[Guest post by James D. Burbank]
By its definition , an ecommerce business exists on the internet and its livelihood depends on the advantages online retailing has over traditional stores – low costs, increased visibility and convenience for the shoppers.
That being said, over the last couple of years, ecommerce business owners have started realizing that it can be quite beneficial for their company to venture into the real world, so to say.
One of the easiest and most effective ways to do so is to open up a pop-up store every now and then.
So, what exactly are pop-up stores and is one the right thing for your ecommerce business?
A Brief History of Pop-Up Stores
For most people, the birth of the pop-up store dates back to 1997 and a Los Angeles event where Californian labels like Epoch, Fine and Black Flys would sell their products while DJs would spin records. It was called The Ritual Fashion and Music Expo and it was pretty underground at first.
Of course, it was soon adopted by large companies who saw the potential to approach younger crowds with such pop-up stunts. Motorola and Levi-Strauss were among the earlier big adopters of the trend. Soon enough, Target, Song Airlines, Samsung, Gucci and others jumped on the bandwagon, doing some truly great things over the years.
The basic idea of a pop-store was also formed over the years, providing a temporary sales outlet in locations where permanent stores were not a possibility, no matter how big a brand.
More recently, pop-up stores have become a darling of ecommerce businesses, for whom they can be a fantastic way to venture into the physical world.
Why Pop-Up Stores Make Sense for Ecommerce Businesses
There is definitely no shortage of reasons why ecommerce businesses find pop-up stores trusted allies in the current retail climate.
First and foremost, a pop-up store gives you the opportunity to meet your customers face-to-face. You are probably trying to communicate with your customers in some way already, but even the most effective online communication cannot come close to face-to-face interaction. This will give you more immediate and honest reactions that you can learn a ton from.
Moreover, a pop-up store is a way to put your brand in front of people who may not find you online. You do not even have to sell them anything in your store.
A pop-up store is also a fantastic way to do a speed test of a new product or a line of products. You can do this online as well, but the feedback would take much more time than with a pop-up store. This way, you are not wasting time and resources on products that will not take off eventually.
Innumerable Challenges to Overcome
Before you start making any plans, you should consider a few things about setting up your first pop-up store. Only once you have weighed the following, should you start working on your first venture into the world of actual (albeit temporary) physical retailing.
Finding the Space
In order to be able to open up a pop-up store, you will first have to find the actual place where you could do it. There are two basic types of pop-up stores when we are talking the actual setup. For one, there are stores that are actually a stall or two in an already existing store.
For instance, you might convince a local clothing store to allow you to sell your jewelry in one corner of their store. They will be attracting more customers this way and you get a place to sell your stuff and promote your brand. It is a win-win situation. Unfortunately, setting this up is not always an easy task, especially if you don’t know any store owners to begin with.
Another way to go is to actually rent out a commercial space, which will cost you money, no matter how long you intend to keep it open. If you are lucky, you live in a big urban center where there are places intended for just the kind of store. There are also websites that can help you with this, like, for example Storefront.
If you are planning on going really guerilla and setting up a pop-up store in a public space somewhere in your town, let us stop you there. You will be dealing with an insane amount of paperwork and local politics and you do not need this on your plate.
Setting Everything Up
Running a pop-up store will also require you to handle all the logistics of running a permanent store. For one, you will need to find a way to get your product to your newly opened retail space. Then, you will need somewhere to present it to your potential customers. If we are talking about an entire store all on your own, you will need more than just your products there. You will need furnishings, amenities and so on.
You might even want to set up a little coffee corner where people can mingle with other customers and talk about your brand (hopefully).
Of course, you will also want to set up your store in a way that people will notice your brand. This means that you will want to have actual, physical signs printed with your logo on it, perhaps some other visual content to spruce everything up. This might also involve setting up special lighting and whatnot. You will also want to print some material to hand out to your potential customers, telling them about your website long after they have left your store.
Putting Together a Team
It goes without saying that you will also want to have a team of people to work your new store to welcome the customers and to be there to spread the word of your brand. Since, for the most part, ecommerce companies run on the leanest kind of workforce possible, this means you might have to hire new people to tend to your store.
While this can go perfectly well, especially if you end up hiring the right people, you should always make sure you stay on top of things. Namely, you need someone there who will know everything about your company (new hires can learn only so much). This can be you or someone from your existing team. The important thing is that your customers can get answers to their questions. And there will be questions, don’t worry.
You will also need a team that will work on promoting your upcoming pop-up experience on your website and online in general. You probably already have people who can do this, but keep in mind that they will be distracted from their day-to-day tasks and you might need to do some shuffling of your teams.
When you add dealing with supplies and coordination of online efforts to boost your pop-up store’s presence to the fact you are managing an entire new team of people (or two), it is understandable why some sort of a project management tool will almost be a necessity, something like TeamWork or a more versatile TeamWork alternative.
The Bottom Line
When you add up all of this and factor in some other costs, such as your team spending time on this new stuff instead of keeping your website running like clockwork; it becomes quite obvious that opening up a pop-up store can be quite an expense. Even if you keep everything as tiny as possible, it is a chance that you will be spending more money than you ever thought you would spend on a temporary store.
You really need to sit down and factor in every little expense that you can think of. Then, when you have the most comprehensive estimate that you could come up with, add at least 10% more on top of it.
There is always a 10% lurking somewhere.
If you can cover it, then go for it.
Opening up a pop-up store for your ecommerce business can be a great move, there is no doubt about that. On the other hand, getting everything organized and trying not to skip a beat while doing it, can be a huge task.
If you think you have what it takes and you know this will not drain your financially, then definitely do it.