Pop up shops are a killer way to bring your ecommerce brand out from behind the screen and into the real world. Online-only companies can take advantage of this growing trend to:
- Build brand awareness;
- turn customers into super fans; and
- make real-world sales.
Sound daunting? Don’t worry, it's easier than you might think. This post is packed with actionable pop up shop ideas inspired by seven ecommerce brands doing it right. We look at why pop up shops are such a smart option, and what you can learn for your own real-world store.
Birchbox is a subscription-based beauty retailer. They aim to make the whole beauty and grooming space easier for consumers by delivering a variety box of products to your door once a month for an ongoing membership fee.
The pop up shop
Birchbox has launched a number of pop up shops with chic, stylish venues in cities like New York, London and Paris: But one of the key aspects is to go beyond ‘just a shop’, and instead drive real engagement with customers. Like the ‘With Love’ message leaving wall: One of the most impressive elements of the Birchbox pop up shops is the flexibility to build your own Birchbox in person. This is presented in a pick-and-mix format. Customers choose several sample-sized products from various suppliers, all for a fixed price: This recreates the digital experience that Birchbox is known for in a hands-on way. Visitors to the pop up shops are engaged every step of the way - they can try new products, explore the latest trends, connect with others. Even astrology readings and manicures have been available. Birchbox demonstrates just how immersive, engaging, and diverse pop up shop ideas can be with enough creative thinking.
The lesson: Be interactive
Your pop up shop is a chance to build a true retail experience for your online customers. And should be used to engage and connect with them in a very real way. For Birchbox, giving customers a chance to:
- Sample the line of products available in its subscription boxes;
- discover the latest choices; and
- build their own sets...
Was a stroke of genius. It’s much more interactive and engaging than simply receiving a box by post. Other ecommerce brands should take a close look at their USP and build pop up shops with this in mind.
- Collector Square Paris
Collector Square was founded in 2013, and has since become a leader in second-hand sale of high-end watches, clothing, jewelry, and handbags. Its goods are selected by experts, and the company prides itself on luxury.
The pop up shop
And luxury is exactly what Collector Square brings to its pop up shops. It has two venues in Paris, with the most recent based on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré - which the company describes as being in “the golden triangle of fashion, art, and luxury goods”: The shops feature:
- Minimalistic designs;
- understated colors; and
- a wide range of carefully-selected products.
Customers are free to explore vintage second-hand items in a way they can’t online: actually holding them in their own hands. People are even given tables, chairs and break out areas. All encouraging them to stay in the store and enjoy the experience: This makes a big difference when so much of clothing, jewelry and bags revolves around the texture and small details.
The lesson: Communicate your brand
Collector Square’s Paris pop up shops demonstrate how a brand can create a physical manifestation of its brand so effectively. The color scheme and overall aesthetic of the locations echo that of the Collector Square website: a stripped-back style that puts focus on the luxury items themselves, not on superficial touches. The team has clearly given a lot of thought to how it can best reflect the brand’s mission and values, rather than trying to be overly elaborate. This authenticity creates a seamless connection between Collector Square’s online and offline presence.
- Rue Saint Paul
Rue Saint Paul is a lifestyle brand for women specializing in ethical, sustainable fashion. It sells accessories, clothing, beauty products, and more.
The pop up shop
Its New York pop up shop features a collection of products that all align with the site’s established eco-conscious values. Customers can browse a range of accessories and clothing from around the world, all having been made by hand and with sustainable materials: Founder, Kelly Wang, launched the pop up shop just a few months after starting Rue Saint Paul. According to an interview she did with Storefront Magazine, Wang's initial motivation was part of a "get-my-name-out-there strategy” to engage with customers, get feedback, test products, and gather new ideas. But this soon grew into a desire to open up a permanent location.
"For us, pop ups are all about interaction, feedback, and experimentation. As a brand that is looking to grow from ecommerce to brick and mortar, it is important that we are able to test out our retail strategy before making a significant investment in a permanent location of our own. The feedback and learnings from our pop ups help to guide our overall retail direction."
~ Kelly Wang Founder, Rue Saint Paul
The lesson: Put your products to the test
Wang's decision to try a pop up shop so soon after launching Rue Saint Paul is terrific, and other new ecommerce companies may want to consider it for themselves. Though she clearly has a strong idea of what her business is and what she wants it to be, gathering customer feedback on the products and branding can help steer the brand’s evolution in the future. Keep this in mind when brainstorming pop up shop ideas. It’s also an effective way to test the business’s ability to perform offline, and explore the logistics of running a brick-and-mortar enterprise in a more affordable way than launching a ‘real’ store. In fact, Rue Saint Paul were successful in this respect as they launched their first permanent location in Brooklyn in February 2020.
