Launching your first pop-up requires a healthy dose of communication, plenty of planning and more than a dash of dedication. For those of you just starting out with an exciting new brand, trying out a fresh new business concept or making the transition from successful Etsy profile to real life shop, there are a few useful pointers when it comes to your first foray into the world of pop-ups.
We Are Pop Up has put together our top tips for what to expect from your pop-up for early-stage brands along with the help of two expert space directors. Elisicia Moore is the director of Petit Miracles Hub in Shepherds Bush, an incubator for entrepreneurship and local businesses providing support for young brands making their first steps into the wide world of retail. Uros Pecek is one half of the husband and wife team at the helm of boutique Nellie Atelier in Notting Hill, which is dedicated to nurturing emerging fashion designers from around the world and offering them a platform in London.
Be clear about what is being offered
Find out exactly what the landlord is and isn’t offering right from the start. This is especially true for ShopShare – will they help with your shop fit? Will they be managing your stock for the duration of the pop-up? Who is going to sell your items? Will you be included in the store’s promotional activities? Will they provide an in-store launch event? Details will be included in the listing for the space you book, and if you have any further questions do check in with the landlord.
If you are taking over a whole space, make sure you know exactly what is included with the venue and what you need to source yourself. Make sure you have a clear idea of the amount of support you will receive and how much you will have to do by yourself – you don’t want anything to be forgotten by thinking the other party will be sorting it out.
Communication is the key when it comes to popping up. Often the landlord will have plenty of experience and expertise – don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice if there’s something you are stuck on. Elisicia tells us that when new tenants arrive to set up in her space, there is much to learn and pop-ups provide the ideal setting for this. “They [new tenants] need to allow some room to grow. I brought in an expert to teach them about things like ‘share value,’ ‘guarantee’ and ‘limited company,’ and they realised how much they had learned.”
When it comes to food pop-ups, make sure you are conscientious about noise, waste and alcohol. Are you opening late in a residential area? Take care not to disturb the locals or upset the council. Have you thought about how much waste you’ll create? Get to grips with the rubbish collection times and keep the space and its exterior clean and tidy. Will you be selling alcohol? Make sure either you or the venue have the appropriate licensing and of course be responsible when it comes to consumption. You can read more on licensing for your pop-up here
Ask the right questions
This is really important not only for when you pose questions to the landlord but also when you focus on your own goal for the pop-up. Uros explains that it’s crucial to ask yourself questions like “What am I trying to do here? What do I want to get out of this? Where will I be going next?” Elisicia adds that “more serious people ask more serious questions. I can tell who will do well from the questions they ask – these have the higher conversion rate and are the footfall drivers.”
The takeaway here is to set out with clear objectives for your pop-up, which could include driving brand awareness, testing product price-points, experimenting with brand messaging or purely sales. Keep your eye on your initial objectives daily to measure what’s working and what’s not. If you’re hitting targets, how can you do more of what’s working, and if you’re not, why is that? What can you iterate in to drive different results? You could change up the store layout, merchandising, prices, branding, how you interact with customers throughout the buying process, social media and so on – if it’s not working, be bold and make changes, don’t just to more of the same.
If you build it, will they come? The space is not in charge of your footfall – you need to drive that yourself, particularly when it comes to ShopShare. You are being given access to an established customer base, but if nobody knows who you are or where you are located then you may miss out on a huge potential audience.
As Elisicia tells us, “the impact of social media is infinite.” She explains that one of the main misconceptions about ShopShare is that customers will magically appear just because you’re there. Brands often don’t make the most of the unbounded (and free) power of social media platforms. “You have to tell people your story; tell them that you are here. Even get out on the street – give out flyers, let people know what you are doing.”
Likewise, Uros emphasises that “it’s not about the shop, it’s about the brand. Have you thought about promoting? What about on your website? At least one post on social media? This is the bare minimum you need to do. Advertise, advertise, advertise.”
Don’t expect to always make a huge profit
If you are using a pop-up to test a new brand or business concept, don’t expect to always make a huge profit. Remember: this is an experiment. There is no concrete rule for pop-up success – even if you have employed your best visual merchandising techniques, got your sales patter down to a T, and had the most eye-catching marketing campaign out there, you may still not make a high volume of sales the first time around.
However, making money is not necessarily the best marker of success in this situation, as Uros explains: “sales are not necessarily the most important thing – you may only break even. The planning, execution, and marketing are key. It’s all about learning.”
Learn from the experience
One of the main benefits of a pop-up is the ability to test a concept, measure your progress and learn from the result. Even if sales are low, this does not make your pop-up a failure. Your brand awareness will have increased, so sales may continue beyond the life of your temporary store if people like what you do and go on to search for your products online. Many pop-ups find that the impact on their sales actually happens beyond the pop-up, seeing a 12-25% uplift in online sales after the pop-up which then sustains.
If you learn from the challenges and the things that didn’t go so well, then ultimately the experience will have been a positive one.
Now you know the basics for what to expect for your first pop-up experience, why not find the perfect space on wearepopup.com and get the ball rolling.