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Mimi Gerrard-Morgan, Insights Executive

Pop-ups have become a well-established promotional tool in the retail and food and beverage market in recent years and are literally ‘popping up’ everywhere. Arriving in 1990’s mainly in large urban cities, they were used most prominently for independent brands to establish themselves in the market.

Now the trend has become a conceptual phenomenon with big retail chains learning from independent behaviours to step away from their rigid guidelines. Brands want to create bespoke environments and activations that present their brand in a new light and bring new and exciting experiences to their customers.

Pop-ups are an exciting change to the typical impersonal online and generalised chain retail experience.

Why use Pop-up shop design?

As brands create more bespoke and localised stores, we question the relevance of pop-up.

However, with the rise in digitalisation and increase in online purchasing a threat is presented to the physical store and exclusivity for brands. It seems, therefore, that pop-up activations remain relevant in providing a one-off, unique and exclusive experiences for consumers. Their short-term nature brings a sense of temporary occasion and element of surprise that excites customers. They are a chance for brands to be experimental with their marketing and test the water with new or exclusive product ranges that may be based on locality, seasonal campaigns or live events.

With new products launching and new trends emerging at a fast pace, the concept of a pop-up that provides newness and changeability shows no signs of slowing down.

The reverse of the ‘offline to online’ trend

Recently the trend has provided a physical presence to online brands and brought to life social media activations that have sparked interest in a product. Brands are seeing the importance of trying, testing, touching and feeling products but also creating physical engagements and memorable moments with the brand that build customer loyalty.

With increasing hectic lifestyles, consumers seek human interaction and benefit from one-on-one expertise and advice. Instead of segregating the physical and online, brands can use online behaviours and social media to spark a physical destination for activity to further the customer journey. Marc Jacobs Tweet Shop and Google pop-up are great examples of these.Marc Jacobs pop-up retail

Co-branding and collaboration

Pop-ups are a great way for brands to collaborate and work symbiotically together to co-promote each other. This might allow for new audiences and create a different perception of both guest and host brand. Nike created a pop-up in Libertys, Soho in 2012, that coincided with the Olympics. This brought new relevance for visiting the store and showed that they can appeal to the mass market.

Pop-up and ‘pop over’ concepts are also emerging amongst brands that give them a new temporary identity to generate intrigue. Collaborative ideas that fuse art culture and retail are being used to make stores a destination and bring in new customers. For example, Victoria Beckham and Illuminum are both examples of brands who use their spaces as commercial Art galleries by collaborating with Artists and set designers to create a new story and environment to showcase their products.Victoria Beckham pop-up retail

Location, timing and relevance

As fewer consumers feel the need to travel to stores to purchase, and millennials seek more intimate and personalised experiences over one-off purchases, big brands will have to become adaptable and flexible and better rely on well curated well placed spaces that drive desire. Location and relevance are key to making the customer experience worthwhile. Travelling pop-up can create brand awareness and reach new audiences by trading on the excitement of chance and availability that heightens interest in the brand. Getting noticed in different locations can also feed excitement and promotion through multiple channels.


Ultimately pop-up appeal lies in their transience and uniqueness that creates a ‘buzz’ and sense of urgency around the brand, in turn generating more sales and new interest by providing one-off experiences. A new pathway has emerged for the pop over concept that brings temporary change to a store or brand identity, which can be a valuable strategy for any brand wishing to keep customers engaged.

Shopping behaviours are rapidly evolving, which is why pop-up is important in creating new found attention around a brand that may later result in a purchase be this physical or online. As the gap between online and offline increases, pop-up and pop over concepts prove valuable in keeping customers connected and keeps the spark of traditional retail alive.