Pop-ups are more about the R.O.E. than the R.O.I.

Matthew Greenwell of Storefront and James Breaks from rpa:group share their views about pop-ups becoming primarily about return on experience and why brands are increasingly seeking this platform to connect with their customers…

We are increasingly aware that pop-ups have multiple purposes and that brands are now more fully realising the benefits of using pop-ups to connect with their customers.  Comments James Breaks, Head of Design at rpa:group. “Many brands now look at return on experience or ROE rather than ROI. Short-term income is demoted in favour of creating authentic long-term relationships with consumers. They are seeking to develop relationships that are based on trust and the loyalty garnered from generosity of the brand experience and face to face contact, which can only be delivered in a physical retail environment.”

Storefront is a global leader in procuring pop-up space. Currently operating from apex cities around the world that include London, New York, Paris, Amsterdam and Hong Kong, it currently has 10,000 listings on its platform and truly recognises the impact pop-ups are having. When a brand is considering pop-up space, there are some important choices to be made and criteria to be considered.

Comments Matthew Greenwell, UK Director of Storefront “We have found that retailers book one of three options depending on their requirements.” The first is traditionally under a month and is very PR led. “These are all about creating a buzz, with celebs and influencers and an emphasis on marketing.” The second option offers temporary spaces for a range of between one month and a year. “This is the fastest growing type of pop-up and is so popular because it is all about reducing the risks, while testing the brand within a specific neighbourhood, “Matt explains. Storefront’s final option is all about showrooming, with brands booking private places to build an experience for their buyers in a tangible space. This can include an apartment that is taken over to showcase a brand or space within existing stores.

Over the past ten years, we have grown accustomed to an average of 10,000 pop-up stores springing up annually on our high streets. There is no doubt that location is extremely important. Matthew elaborates, “At the moment, things for retail are very tough – they have to be excellent to succeed.  Average cannot compete with online anymore. To be in the excellent category they need to be in the right position, and they need to be very careful about that.” Data and research can help with this. Etailers for example have the added advantage of being able to harvest vital information about their customers. They are thus able to assess customer demographics and utilise these to define target store locations.

 James raises the point that on-line brands are also not hampered by public preconception , which allows them to be more experimental. “Pop-ups are ideal to trial a format or a location prior to developing a final incarnation of the store,” he explains. An example of this is luxury outerwear apparel brand Mackage, who rpa:group helped to deliver their first UK independent store as a pop-up on London’s exclusive Sloane Street.  Over a six month period, the space provides the perfect platform to launch a stand-alone store, testing response to location and demographic, while being flexible enough to create an engaging and adaptable retail environment, to facilitate brand awareness and growth.

 Matthew stresses that although the right location is one of the most important factors, retailers also need to first and foremost fully understand their audience and what they want their brand to achieve. “Brands who don’t have a clear knowledge of what they want to accomplish are likely to fail, even with a pop-up in the middle of Carnaby Street,” Matthew warns.

He reveals that an interesting current trend, which some brands are doing extremely well with, is the use of  influencers. “When it is a pop-up space, it is short term and therefore more achievable and affordable to include a relevant influencer or celebrity as a brand ambassador. This really draws customers and helps make them more attached to the brand. It is very powerful,” explains Matthew. As an example, Storefront created a series of pop ups for Gymshark in New York, London, Paris and Amsterdam, which had sports celebs on site. This in turn created a real buzz and helped enhance brand connectivity and authenticity with the customers.

When it comes to design and fit-out, Pop-ups incorporate greater flexibility, allowing the product stories to change regularly, to maintain interest and intrigue. Much like a gallery would changing exhibitions. “People are drawn toward experiences and successful retail design is about creating meaningful experiences that tap into something deeper,” says James.  “Pop-ups become the touch point, the 3-dimensional face of the brand that helps to define its character,” he adds.

It is in creating physical interactions with the customer that lasting memories are created and a loyal bond develops between customer and brand. “The more human we make a brand, the more we emotionally relate and engage – physical presence is one of the strongest drivers of this”, states James, but he cautions that pop-ups need to be very much part of the total retail experience, working seamlessly with the online retail offer and social media platforms.

It is interesting to note that technology plays second fiddle when it comes to pop-ups. “I think the importance of technology is the opposite with pop ups, because  pop-ups allow the brand to go back to the basics and make it super personal. It is all about delivering the human element and excellence,” says Matthew.

So it seems that the main reason why consumers respond well to pop ups is because the experience is human led – and offers something authentic and real, which we as a sociable and empathetic species value very highly.

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