Popups are becoming increasingly important to brand strategy, according to a recent survey of 600 retailers around the globe conducted by the University of South Carolina Department of Retailing and Storefront, a marketplace for short-term commercial rental space. More than 80% of respondents who had done at least one popup considered the activation a success, and 58% said they would likely do another.
The growing use of popups is changing how retailers measure success with temporary activations. The main reasons to implement a popup are not necessarily a short-term increase in sales, agree most online, brick-and-mortar, and hybrid retailers. Instead, retailers view popups as a means to create connections with current and potential customers, to increase brand awareness, to introduce a new product or brand to the marketplace, and to “stage” a new product or brand.
While an increase in sales wasn’t a top reason to do a popup, it was still considered an important result, finishing just behind “improve market visibility,” which was cited by slightly more than half of respondents as the most important result. Other branding and awareness metrics such as social media engagement, website traffic, and press coverage also ranked highly as both reasons to do a popup and measure results confirming a popup’s success. The majority of respondents indicated they are generally more positive about the outlook for retail than they were a year ago.
“Driving sales is the overall goal of retail, but our survey found that popups are largely being used by brands to engage with customers and create visibility in ways not possible through other channels,” says Mark Rosenbaum, principle investigator, Department of Retailing chair, and professor at USC. “Popup stores are seen as a means to generate buzz, customer interaction and buy-in, and brand loyalty. The retail renaissance is all about the customer experience. Sales transactions can be conducted online, but building personal relationships and lasting engagement is best done in person. Popups are no longer about one-off promotions, sample sales, or selling off excess inventory; they are about creating customer communities, instant and measurable buzz, and personalized experiences that require a physical presence.”
Karen Edwards, attorney, retail instructor, and co-investigator of the study, believes popup operations give retailers more flexibility and less risk than long-term commercial leases. “Popup models also enable retailers to initiate brick-and-mortar selling without the need to engage in excessive purchasing and maintaining hefty inventories, as well as be more efficient with other resources, including staffing. The cost-benefit ratio regarding popups is significant, even for digital native brands,” she says.
Adds Stephanie Kidder, CMO of Storefront, “The survey reinforces what we are hearing from our clients every day: The new era of retailing is about the customer experience. Popups give brands a flexible way to engage with the customers in creative ways, and at the same time increase their visibility in the marketplace through the buzz of the event that a new popup inherently creates.”