Pop-up stores and the benefits for small businesses

Often seen as a current trend, pop-up shops offer some interesting benefits as an alternative to traditional online-only businesses. With the right approach, a business of almost any size can make use of this short-term option.

The popularity of e-commerce is undeniable, and it’s for a good reason. Studies have shown that businesses that are online-only can save costs not only on rental property for a brick-and-mortar shop but also save on overhead costs, even on storage and more.

They can certainly be a bit more convenient and require arguably less maintenance for the owner. However, research has shown that while online sales are skyrocketing, they’re still behind brick-and-mortar shops in the UK.

Why is this? Often, people want to experience a product in person before making a purchase decision. They want to hold it in their hands, see its size, texture, shape, etc. In these cases, having a physical store could be a great option. But for 365 days/year?

If that sounds like a bit too much, but you think your current and potential customers might appreciate a chance to see your products in person, then a pop-up store might be for you.

What is a pop-up store?

Based on more traditional markets, pop-up retail was first seen in the late 1990s and quickly became popular in large cities like New York and London. 

A pop-up store is a store that is open for a short period of time in a physical location. A pop-up store allows a business to sell products directly to customers, giving them the chance to see them in person and to take them home right after purchase.

There are a few things that help define a pop-up store:

  • Duration of opening: most pop-up stores are generally open from between 3 days to 3 months

  • Busy location: to make the most of the short time period that the store will be open, pop-up stores are typically located in high-traffic areas

  • Lower prices: not always necessarily discounted, but generally cheaper than customers would typically find that product

  • Type of product: pop-up stores are generally associated with industries such as fashion, home decor, technology, toys and art but can be utilised by any product that could benefit from in-person sales

These are just a few general characteristics of a pop-up shop, but there will of course be many examples of pop-ups that fall outside of these definitions. Arguably the most important factor in a pop-up store is the length of time that it’s open at a particular location: pop-ups are, by definition, temporary.

Why open a pop-up store?

Besides the ability to potentially sell more products, there are a variety of additional benefits to opening a pop-up store. While the financial side is certainly a tempting enough reason, launching a pop-up for a business can have multiple other positive impacts including:

A better opportunity to connect with and get to know your customers

When running a business, one of the keys to success is often said to be knowing your customer. While this isn’t necessarily in the literal sense, it does mean that you should have a clear understanding of what kind of person your customers are, which will help you better target new customers in the future.

While market studies and other research is undeniably helpful in this, meeting and speaking with your customers in person can add a new dimension to your understanding of what your customers are looking for, what sets your products apart and how your business can continue to meet their needs in the future.

Creating visibility for your brand

If you run an online business, it’s easy to get lost amongst the competition and the endless resource that is the internet. A good marketing strategy can certainly help boost your brand in this sphere, but there’s something to be said for the presence of a physical shop.

In addition, the limited timeframe that the shop exists combined with the trendiness of pop-up shops means that it can be relatively easy to generate a fair amount of hype before opening your pop-up shop - contributing hopefully not only to increased sales but also to brand awareness both offline and online.

The ability to test a new market/product/shop

Opening a pop-up shop can be an easy way to focus on a particular market - whether it’s a location or a different demographic than your business has typically focused on, a pop-up can provide an opportunity to test the waters. The same goes for a new product.

If you’ve been considering opening a brick-and-mortar store but are still a bit uncertain of how successful it will be, pop-up shops can be a cheaper means to determine whether a store would benefit your business in the long-term, transforming it into a ‘click-and-mortar’.

Should you open a pop-up store?

Lately, the belief that pop-ups were only for large corporations has become a thing of the past. While large companies continue to make use of pop-ups, often as part of a marketing campaign or the launch of a new product, the benefits are clear for businesses of all sizes.

Today, anyone can open a pop-up store. But planning should be a major component before renting a space and setting up shop. 

Beyond the costs involved (although it’s well below the cost of running a store full-time, it will still be much more than an online business is accustomed to paying), there should be thought put into the location, the goals, the layout, and the length of time your pop-up shop should be open.

Conducting market research is a crucial part of learning how to best focus your pop-up to target your customers. A pop-up can be a risky move for brand new businesses, so they’re usually an investment made to help expand an already successful business.

Once you’re ready to launch your pop-up store, building the hype should be a key part of your marketing. You want to get the word out and make sure that the shop has high visibility to increase the potential for customers.