pop up stores this year, Ilona’s statements seem true.

Living up to the hype

I believe the growing popularity of pop up stores is because they are engaging and special.

In today’s age, we are fighting for shoppers to come into stores because of online offers, but pop up stores are effective in delivering a different experience. They make the brand come to life.

The temporary aspect of the displays simulates the desire of change. Why wouldn’t pop up stores increase in popularity?

My speculation is that permanent retail stores will begin to look more like pop up stores. Pop up stores create a buzz that creates press, loyal and passionate shoppers, and sales. What more could a brand want?

This story was written by Katie Garton Desir from POPAI USA. You can read the original article.

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