In recent years there’s been a notable shift in consumer priorities. Now millennials (who represent the biggest share of the consumer market) are 80% more likely to value an experience (such as holidays, concerts, meals and festivals) over physical purchases.
Consequently, many high-street retailers have seen a slump in footfall — aided by eCommerce providing a reliable and cheap outlet when people do require general consumer goods.
Several brands and retailers have looked to respond to this by adopting experiential marketing techniques into their retail strategy. This approach can involve brands enhancing in-store experiences to excite prospects about visiting them. Nike, for instance, have often looked to incorporate technology into their shops. For their Paris flagship store, the sportswear brand set-up an augmented reality device to allow visitors to see a visual interpretation of personalised shoe designs — with colours being virtually overlaid on a blank pair of Nike shoes.
One of the most popular forms of experiential marketing to emerge over the past several years is pop-up retail.
According to EE, pop-up retail now contributes £2.3 billion to the UK economy, with the sector growing at a rate of 12.3%, compared to 8.4% in 2014. While many traditional bricks-and-mortar retailers struggle to re-energise the shopping experience, pop-ups specifically feed consumers’ craving for differentiation and exclusivity.
The Pop-Up: A Physical Experience for Digitally Active Consumers
VP of Creative Projects at Nordstrom, Olivia Kim, explains that when it come to pop-ups “there’s no rules, there’s no playbook, there’s nobody saying this is how you’ve got to do it”.
Often driven by a high-concept — pop-up stores provide brands with the opportunity to use design and technology to create unique shopping experiences that target millennial consumers’ ‘fear of missing out’.
Scandinavian fashion label COS embraced this mindset when it transformed an empty industrial space into two minimalistic, monochromatic rooms. The environment was designed to present their latest Autumn/Winter collection and to promote COS’ own unique brand identity. Furthermore, the space was also a celebration of the Downtown L.A. arts and design scene, and recent aesthetic trends that have become popularised by lifestyle Instagrammers and publication (like Cereal).
By adopting specific style trends that have a notable traction on social media, COS evolved their pop-up space from an ephemeral tactic into a 360º campaign that could endure through shared visitors’ content. As stated by Erik Eliason, Co-Founder and CEO of Storefront, “consumers are looking for compelling content to engage with. [Brands] might get 30,000 people to come into the store to come into the event, but [through shared content] there might be another 300,000 impressions online”.
Through pop-up retail, brands can target individuals’ pursuit of constructing an (as described by Psychologist Carl Rogers) ‘Ideal Self’. Millennials and Generation Z often view social media as a platform to promote their best assets — be it physical, cultural or intellectual. Pop-up events provide individuals with an opportunity to tell the world that they’re on-trend and in-the-know.
Similar to COS, Glossier addressed this by specifically conceiving a pop-up experience that was highly shareable. In 2015, the beauty brand converted a floor in its New York office into a temporary showroom. Enlisting the help of set designer Marguerite Wade, Glossier created a bright and tropical environment that was directly influenced by trends and styles spotted on Instagram. As founder Emily Weiss states, "It's not really just a store. It’s almost like this is a giant mood board for the company we're hoping to build”. By creating a look and feel that visitors would see value in sharing, Glossier could widen their message in an organic, creative and non-intrusive format.
The fusion of social media into the framework of pop-up retail campaigns is arguably becoming integral to the format’s success, and is crucial to helping brands present themselves as forward-thinking.
Given a pop-up store's typical small size, specific location and ephemeral nature, it can be a perfect opportunity for brands to experiment with technology.
As seen with Nike, the opportunity to incorporate technology and digital experiences into a brick-and-mortar store is often highly desirable. Within a pop-up environment, brands can often market test technology with their target audience with significantly less financial impact and risk than automatically incorporating it into permanent stores. This particularly desirable for luxury brands (including Karen Miller, Kenzo and Chanel) who see the need to embrace digital, but without sabotaging their traditional reputation.
For Chanel, pop-up stores have given them the ability to test the use of beacon technology and gamification. With beacons set-up throughout the pop-up, customers were asked to explore the space using a bespoke app to unlock rewards.
By using a pop-up as a testing ground, Chanel was able to explore a new concept and creative route to discover if it could provide an additional layer to the consumer experience — all without the financial implications of a full global rollout.