To Pop-up or not to Pop-up, that is the question


In a world where consumers can access pretty much anything online, are physical retail spaces still relevant? It can’t be denied that the cost of a website developer and social media manager is considerably less than the cost of building, stocking, and staffing a bricks-and-mortar store. Digitalisation of the shopping experience has allowed for a whole new wave of start-up businesses to launch, as the cost of selling online can be so low.


However, there are still many reasons why brands benefit from a physical store for key periods throughout the year, be that seasonal or brand launches. Enter the pop-up shop.


A “pop-up” is simply defined as a temporary physical space in which a person or brand carries out some form of activation or activity. Vague, right? This is because there is such a VAST range of reasons why, and types of pop-ups that we engage with on a day-to-day basis. A pop-up can be a simple as a food stall at Southbank market or as grand as our very own client Bang & Olufsen’s multi-room sensory experience in New York City, created during the holiday season in 2018.


Generally speaking, there are two types of pop-ups, those that are for retail purposes (the Southbank food market, for example), or to create a wider brand showcase. Here is a run down of why pop-ups are so helpful, and some of our favourites here at the Coop!



Dipping in your toe, without diving head first:

For many companies born out of the generation of online shopping, the jump to a physical retail environment can be terrifying. It’s like the dreaded second album – just because you made it work once doesn’t mean you can launch another banger. A pop-up allows for a test drive in the physical retail world, without a non-breakable five-year lease. A brand that benefitted hugely from physical pop-ups is our very own Soda Says – launched digitally and then hosting pop-ups in Selfridges and most recently in the Kings Mall, Hammersmith. These physical experiences allow Soda Says to introduce consumers to their products, and let them interact with the brand through talks, events and focus groups without the monumental expense of a permanent store – something a start up company such as Soda Says would struggle to accommodate.




Meeting someone new:

Pop-ups allow brands to interact with NEW consumers. Those who haven’t seen them online and then stumble across the store through the magical art of serendipity. As mentioned above, upcoming food brands that have standalone restaurants in the back end of nowhere may be tempted by the bright lights of popular weekend food markets and then make the bold journey to a permanent restaurant space in the future. These key locations that are notorious for pop-ups all work brilliantly for businesses trying to target new consumers, Box Park in Shoreditch is another one of our favourites – hosting some of the best new food, fashion and lifestyle brands.




Visualising a fantasy:

Brands don’t always create a pop-up to sell products. Sometimes, a pop-up simply allows for a brand to create an experience that builds wider awareness and brings to life a new product, campaign or story. A perfect example of this is the Google Curiosity Rooms, launched simply to “inspire experience-savvy Londoners”. The idea of allowing your curiosity to search for something loosely ties into the idea of Google but the experience pop-up simply created a plethora of social coverage with consumers taking Insta-worthy photos and tagging google online, thus building brand awareness whilst not selling product.




Tis the season to do pop-ups:

Every brand has a “cultural calendar” – a database of key dates, seasons, national holidays and other cultural events that are relevant to that specific company. For example, London based summer music festivals such as SW4, All Points East, and Wireless are perfect opportunities for drinks brands to host pop-ups in, or tap into popular locations (Clapham Common, Victoria Park, etc). Similarly, upcoming fashion brands may wish to host pop-ups around London Fashion Week in either January or September to benefit from the increased focus on fashion in the city at that time. Christmas, for many brands is a key time to open a pop-up, as it increases awareness of the products during the most important sales period of the year. Our friends at Bang & Olufsen hosted a glorious multi-room experience in New York at the end of last year to highlight key product launches across the portfolio, just in time for everyone’s Christmas wish list.



We at the Coop understand that pop-up experiences are key to brands that don’t operate in a physical space, and to brands that do! Whether the purpose is to drive seasonal sales, create a physical relationship with your consumer, meet new consumers or create a social media campaign, it is crucial to understand why you are activating a pop-up space, and what results you want to see. As PRs we see the benefit of additional newsworthy-ness that a pop-up adds to a brand, and as consumers we see why they are affective in driving awareness, interest, and sales!

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