If your small business is considering expanding into a new market—either geographic or demographic—a pop-up shop can be an excellent way to test the waters before you commit to a bigger investment.
Pop-up shops are short-term locations typically open for a few weeks. While they are usually retail businesses, the pop-up concept can also work for service businesses, such as a yoga studio or beauty salon. Restaurants have even popped up in large urban markets like New York and Chicago.
What can pop-up shops help you do?
1. Create a physical presence: E-commerce businesses often open a pop-up shop before launching a permanent brick-and-mortar location. They may also use pop-up shops on an occasional basis to build buzz about a new product or take advantage of seasonal demand.
2. Test a location: If you’re thinking of opening a second location (or first), you could commit to a lengthy commercial lease and cross your fingers that the space you’ve picked is a good one. Or you could try out a pop-up shop for a few weeks to see if the location works before you sign on the dotted line.
3. Test-market new products or services: Are you considering adding a new product or service to your offerings? Use a pop-up shop to do real-world market testing, then use what you learn to modify the product or service for greater success before you launch it.
4. Build brand awareness: Companies hoping to expand to new demographic markets can use a pop-up shop to build brand awareness and generate word-of-mouth among a new customer base.
Secrets of pop-up shop success
You’ll have more success with your pop-up if you focus on one of the goals above, rather than try to do everything. Other steps to success:
1. Choose the right location: The ideal location will differ based on your goal. If you want to build broad awareness of your brand in a certain city, locate near an area with a lot of foot traffic. If you’re trying to attract students, a spot near a college or university would work. If your target market is upscale shopaholics, a spot in a popular mall might be best; if you want to reach hipsters who shun the “masses,” you could try an out-of-the-way downtown warehouse. To find potential pop-up locations, contact local retail property managers or visit pop-up property websites such as Storefront.com, PopupInsider and Uppercase.
2. Promote, promote, promote: Pop-up shops are all about excitement, exclusivity and the fear of missing out, making social media the ideal place to promote them. Start plugging your pop-up well in advance by sharing “Save the date” announcements, sneak peeks at what you’re planning and special offers for your followers. (Create a hashtag for your pop-up and use it in all your outreach.) Invite your email subscribers to the event. Reach out to influential members of the media, including relevant bloggers, to alert them about your pop-up and invite them to attend as guests of honor. Once your pop-up is underway, pass out flyers and use street signage, balloons and flags to catch the attention of passersby.
3. Make it memorable: A pop-up is more than just a temporary retail store—it’s a one-of-a-kind experience. Give visitors a reason to stop in by throwing a party! Live entertainment, interactive activities, makeovers, fashion shows, product demonstrations, competitions, and prize giveaways are all fun activities that will attract people into the store and get them talking about your pop-up.
4. Get customers engaged: Your pop-up shoppers are your best source of marketing. Get them to spread the word about your pop-up shop by creating Instagram-worthy spots for selfies and encouraging customers to share them on social media (with your pop-up hashtag, of course!). Ask customers to sign up for your email or text messaging lists and follow you on social media so you can stay in touch with them after the event. Finally, take advantage of the opportunity to get real-time customer feedback on your product or service.
A pop-up shop can be the first step to a permanent location or an occasional activity you use to attract new customers and expand your target market. Either way, this concept has plenty of potential for entrepreneurs who know how to make the most of it.
About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years. Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah.
Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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