4 Examples of Successful Retail Pop-Ups Designed to Bring in New Customers

Storefront

By Tricia McKinnon and Karen Tang

In recent years there has been a resurgence of popup stores.  Part of the growth in the number of retail popups has come from direct to consumer brands that realize that approximately 90% of retail sales still taking place in stores.  Customers still want to touch and feel products before purchasing them and popups allow customers to do this.  From a brand’s perspective not only do popups allow new customers to discover them but it also allows brands to communicate with customers in a way that can be more exciting and experiential that what is offered in their existing stores.  In some cases popups are simply spectacles designed to create viral social media buzz. 

Direct to consumer brands such as Casper are not the only ones using popup stores, increasingly big brands such as Louis Vuitton and Coach are also seeing the benefits of these types of experiences. Speaking about a popup established by St. Ives, the Brand Director commented that its popup store is “a place where the millennial shopper is out and about and seeking new trends, and wanting to try new things, and open to new experiences.”  Since experiences are especially important to millennials, popups that offer a great experiences can be away to cater to this segment. Instagram has also fuelled the popup trend as brands are using popups to create Instagramable experiences that lure customers in who are looking for something new and exciting to show off in the their Instagram feeds. From Amazon to Louis Vuitton see how these brands are capitalizing on the trend of popup stores.

1. Amazon’s first foray into physical retail in the UK involved a pop-up store in central London featuring Amazon fashion.  The weeklong pop up, was the first of its kind in London for Amazon.  Each day the popup which focused on men’s and women’s apparel had a different theme.  The first two days focused on autumn and winter 2018 trends, the next two days focused on fitness and the remaining days focused on street and party wear.  The popup also featured stylists to help customers find the perfect look.   Speaking about the event a spokesperson for Amazon said: “this is a big learning experience for us to understand how Amazon fashion translates in physical retail.”  

Will an Amazon fashion retail store be coming to a mall near you?  A spokesperson for Amazon said: “never say never on physical fashion stores. We are always looking for what is the next best thing for the customer and to give them what they want. We will see what the future holds.”  Similar to most eCommerce brands Amazon thought the popup would provide customers with an opportunity to touch and feel its merchandise.  This is especially important for customers who have never considered Amazon to be a fashion brand.

In addition to purchasing merchandise in the popup store, customers also had the option of buying products while in the store using their phones.    To do so all a customer had to do was open the Amazon app on their phone and using the camera option they could scan an item’s Smilecode which would direct them to the item’s product page on amazon.com.  

In addition to showcasing its merchandise Amazon put on a great event which accompanied the pop up and included: a beauty trends discussion with Jessica Diner from Vogue magazine, yoga sessions, denim customizations by Pepe jeans and live music.

2. For the launch of Virgil Abloh’s first collection for Louis Vuitton, Louis Vuitton opened a popup store in London last October.  The 2,000 sq. ft pop up had a Wizard of Oz theme, one of Abloh’s key inspirations for the collection.  Featuring a yellow brick road staircase the popup felt more like an exhibition.  To gain entry into the popup which sold hoodies, tailored clothing as well as must have accessories from the spring/summer 2019 menswear collection, visitors had to purchase tickets. 

Louis Vuitton is the largest luxury retailer by sales and popups are a key element of its strategy. In 2018 it had 80 popups but is increasing that number to 100 this year. Speaking about Louis Vuitton’s focus on popups, Loius Vuitton’s CFO, Jean-Jacques Guiony told analysts:  “this trend in pop-up stores is extremely important, and we will continue to develop that because it enables us to be talking in a different way to our clients ... and it adds flexibility with our network.”  Undoubtedly the brands experiments with popup stores will help the brand to stay relevant to the lucrative millennial demographic.  

3. Coach launched their version of the interactive pop-up with a 6-day event in SoHo, New York last June.   Called Life Coach this was Coach’s first brand activation outside of one of its stores or runway shows.  There were four interactive rooms each with its own aesthetic that featured blank walls that visitors could draw on, tarot card readings as well as carnival games. One of the Instagram worthy rooms looked like a day at Coney Island.  The exhibit was inspired by New York the city where Coach was founded in 1941 and no products were on sale. Speaking about the event Coach’s Chief Marketing Officer said "we deliberately wanted to create a new environment and not have the limitations of a pre-designed retail space.”  That way, guests “could roam throughout the spaces and be on a discovery mission and explore”.  The goal? “That every single person that walked through it had a very unique experience and walked out of there with a sense of what Coach was about." 

4. Vans has created an entirely different form of experiential retail with its House of Vans concept. In September of 2018, House of Vans popped-up for three days in Toronto.  The three-day installation included: a skatepark that was built for the event, an art show, a live concert, a community-based market featuring local vendors, a photography exhibition and a photography workshop.  The event also included “Get on Board”, an initiative focused on getting women to partake in the skateboarding culture by offering skateboarding clinics.  All events and activities offered by the House of Vans were free of charge. Success of the concept is not based on sales but on creating a strong connection within the community. According to Alex Auchu, Marketing Manager at Vans Canada: “if the skate industry is healthy, then our brand is healthy.”

Tricia McKinnon