Pop up stores and data: how data can help pop-up stores grab opportunities

Pop-up stores are being used more and more to test markets, spotlight product ranges and increase customer loyalty. The Covid-19 pandemic created opportunities for pop-up stores by permanently changing consumers shopping habits.

Problems:

The temporary nature of pop-up stores is simultaneously favourable and unfavourable for the retailer. It draws in consumers but it can be costly to set up short term stores.

Although, companies such as Boxpark and Samsung are committed to providing short term rentals and technology to retailers, not all landlords and technology providers are willing to do so. Ultimately, pop-up stores face many hurdles and lack choices: fast and reliable internet takes a few weeks to install; equipment such as tablets and receipt printers are costly to purchase and difficult to rent; insurance and licences are difficult to obtain for the short term etc.

Opportunity:

Pop-up stores were increasing in number long before the pandemic started as consumers were lured by the latest exciting innovations. They have been answering consumer demand with innovation, better quality and more ethical products, as well personalised shopping experiences.  Furthermore, the element of surprise has helped enthuse consumers leading to more engagement and higher conversion.

The pop-up industry in the UK alone was worth £2.3 billion a year prior to the pandemic, according to Ana Milevskaja, director of marketing agency Elastic Path. Of course, the pandemic negatively affected the growth of the pop-up industry. However, capitalising on consumers’ fear-of-missing-out mentality through limited time pop-up stores will undoubtedly help the growth of the industry particularly at a time when consumers are craving experiences; and pop-up stores are best suited to quench consumers’ thirst for experiences.

The British Retail Consortium reported a 14.1% increase in the overall retail property vacancy rate in the first quarter of 2021. The pandemic is not alone responsible for the vacant retail properties; in fact, vacancies were increasing since the beginning of 2018 due to the growth of online shopping.

Landlords are forced to push down rent prices and provide more flexible terms as a result of the lack of demand for physical retail spaces. This gives retailers the opportunity to have physical presence and build brand awareness, test new markets, and improve their customer awareness without responsibilities such as repairs and long-term contracts.

Omnichannel sales is now expected by shoppers and the benefits are great for both stakeholders. For example, research by the International Council of Shopping Centres found online traffic to increase by 37% with the opening of a new store. Moreover, for seasonal products, pop-ups are a great way to tap into the peak sales period without incurring any fixed costs when sales are low. 

Real life examples of pop-up success include brands like Pret-a-manger, Huda Beauty, and Primark. Veggie Pret stores started as a month-long experiment in London’s Soho to test the market. Now London has 13 Veggie Pret and 90 additional Eat stores have been acquired by Pret to convert into Veggie Pret stores. Primark used it’s Boxpark pop-up store to spotlight it’s Wellness collection featuring over 75 sustainably-made products. This helped Primark gather data on the success of the Wellness collection.

Solution:

Retailers must harness data in order to grab the opportunities provided by pop-up stores. If marketing and building connections with consumers are the primary goals of pop-up stores, tracking engagement is paramount.

AI based Software analytics tools can be used to gather rich data on consumer behaviour in pop-up stores from entrance to exit. Retailers will have real time information on foot traffic, dwell time, popular routes, heat maps of popular areas and be able to make quick informed decision. Specific times and areas can be focused on to understand interaction with particular products and busy time periods.

Data can bridge the gap between online and offline retail by making omnichannel experience seamless for the consumer. For example, online analytics such as Google analytics is highly advanced and accurate when providing recommendation to online shoppers. This is somewhat lacking in brick-and-mortar stores. With the use of data, however, retailers can create the optimal store layout to inspire shoppers; and if a shopper spends let’s say longer than a minute looking at a particular dress, the store can automate recommendations for similar dresses either on a nearby screen or directly to the consumer’s phone. This method of data backed marketing is highly effective in the online space and can work wonders in physical stores.

Creating a connection through personalisation is another difficulty retailers struggle to overcome; and it is an even tougher job for pop-up stores who have less time to do so. However, using real time data analytics, pop-up stores can test products and concepts quickly. Brands can stock the right products and create experiences that resonates with their consumers if they can gather accurate data on consumers’ engagement and demographics.

These are just a couple of examples of how data can be used to delight consumers and eventually boost sales, which of course is the end goal for all retailers. Modern AI software is advanced enough to help pop-up retailers overcome hurdles and achieve results quickly.

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