Part 4: Pop-Up Retail—A Trend Becomes a Strategy
I ended Part 3 of this series (WWAN Transforms Networking at the Edge) by mentioning the use of WWAN as a “Cut-the-Wire” solution for some distributed retail enterprises. This approach finds its natural application in the increasing use of pop-up retail.
Pop-up stores began sprouting up in cities in Europe and the U.S. circa 2003. The first generation of stores took on a consciously makeshift quality, often occupying vacant mall spaces and abandoned storefronts. A tumbling commercial real estate market combined with soaring vacancy rates accelerated the trend as landlords became more willing to negotiate short-term leases to help cover their mortgages. Having discovered that consumers flock to and embrace the various manifestations of pop-up spaces, retailers have come to view the strategy as a legitimate and innovative means of connecting with customers and extending their brands.
An Idea with Legs, & Strategic Value
There are plenty of reasons why pop-ups have become strategic to enterprise retail planning. They help build brand awareness and loyalty. They are used to test new products, markets, or concepts and to meet temporary operational or customer service challenges. They utilize an economical alternative to full-scale retail set-up and they are a brilliant way to unload old or excess inventory. Pop-ups enable retailers to gain consumer insight with a relatively small investment. They generate buzz through memorable visual spectacles, create learning centers for customers, and tap into “massclusivity.” A pop-up can pique consumer curiosity through the elements of surprise, trendiness, and “get-it-while-it-lasts” urgency.
The number of blue-chip retailers that have integrated pop-ups into their marketing and sales strategies is proof that the experiment that became a trend is now a full-blown strategy. Toys “R” Us, American Eagle, eBay, WalMart, Gucci, Ann Taylor, Lexus, and Proctor & Gamble are just a few of the companies that have embraced them.
Some of the most innovative pop-up concepts include:
- Gap furnished a school bus with 60’s themed apparel and accessories, utilizing the bus as a traveling pop-up store.
- Bluefly.com, an online retailer, opened a brick-and-mortar store in New York, clearing out old stock in a temporary boutique.
- MTV partnered with Adidas, Levi’s, and Sony Ericsson, taking their pop-up stores all over Germany, stopping at cities for a week at a time and purveying limited edition apparel and high-tech items.
- Nike’s Runner’s Lounge in Vancouver lured runners with free massages, snacks, drinks, and the opportunity to test drive a new line of running shoes.
- Macy’s has implemented multiple store-in-a-store concepts in hundreds of locations nationwide, including permanent fixtures like “Destination Maternity” and seasonal shops such as “Holiday Lane,” an ornament and décor store.
- Jack-in-the-Box created Jack’s Munchie Mobile to tour the U.S.
Pop-up sites include sporting events, college campuses, and even spring break on the beach. Buses and other vehicles are often redesigned to carry touring pop-ups. You’ll find pop-ups inside high-tech shipping containers stationed at farmers’ markets, charity events, and music festivals. Many retailers will even open additional locations temporarily within malls during peak-selling seasons, like Black Friday. Some retailers use small carts located in the common areas of malls to showcase and sell additional products during the holidays, while gift card kiosks enable retailers to reduce line queuing and service customers faster.
Pop-Up Technology Needs
While pop-up stores present new sales opportunities, they also bring new IT challenges. The latest iterations of pop-up incorporate more elaborate displays, high-end signage, more sophisticated POS systems, advanced mobile commerce capabilities, and meaningful interactive experiences that enable useful conversations with customers. As pop-ups become more sophisticated, so do customer expectations. The novelty of the pop-up concept isn’t necessarily going to drive traffic on its own. Consumers’ affection for mobile devices and m-commerce means that they’re demanding enhanced experiences and multiple modes of engagement—even if they’re shopping at the beach.
Given the fleeting nature of these mobile retail outlets, it’s rarely realistic or practical for companies to invest anywhere near the same amount of IT resources or energy into pop-ups as they would a traditional store.
IT Managers Beware
Cutting corners or trading reliability and advanced capabilities for affordability and rapid deployment is risky. Pop-ups typically drive high-volume bursts of demand and purchasing activity over short periods of time. They often spearhead customer engagement and represent the first impression of the overall brand. To meet network connectivity needs, some pop-up operations piggyback off of any Internet connection they can find, giving up control of a key element of a successful retail operation—security. In doing this, they relinquish any control over security and reliability, and lose the opportunity to provide both a public WiFi network and a secure internal network for the store. But worst of all, they put their customers data at risk.
Simple & Speedy—but not too…
With pop-ups designed to quickly “go out of business,” speed and simplicity are the two key watchwords when it comes to IT. Speedy and simple but resilient and secure, that is. Even a temporary pop-up network outage and interruption of POS services can mean the same losses traditional retail locations would suffer: loss of revenue, loss of customers due to frustration and abandonment, loss of time and money, and damage to the company’s reputation.
In the next installment of this series I’ll present your retail pop-up technology cheat sheet and give you a few guidelines to keep in mind when you are thinking about pop-up stores.