Growing Analog: How pop-ups help digital brands scale

1 Nov 2016

Launching an ecommerce brand has never been easier. And as the digital space continues to grow, more brands are taking their ideas offline to distinguish themselves from the pack. Fortunately, ecommerce retail brands looking to take the leap don’t need to go all-in on a retail store (and an expensive lease) to start establishing their presences offline.

Pop-up shops are a nimble way to create real-life brand experiences that raise awareness and engage customers beyond clicks and scrolls. With minimal overhead and a short-term commitment, brands can leverage temporary space with experiential marketing techniques to meet a range of objectives — from making sales, to generating buzz, to running experiments for bigger business decisions.

Here are three simple ways launching a pop-up shop can help online brands grow.

1. Create a real-life brand experience.
You probably wouldn’t marry someone you’d only interacted with online. When it comes to committing to a purchase, similar logic can apply. Even as online shopping becomes second nature to most shoppers, engaging with a brand and its products in real life leaves a lasting impression that can turn into more sales.

Short-term retail lets brands build holistic experiences around their ideas that engage people in more personal ways than a web browser allows. For the launch of their first New York City pop-up shop in 2015, the online athleisure brand Outdoor Voices collaborated with artist Ana Kras to create an interactive space where customers can test drive activewear on artfully-designed mats and rollers. The space isn’t just about finding the right size, but experiencing the brand’s fit and materials in action.

Outdoor Voices, Pop-up, Soho, Ana Kras

The brand also wanted the shop to be a hub for their social approach to recreation. So, they regularly host communal activities like group dog walks, running clubs, and yoga classes. Through the pop-up, Outdoor Voices has grown their community of like-minded people who share their social approach to working out. And just one year since the first pop-up opened, their strategy seems to be working: the brand has just moved into a permanent retail space down the street.

2. Be part of something bigger than the brand.
When a major event is coming to town, a strategically-placed pop-up can help brands capitalize on the moment and expose their ideas to a big audience. Whether it’s a concert, a convention, or a sporting event, brands can find ways to align themselves with the hype and participate with a physical space.

At the annual Boston Marathon, the online running apparel brand Tracksmith does just that. For the past two years, the brand has set up a pop-up shop near the finish line of the race, where they host special events and promotions to attract runners and running fans alike. Film screenings, exclusive gear for marathon qualifiers, marathon watch parties, and yes, free beer all help Tracksmith start off on the right foot with runners from around the world.

Tracksmith, Pop-up, Boston Marathon

Tracksmith has also used the pop-up space to showcase their connection to the rich legacy of running in New England. Shortly after launching their first women’s line in 2015, they hosted a gallery opening for the work of runner and artist Bobbi Gibb, the first woman to ever run the Boston Marathon. By partnering with a running legend, Tracksmith was able to show that they’re taking the baton of New England’s running heritage into the future.

3. Draw attention to new products and partnerships.
Launching a new product or partnership is the perfect time to make some noise. But when a brand’s only outlet is the web, its messaging can fall on distracted ears. A creative, attention-grabbing place can add punch to the launch and generate extra buzz around the moment.

When the online stationery brand Paperless Post partnered up with the physical stationery brand Rifle Paper Co. to create an exclusive collection of customizable invitations and cards, they created a floral-themed pop-up shop in Nolita to help spread the word.

Rifle Paper Co., Paperless Post, Bloom Room, Nolita, Pop-up

Deemed the “Bloom Room,” the two brands filled a tiny space with colorful flowers, an original wallpaper design from Rifle Paper Co., and a display of highlights from the collection. They also used the space to host special events like a meet-and-greet with the brands’ founders. Thanks to beautiful execution, the photogenic space was featured in major publications like Vogue and Martha Stewart — perfect audiences for the two brands and their collaborative launch.

Interested in launching a pop-up for your brand? Find shop space to rent in New York.

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