A New Look At Pop-up Retail

The Pop-up retail shop may seem like a new and trendy concept, but the fact is that it has been around for decades. What is new is that retailers and brands are finding unique and engaging ways to leverage pop-ups in an ever-evolving “boundaryless retail” environment. A term coined by Mindy Grossman, CEO of HSNi and retail visionary, boundaryless retail, and more broadly boundarlyless commerce, encompasses all aspects of a retailer’s business. Achieving it frees retailers from the limitations of traditional retail infrastructure and business processes while enabling them to meet the needs of their customers in new and innovative ways.

Pop-up retail offers a great deal of flexibility for retailers to push their creative boundaries and step outside their typical comfort zone. And much like the retail landscape itself, pop-up opportunities are continually evolving. With a myriad of choices with respect to format, location, and duration, combined with a much lower cost of entry than permanent retail locations, retailers have an opportunity to test concepts which would have been cost and resource prohibitive in a traditional retail infrastructure. Below are some of the more important critical success factors to consider when entering the space:


You have a limited time to make an impact on shoppers.

Understanding customer motivations is an important part of any retail or brand strategy, and even more so for a limited time pop-up store strategy. So what drives shoppers to pop-up stores?

One of the biggest drivers is FOMO – the fear of missing out. This fear is compounded by a sense of urgency (the limited time the pop-up will be operational) and exclusivity (whether it’s an experience, product, or both, they can’t get it anywhere else).

Critical Success Factor #2: Merchandise & Merchandising

Define your merchandising strategy to maximize engagement, space, and sell-through. 

Merchandise and merchandising go hand in hand. It’s not only what you sell, but how you sell it. A pop-up merchandising strategy can be defined by a number of factors:

  • Introduction of a new brand
  • Introduction of a new concept within an existing brand
  • Liquidation of excess inventory
  • Seasonal product
  • Providing an experience

Critical Success Factor #3: Format and Location

The “what” and the “where” are among the most important questions to answer.

Pop-up store locations and formats have evolved beyond vacant real estate in malls and span a wide range of options. Delivering on your desired customer experience is wholly dependent on determining what you want that experience to be, and where the best place to deliver it is. Pop-up stores offer the unique ability to go where your customers are.

Critical Success Factor #5: Test, Learn, Iterate

Just like all new business concepts, it’s unlikely you’ll get it right the first time, so set yourself up to do better the second time.

When you embark on a pop-up strategy, be sure to have a plan to measure, record, and analyze the valuable insights that will present at all stages from planning, to marketing, execution, and post-mortem. Use these insights to learn what worked and what didn’t and apply those learnings to testing new approaches the next time.

Critical Success factor #6: Technology

The underlying technology infrastructure is what enables your vision to become a reality. 

Technology infrastructure for a pop-up is less complex than traditional retail stores, but no less important. You still need systems and processes to support your orders, customers, and inventory.

  • POS – you’ll need an application to ring up sales, accept payment, and collect customer information. Mobile POS solutions, such as an iPad® application, work well in a pop-up setting.
  • Order Management System (OMS) – an OMS centralizes and manages the order lifecycle from placement to fulfillment regardless of channel. It also offers customer service capabilities and is considered the hub of the digital commerce technology stack.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – Collecting and managing customer data is not only important for the current transaction, but for building a database for future marketing and growth initiatives.
  • Product Information Management (PIM) – Centralizing comprehensive product data ensures that it’s consistent across channels and supports product findability both in-store and online.

If Pop-up retail is on the top of your strategy list, Sophelle can help, please contact us for more information and stay on the lookout for our deep dive on the strategies and technologies you need for success in our next Focus Report (focus report name). In the meanwhile, you can download our most recent report Product Findability: Connecting People and Products.

Contributed by Julie Barile