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The Growing Pop Up Empire

How popular are pop ups? Since 2010, it’s ballooned to a $50 billion industry. That’s pretty popular. But their appeal extends far beyond just a quick holiday fix, since pop ups occur year round now and tend to remain for far more than just a day or two. Pop ups are, it seems, here to stay. And they could be poised to become an integral part of the future of digital retail altogether, with placeless online-only giants “popping up” instead of building brick and mortars and thus, in the process, reinventing how we shop.

In our growing hyperconnected, AI-infused world, the global culture is going with the flow and gradually turning away from the idea of permanence. In a digital world nothing seems to stay in one place, so it’s only natural that the day-to-day retail experience should begin to reflect what the internet itself actually is.

One drawback of this tendency, however, is that a certain sense of authenticity may seem to get lost in the shuffle. If everything is hyperspeed and automated, if everyone is on the move and if work, play, and all else are online, where does one go to get that cozy Hygge feeling or that sense of having a genuine, one-of-a-kind experience? In this new context, such experiences may need to be actively manufactured.

Thus the holiday pop up—or the pop up in general. They serve a distinct double-need—the need to be both on the move and to remain grounded in real experience. Yet they are also a wise financial move—when done right, of course—and are tailormade to benefit from powerful digital marketing strategies.

Here are three things that great pop ups have mastered, and why we should be paying attention to where they’re headed in 2019 and beyond.

Making Meaningful Memories Is a Compelling Reason to Shop

Great pop ups tell a one-of-a-kind story, capitalizing on their fleetingness, making a show of their arrival and revitalizing the sense that commerce can be an exciting social engagement again—not just a lonely online button click. People tend to go to pop ups in groups, often trying to horde as many items for holidays as possible—and why not? The pop up won’t be around much longer, and if the marketing is doing the right thing it’s driving that message of a unique experience to consumers. Memories and nostalgia are powerful motivators. Giving people the opportunity to increase their social connectedness, or giving them a sense of meaning and allowing them the possibility of creating wonderful memories, is a transformational concept that successful pop ups anticipate and use to their benefit, whether during the holidays or otherwise.

Having a True Purpose Matters

Fantastic pop ups use impeccable strategy. Content marketing is particularly important in this industry, as literally all of the messaging will be online. You can’t create buzz around a new pop up in any other way, and the best buzz is created where there is true purpose. Creating thoughtful and strategic content, possibly motivating your word of mouth capacity, and publishing it in the best places online excites interest, but the goal is to drive social media chatter and get people curious about the experience of shopping with you through using a strategic purpose. Demonstrating the uniqueness of the product itself may work fine, or working together with a charity or nonprofit can also do the job. But simply setting up a tent and hawking trinkets won’t do you much good. Great pop ups connect themselves to the regional social fabric and try to make a real difference in the community in which they set up shop.

Digital Marketing Makes or Breaks You

Explosively successful pop ups know how to manage systems. The use of mobile marketing is now a requirement for this industry, with more than $35 billion in sales on phones just during last year’s holiday season alone, and with mobile sales this year predicted to go much further. Rooting pop up marketing and purchasing on mobile phones and optimizing it for that use is part of an omnichannel strategy will be the difference between success and failure in the pop up world. I can easily see a future in which the pop up market is entirely founded upon the principles of analytics and customer data, using AI-driven engines to determine how to appeal to particular customers, how to alter or set up a particular shop, and which locations work best for the next pop up. If these digital tools and platforms were made for anything, they were made for smart and highly mobile retail shops that are lean, hungry, and versatile.

Happy holidays from everyone at TopRight Partners, we’re wishing everyone out there a fantastic break this year. If you’d like to learn more about digital campaigns, strategy, tactics, and the pop up phenomenon please check out my book Marketing, Interrupted. Then come back and see us again soon, or subscribe to our blog for weekly updates and tips!

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