Pop-up shops and the merging of retail and brand experience.

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In the first half of 2019, 2,870 retail brick and mortar retail stores closed in the UK – that’s a staggering 16 a day – and about half of them were among the top high-street brands. Many media outlets are calling it the “Retail Apocalypse,” yet some marketing professionals (and us here at Ambient) are also seeing it as an opportunity – an opportunity to take experiential brand marketing and pop-up shops into the mainstream.

“High Street retailers continue to face growing competition from online operators such as Amazon, making it harder to pay their rents and other overheads, such as a rising minimum wage and business rates,” says BBC News. The growing cost of competing with large internet stores is no longer worth the loss that many retailers are enduring. There’s been a developing pressure across Great Britain and the world for brands to maintain their presence in lieu of this Apocalypse and to innovate new ways of reaching their audience, expand and stand apart from the competition.

The traditional idea behind a pop-up shop has evolved and been reassessed into an occasion for brands to provide more immersive experiences which in turn provide stronger brand identity, niche opportunities to stand out, and the chance to spread like rapid-fire through word of mouth and social media. Brands like Tesla have paved the way in revolutionising the pop-up shop and experimenting with new ways of reinventing traditional methods.

Because almost 60% of car shoppers are doing more research online before making a decision, pushy salespeople are becoming more of a reason not to shop at a traditional dealership. Tesla has taken its showrooms and tested the idea of keeping the salesman out of the way and letting the car speak for itself. How do you buy a Tesla car? Through your phone. But consumers making a substantial investment still want to ‘experience’ the car before they commit to purchasing so Tesla has made it convenient to pop-up shop mini showrooms almost anywhere they can fit a car – providing this opportunity to experience and validate their decision in an environment much more suitable to the Millenial and Gen X consumers. Considering that only 35% of car dealerships are likely to sell their cars online or are unable to sell directly to consumers, through the use of the pop-up shop styled showrooms, Tesla has carved out a unique method of engaging their audience fitting for its unique product.

Why are pop-up shops gaining in popularity?

Pop-ups have become a cost-effective method of reaching new and current customers. Not necessarily linked to floor space or vacant stores, pop-ups can appear almost anywhere – from the back of a van, a tent, or in the middle of a concourse mall. The idea behind this is that why not go where your customers are going instead of expecting them to come to you. And, without the need to commit to long-term rent and other operating expenses, brands can be much more economical and agile, providing an outlet to be braver and to experiment.

Another important reason why pop-ups are “popping up” more often across the UK is their moldability and opportunity to capture a highly relevant audience at the most appropriate time while providing a chance to develop a shopping or brand experience outside the parameters of a traditional retail framework.

For example, In 2016, Kanye West opened 21 Life of Pablo pop-up shops in major cities around the world, to coincide with his album release. Fans flocked to locations trying to get a peek at the merchandise and clothing being sold under the phrase “buy, don’t touch.” Fans didn’t seem to mind that only 3 people were allowed in the store for only 2 minutes without being allowed to touch anything.

Relevant opportunities might not gain as much popularity as Kanye, yet retail stores can benefit from being in the right place at the right time during special seasons such as Christmas, vacation spots during Spring Break, or on university campus if a target audience is the younger generation.

Taking experiential marketing into another dimension.

No longer confined to the 4 walls of a brick and mortar store, brands have the world at their fingertips for experimenting with pop-up shops, guerilla techniques, and pushing the boundaries of traditional marketing – increasing the chance to be seen and shared by a huge audience. Consumers are now more likely to remember and engage with your brand if they’re able to associate it with a fun experience or event. It’s more about connection and personal relationships than simply being present.

At Ambient, we believe that with the right strategy, the right location, and a great idea there are enormous opportunities for brands to win in these turbulent times for retail. Understanding your audience is key, and from that, we believe it’s about considering the overall experience and looking at three key factors:

1/ What is the behaviour you want to achieve from your audience (e.g. your goals and objectives)?
2/ What is the experience, environment, sales drivers etc we need to create to achieve this?
3/ What are the stories we want people to tell others of their experience (through WOM, social, reviews etc)?

By breaking down the experience to these three pillars we are able to focus on the main objectives while designing awesome experiences to achieve them.

Here’s a few experiential and pop-up shop examples we’ve created.

Hendricks Gin Bus, a ticketed live brand experience creating an immersive world of Hendricks. Customers were taken on a tour of London or Edinburgh. The campaign had an incredible 78M hashtag impressions illustrating the power of creating a shareable and memorable brand experience.

In the run-up to Christmas 2019, we created pop-up shops in five shopping centres for Lavazza capitalising on the critical shopping period and providing a tactical route to purchase. The five pop-up shops focussed on selling machines and Lavazza’s unique ‘eco-caps’ while providing an opportunity for customers to explore the product range and learn about the new compostable capsules.

We worked with UGG Kids to create a roadshow to correlate with the release of their Kids Summer footwear. In this example, the pop-up was created as an extension to UGG’s existing retail locations in shopping malls; with a beach set, we were able to incorporate games that would relate to Children while still engaging with adults. Random prizes of 120 pounds would spurt out for lucky winners, which drove audiences to the sets and raised awareness that UGGs weren’t just for winter and drive purchase in-store.

Interested in learning more about how Ambient works with our clients to develop creative strategies meant to set them apart, build brand awareness and find new ways of reaching audiences? Reach out for a conversation with our team today.

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