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New technologies and the pop up experience


There’s no doubt technology plays a role in the pop up experience.

I’ve often said that the changing retail environment over the past 15 years or so – including a rapid introduction of new technologies – has played a significant role in the pop up boom. A number of factors combined in the early 2000’s to force a new approach to retailing – not just tougher trading conditions and a change in attitude to what defines “retail”, but also the advent of smart technologies. In many instances, changes in retail forced the industry to respond with new innovations… one of those, of course, has been the pop up experience !

The global expansion of deep-pocket corporations (with their massive buying-powers / capacity to ride over tough times and small players…) has been a major factor in the development of pop up, challenging local businesses to step up. Many times that has been an impossible ask for smaller retailers, leading to their inevitable failure… which has resulted in a lot of vacant spaces (some of those ‘spaces are the result of the globals’ failures too). With that unfortunate turn of events it has been those empty stores – and their bewildered landlords – which have provided the physical opportunity for some of the most innovative short-term / pop up installations…

If it wasn’t for the internet, and its impact on “traditional retail” and “traditional marketing”, the pop-up industry probably would not exist. Many on-line stores use the pop up model to physically connect with their customers, avoiding the commitment (and cost) of permanent stores (the fit-outs, staffing and marketing…) – choosing instead to strategically appear only where and when it suits the business – in peak sales season, when the warehouse is groaning full of old inventory, for the launch of a new product… or just getting out to meet and greet (touch and feel) their customers. The rest of the year they go back to their e-commerce profile, hopefully with a follow-on benefit from those occasional outings…. What I don’t quite understand, though, are those “on-line pop-up” stores… (in my mind there’s no such thing as an on-line pop-up event… pop up is a tangible experience, not a virtual concept)

Popular social media sites also allow businesses to promote their pop ups like never before – fast and free. Many events still use “old” media such as street-side posters, leaflets and local editorial to advertise – but the impact is probably minor compared to the potential exposure via Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and Instagram moments. Some pop ups are quite strategic when placing their social media content… they know exactly where the customers are hiding, and how to stir a response. Those long lines outside the first morning of a “massive pop up sale” are no accident… surely the result of targeted online marketing !

Technologies have also improved the physical process of the pop up experience – finding (and booking) pop up locations, capturing more customer data (more accurately) in-store, and making it much easier / faster to transact sales from a short-term location (eg. wireless EFTPOS)

Another significant technology to impact “traditional retail” has been the development of shopping apps via mobile devices – yet that is probably still a while off reaching full potential with pop up installations. Last week I was provided results from a survey of (US) shopping app users. The When and Where People Use Shopping Apps study was shared by Visual Objects, a Washington-based “portfolio website that showcases work from top creative firms from around the world”, in partnership with B2B specialists (where my contact Toby Cox is a content writer and marketer). Toby thought our popUPshops readers “may find our data interesting, especially if they are app developers or business owners wanting to propel their business to the next level with an e-commerce app”.

Here’s a few snippets from those survey results* :

  • More than one-third of shopping app users (35%) report using the apps 2-5 times per week, while 28% use them daily
  • Most people report using ‘apps from mass merchants (81%), such as Target, Costco, and Walmart, and pure online retailers (77%), such as Amazon
  • People also use shopping apps from food and beverage businesses (69%), apparel retailers (35%) and convenience stores (33%)
  • Most people (79%) prefer to use those apps while at home instead of on-the-go or in the store
  • Nearly all shopping app users (92%) use those from pure online retailers at home rather than on-the-go
  • Food and beverage apps are the only e-commerce apps used more while in the retailer’s store (67%)

So, how can those results relate to a local pop up experience ? The survey said that “overall, people use e-commerce apps at home because they are convenient and can replace a trip to the store”* – which makes sense if they’re browsing through big brand / permanent retailer’s apps (yawn).  But I suppose a savvy trader could turn that habit to an advantage, using the unique / temporary nature of their pop up to encourage physical visits. They might consider enhancing their own shopping app to hook into those consumers just sitting at home, and provide them with a good reason to visit the actual store…

I imagine this is like posting mentions on popular social media sites… the right message will hopefully create interest and motivate a move out of the armchair, into a pop up !

Read full results and analysis of the survey – “When and Where People Use Shopping Apps” – here


* source : / when and where people use shopping apps



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