How to Create a Pop-Up that Works

Whether you’re a digitally native brand launching a store footprint, an established retailer testing a new product or market, or even Amazon Prime releasing a new season of the popular show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, pop-up stores are the new way of storytelling, and they’re bringing brands to life. 

Gonzalez says all brands, especially digital natives, need to be able to tell their stories in a physical space. Pop-ups help brands close the “touch-feel gap,” giving shoppers the chance to feel fabrics, try on items and simply connect with other people. They also generate excitement. Gonzalez says customers are “giddy” when they get a chance to meet a designer or founder in person at a pop-up.

She says the Mrs. Maisel pop-up was such a hit because it was set in a 1950s recreation of the Carnegie Deli, a New York icon. More visitors knew about the deli than the show when they first came in, but it didn’t matter. The pop-up worked because it brought a story to life through food, scenery and 1950s nostalgia.

Four Things Retailers Should Avoid When Creating a Pop-Up

Gonzalez says retailers should avoid these pitfalls:

  • Not knowing your purpose. Everybody wants to make sales, but brands should know what they’re trying to achieve with a pop-up. Is the purpose to launch a new product, test a new market before opening a permanent store, gather market research, or something else?
  • Underinvesting in staff. Don’t treat pop-up staff like temps or skimp on training or wages. Think of your frontline people as entrepreneurs for you.
  • Trying to create an “Instagrammable store.” Social media and influencers play a big role in retail, but a pop-up needs to tell a story, not just look great in online photos.
  • Choosing a location just because it’s free. Finding the right neighborhood and location for a pop-up is crucial if you want to reach your target customer.

The takeaway is that a pop-up doesn’t have to be a retail store per se, even though you may be selling deli sandwiches…or clothing…or accessories. The real purpose is to create an environment where you can engage and interact with customers and tell your brand story.