Retailers tipped to treat physical stores with the flexibility of ‘Google Ad Words campaigns’

Retailers are starting to experiment with why they use bricks and mortar stores, adapting the pop-up store concept to treat their physical presence with the flexibility they would an online campaign.

Pop-up stores are no longer just for challenger brands looking to disrupt the high street. Google, Microsoft, Marc Jacobs are getting on the trend as they look to adapt to shoppers shifting demands from the retail experience. All three retailers have worked with Appear Here, a media owner built on the proposition of helping brands find short-term retail space.

“It’s about landlords being able to fill their short pauses,” said Appear Here’s co-founder Ross Bailey. “I’ve never visited a Waterstones and been inspired. It feels like Amazon in a room. What’s interesting about the pop-up shop is that it’s becoming a medium. Because it does disappear within a few days you’re giving someone that urgency and nudge to make the decision straight away.”

Advertisers are beginning to buy into this theory, particularly online brands such as eBay and Amazon looking to extend into the offline world for a short period of time. Bailey believes that as the customer journey splinters further, stores will be viewed increasingly like media inventory.

To encapsulate the point, he described a campaign they ran two years ago for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee whereby they set up a temporary story to sell “Lizzie Stardust” t-shirts, featuring the queen’s face emblazoned with a Ziggy Stardust-style lightning bolt across her face. It wasn’t long before they were threatened with closure for copyright infringement but rather than cease they sold the clothes prohibition style, with people being sold the goods in brown envelopes as well as having to show secret texts or their business cards to prove their identity.

It wasn’t the design that had made the “Lizzie Stardust” brand so popular, noted Bailey. It was the fact that those who bought it always associated the design with an “engaging” and fun experience. “This isn't about thinking about the store as a transaction piece but as a place to entertain. If you do that then the transaction will follow,” he said.

Pop-up stores represent a new revenue stream for larger brands looking to offload inventory as well deepen their links to shoppers. Amid the rise of showrooming and cross-platform retail, companies are fearful of being out of sync with shoppers, which has forced them to reappraise the role of their stores. Bailey added: “The transactions may happen online buy you might take a trip to the store for some entertainment or get a feel for that brand.

“Today if you wanted to buy a store on [a popular street] then you’d need to take out a five to ten year lease and the only way you could get out of it would be if you went into administration. Whereas what we’re doing is trying to give that same flexibility from your store as you would get from a Google Ad Word campaign.”

Omnichannel is tipped as the endgame for all things marketing with brands increasingly trying to define retail’s role in the expanding customer journey. While temporary by nature, the role of the pop-up in the marketing strategy of tomorrow looks like it's here to stay.

Bailey spoke at The Drum's Digital Convergence conference in London yesterday (24 February).

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