Six Steps To Make Your Pop-Up A Success
If you're an online business, pop-ups are a great way to connect with existing and new customers in general, allowing them to have an offline brand experience that otherwise may not happen.
If you're a small business, an e-commerce business, a creative, artist, a burgeoning brand, or even a well-established brand, pop-ups are a great opportunity to launch your brand, grow its profile, generate sales, build collaborative relationships, and connect with new customers in new locations. If you're an online business, they're a great way to connect with existing and new customers in general, allowing them to have an offline brand experience that otherwise may not happen. Depending on the nature of your pop-up, they also have great potential to generate public relations or marketing opportunities to expand your company or brand's reach even further and for an extended period of time.
So, what makes for a successful pop-up? Show up, pop-up, job done, right? Not exactly. At my company, Share This Space, we help brands connect with spaces across the UAE that they otherwise may not have access to. Think some of the UAE's top malls, theme parks, and even an abra on the Dubai Creek. Brands that worked with us have popped up in all these locations and more with great success. We've seen our share of pop-up retail and F&B outlets, brand activations, and even pop-up art galleries, exhibitions and museums.
Having seen firsthand what works, what doesn't, and working with our clients through pain points and challenges, we're sharing our six-step process to make any pop-up a success:
1. ASK "WHY" AND SET KPIS
The answer should be more defined than pop-ups are cool, or that "I've seen X, Y, or Z brand do a pop-up, so we should be doing it too." Think about what you want to achieve from the pop-up. Is it to launch? Do market research? Test a new product or market? A pure play for sales, build customer relationships, or to achieve press coverage? Once you have your objectives outlined, consider if it would be worth partnering with another brand to launch the pop-up. This can help alleviate costs, while at the same time, open up your brand to a new audience.
At this stage, you should also consider how long you'll hold your pop-up for. With sales and building awareness often key objectives, we highly recommend holding a pop-up for at least a month, as it allows for word of mouth, repeat visitors, while at the same time, easing those fixed costs such as décor elements. Lastly, in this step, think about how you'll measure success –sales figures, expanding your customer database, direct and positive feedback– these will vary, but clear objectives and defined KPIs will help inform other decisions along the way.
2. LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
There's no two ways around it, location matters. Based on your objectives, pick a location that suits your needs, has the right type of footfall, and/or is unique, is easily accessible, and is aligned with your brand. Look what extras the venue provides: is it free Wi-Fi, free and ample parking, décor elements that you can use? Is this venue of interest already to your target audience, and can they, or are they, willing to help drive traffic to the pop-up as well? Using a platform like Share This Space to find locations also helps, as it cuts down research time with the answers to the important questions often outlined on the platform.
3. LOOK OUT FOR LICENSES
Having all your paperwork in order is one of the most important factors in the pop-up process. A good rule of thumb is that once you have a shortlist of potential pop-up locations, check with your preferred venues on what licenses, permissions, or paperwork they require. For example, those wishing to "pop-up" in any of Dubai's malls, would need a mainland trade license to do so. Requirements will vary by location, with some requiring more than others, so it's always best to check with your preferred or shortlisted venues.
4. DESIGN, LAYOUT, AND ALL THAT OTHER STUFF
Location and licenses sorted, it's time to start planning the logistical particulars of the pop-up. With your objectives in mind, what experience do you want to present for your clients? Use your objectives as a guide for the lay-out, signage, and overall design. Look at what is currently available at the venue, and what you currently own or have, to identify gaps in terms of the dressing and design of the space.
Companies like Desert River offer rentals of things such as furniture and displays across many different themes. Storage should also be a key consideration, as well a point of sales systems. Tap, for example, is a great online payment gateway that can be used during a pop-up. When considering these elements, look at all of them through a creative lens as well as through the eyes of your customer. Think of what will create conversations with your audience, attract people to visit the pop-up, or even be of interest to media. Also, planning a photo opportunity or design features within the pop-up can also lend itself to some great user generated content from your customers, which will help share the word.
5. BUILDING BUZZ
Once all the groundwork for your pop-up is laid or perhaps in concert with the planning process, the question should then be: how are you going to build awareness or buzz and drive traffic to your pop-up? If you're a brand that is working with a communications consultancy across traditional or social media channels already, talk to them about the proposed pop-up early, as they may be able to add valuable thoughts on location, design, overall concept, and how to best leverage and promote the pop-up.
If you don't regularly work with a consultancy, or don't have access to this type of advice, you should first look at the low-hanging fruit– your existing networks. The venue, for example, dependent on your agreement with them, they may be able and willing to help share the word about your pop-up through their social media channels, website, and EDMs. Also, look at your existing customer or client base, friends of the brand, and influential identities that you may have established relationships with. Would it be worth offering your customers something new to visit the pop-up: a gift, special discount, or a limited edition product, or a referral discount for bringing a friend or family member along with them?
Also look at what is unique about your pop-up, highlight whatever your USPs are in an invitation and also in a media alert to be sent to journalists and bloggers that may be interested in your concept. Listings sections across the major newspapers may also share the news, and of course, don't forget to highlight the news through your own social media channels.
To build buzz effectively however –especially through partner networks and friends of the brand- it really helps to have assets such as high resolution photography, and creative assets that include social media friendly photos and graphics that are tailored for various platforms (Facebook, Instagram including stories, Twitter). If you don't have access to a designer, apps like Canva are a great solution for some DIY posters, invites, and social media creative assets.
6. MEASURING SUCCESS
While not a planning stage or step, measuring success is just as important. Did you set out what you wanted to achieve from the popup? Were there pleasant surprises or certain things that didn't work out as anticipated? Review both the successes and pain points through a learning lens: why was one element successful, and not the other? Many of these learnings will not only be valuable for future popups, but also for your wider business model.
Related: How Pop-Ups Are Changing Retail