Glossier got their start with Into The Gloss, a beauty website devoted to people sharing the products they love. They then used and built off this to develop their own products based on what people were sharing. So overall, Glossier are a beauty company where customers and followers have a direct say in any product that gets made.
The pop up shop
The company launched in 2014. And by the end of 2019, had created a pop up shop successful enough to earn an extended presence in London: It focuses on encouraging conversation and creating a communal feel - key elements of the brand’s online identity. This is done via areas with mirrors facing each other at makeup points, so visitors can chat and exchange ideas: The shop also benefits from a unique design. Each room is decorated in a different way, incorporating:
- Bright colors.
- Affirmations to inspire and help customers feel good about themselves.
- A clear emphasis on fun and creating an experience (e.g. secret doors) - rather than just a place to house products.
This has led to the pop up shop welcoming more than 100,000 visitors within just two and a half months. As a result, its residence has been extended far beyond initial plans.
The lesson: Put your customers first
Glossier’s pop up shop conveys the sentiment and goals behind the brand’s website beautifully. Yes, it presents a selection of its products, but there’s a strong emphasis on entertaining customers and making sure they leave feeling better in their own skin. This venue looks and feels like it could only have been created by Glossier. And that means customers are likely to remember it. Look at the core elements of your own brand identity and explore how you can encapsulate these with your pop up shop ideas.
- Depop Space
Depop is a fashion ecommerce app for creatives, connecting users from all around the world in a dedicated space for sharing and buying products. It’s community-focused, and is home to more than 10 million users - designers, collectors, fans of vintage products, stylists, to name just a few.
The pop up shop
Depop has launched two pop up shops:
- Depop Space NY in New York’s Chinatown.
- Depop Space LA on Sunset Boulevard.
These pop ups are designed to reflect the community-focused ethos at the heart of Depop. Fashion designers and creatives can meet, host exhibitions, put on events, and book studio facilities for photography sessions. Like Depop itself, the spaces are packed with color and character: While being cool and on-trend for its audience:
The lesson: Be a place for your community to gather
Pop up shops are ideal for bringing a brand’s customer base together and building awareness. Even if visitors leave without finding a product or designer they love, they should still walk away with a positive impression of the business behind the scenes. And that can translate into future purchases and impactful word of mouth.
- DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse)
Footwear retailer DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) stocks shoes and accessories from designer and more mainstream brands. It’s earned a reputation for bringing high-quality footwear to consumers at affordable prices.
The pop up shop
DSW put a bold spin on the traditional profit-focused pop up shop. When they launched theirs in New York, they focused on encouraging visitors to be generous rather than making sales. The initial pop up shop operated for a weekend, but allowed guests to donate their own used shoes, money, or time for the good of others: Those with VIP Rewards accounts had an extra incentive, though: DSW gave them 50 points for every donation they made. The brand has a passion for philanthropy and sustainability. So this pop up shop idea was a perfect manifestation of its online presence.
The lesson: Think bigger than sales on the day
More than 60% of customers worldwide prefer to buy from businesses with real values, ideally those which align with their own. DSW’s pop up project ties into this growing trend brilliantly. Pop up shops provide ecommerce brands with an invaluable opportunity to make a positive impact on communities, no matter how small. DSW could still have sold products while allowing visitors to make donations - but it chose to narrow its focus to philanthropy instead. Brands should stay true to clear values and ethical standpoints to build trust. These should be reflected in their pop up shops too. Again, it’s about raising brand awareness and cultivating relationships in the long term - not just making a quick sale.
Yes - that Amazon. The ecommerce mega-giant has come under fire many times for its impact on brick-and-mortar retailers the world over. And critics may have a point.
The pop up shop
But Amazon is showing how a juggernaut like itself can transition from online-only sales into the high street, contributing to offline commerce in a small-yet-creative way. When the brand’s first wittily-named Clicks & Mortar pop up launched in Manchester, UK, it offered a comprehensive Amazon experience. And the focus was all on their third-part marketplace sellers: Sellers distributing goods through the online marketplace could sell their goods in-store, and interact with customers face-to-face for the first time: Amazon Lockers were available, too, for customers to pick up their online orders in-person. All encouraging more foot traffic from local Amazon shoppers:
The lesson: Be adaptive
Amazon’s pop up shops demonstrate how even the biggest, most cutting-edge ecommerce brands can adapt their services to suit a traditional brick-and-mortar venue. It enables Amazon to put the independent sellers (a huge part of the marketplace) front and center. This removes much of the anonymity involved with shopping at Amazon, and creates a more engaging, communal shopping experience. After all, Amazon has always been a community of buyers and sellers. This just makes that clearer than ever.
These seven pop up shop ideas show how valuable the concept can be to ecommerce brands when done right. Use these strategies and lessons as a starting point to get your own going. Then keep nurturing and engaging those attendees to turn buyers into true fans.