How to Make the Most of Pop-Up Opportunities

Pop-up retail is an exciting area. You take a temporary space and use it to put your brand, products or services in front of a mass of people who might not otherwise see it. Perhaps you’re using pop-up to expand your audience, perhaps you’re using it to trial new products, or perhaps you’ve just been offered a great deal on an empty unit that a forward-thinking management team are looking to fill.

Whatever the motivation, pop-up retail has the potential to fall short if you don’t execute your idea properly. ‘Proper execution’ might make it sound like pop-up is an area of retail that needs to have a huge budget thrown at it to make it work – but that’s just not true – some of the most successful pop-up outlets have been delivered on a minimal budget.

Pop-up store
photo credit: Fairphone / Flickr

With this in mind, we’ll walk you through some of the ideas that’ll get pop-up retail working for you.

Choose the right location

It’s a given that you’re going to want your pop-up experience to be somewhere with a high footfall – and it’s all the better if that traffic is made up of people who are in a retail frame of mind.

Choosing an area or location that’s got the right kind of people wandering through reduces the amount of pre-event awareness building you’re going to have to do. If you’re not sure – walk around, look at neighbouring businesses, look at the people who are walking around with branded carrier bags. You’ll soon know if your brand and products are going to be a good fit.

Talk to the people

There’s no substitute for talking to the people who are frequenting the area you could be setting up your pop-up out in. Spend a couple of hours talking to people who are passing through. Ask if they’re likely to be interested in your store, talk to them about the shops they like, ask them if they’ve experienced any pop-up retail – and if they have, what did they like about it?

In many cases, these are going to be exactly the same people who’ll be walking through your doors – so take some pointers from your audience.

Understand who you’re trying to connect with

When you understand pop-up retail to be a marketing approach, you’ll be aware that you need to consider who your audience is going to be. Are you looking to expand your fan base? Do you want them to take-action when they’re on site – or is this an awareness drive? Will you be serving food to hungry passers-by? Are you hoping to connect with current customers?

The questions are endless – but thinking about exactly what you’re hoping to achieve and creating your pop-up accordingly will make sure you’re aiming for the right goal with the right people.

Pop-up container
photo credit: Yelp Inc. / Flickr

Be willing to think outside the shop

Pop-up is often associated with empty shopping centre retail units – but it doesn’t have to be. Some of the most successful pop-ups work from unconventional spaces – including boats, buses, churches, museums – and so on.

You don’t have to wait for a turn-key space to present itself; sometimes forging your own path is far more cost-effective – and gathers much more attention.


Pop-up retail doesn’t have to be a lonely venture – in fact, some of the best examples are collaborations between brands and outfits that complement one another’s products or services.

We’ve seen tech retailers collaborating with car manufacturers, hairdressers with fashion retailers, hotels with watch and jewellery designers, sportwear manufacturers with cereal bars (no joke!) Restaurants with artists – and so on. The possibilities are endless – and the benefits can go both ways. Think non-competition and understand where your audiences overlap.

Bring your own infrastructure

It’s not uncommon for the management teams behind pop-up retail spaces to neglect the need for infrastructure when they’re opening their space up to potential pop-up clients.

Ask yourself; will the space you’re working in have the fuel you need? (we’re looking at you, restaurants, coffee shops and eateries.) Will you be able to access the software and applications you need to tie your business to any digital behind-the-scenes you require? Can you deliver the experience you want with what you’ve got on site?

Answer usually aren’t far away though. For instance, if the space you’re using doesn’t offer much more than ‘guest wi-fi access’ then you might need better internet connection. Fortunately, good tech support can see your site connected to your IT network very quickly.

This is just one example – but it’s crucial you think ahead to stop these problems derailing your plans.

Understand the costs

A great number of pop-up space providers will give you a turn-key price for using their unit – but if you’re going to be a little more innovative, you’ll need to make sure you’ve covered all the financial necessities.

Does your insurance cover you for off-premises work? Are you expected to pay an additional service charge? Will you be expected to leave the space impeccable – or is a little wear and tear expected?

There are no set answers to these questions – but unless you ask, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise.

UNIQLO pop up shop at Union Square station, NY
photo credit: MTA Photos / Flickr

Don’t worry about perfect presentation

When we think about exceptional presentation you might think about the big tech companies – Samsung, Apple, Google – and their immaculate high-street stores and customer experiences – so you’d probably expect their pop-up stores to provide the same branding?

Well, think again. Even the most polished retailers see some benefit in the excitement that slightly industrial or unfinished looking retail outlets brings to an audience. The message is simple – don’t strive for perfect; it’s not what your customers are looking for.

Make sure you’re happy with the hours

It’s not uncommon for shopping centre locations to have minimum hours requirements when you set up a retail outlet – so make sure you’re happy with staffing your store until 9pm on a Thursday, all day Sunday, or for late-night or early morning events.

You might not have to – but understanding you might have to step out of your normal working day to bring in the crowds you need is important.