The ABCs of Popup Stores

We tend to think of stores as long-term things. Sure, you might change out the product mix seasonally or refresh the selection as items sell out, but you’re always selling something, because your customers need to buy things year-round.

In reality, there are an awful lot of situations that don’t fit this model. Depending on when you read this, there might be few holiday kiosks at your local mall, a merch counter at a local event or a fundraiser at your kid’s high school. These days, even high-end fashion brands will set up temporary stores to promote new lines or generate hype. Nothing creates interest like a line of shoppers popping up out of seemingly nowhere.

In fact, clothing and fashion is probably where we get the term “pop-up shop” (also called “flash” stores) from, and the idea of a low-overhead, temporary selling venue seems to be more popular than ever these days. And since whatever happens in the world of retail finds its way online, pop-up web stores are proliferating faster than you can raise a tent on a street corner. You may have bought something from one without even knowing it.

What a Popup Store Isn’t

In keeping with our tradition of first defining things by what they aren’t, let’s talk about what’s not a popup store:

A company store: Well, a popup store might be a company store if the company wants a purpose-built venue to temporarily promote a line of products, but most company stores sell products all the time and handle seasonal items or promotions within the store itself. There’s not much point in setting up a completely separate store to push out a new line of apparel when you can create a catalog or section within your company store and make it look the way you want.

An online order form: Online order forms are fantastic solutions for fulfilling one or two pre-selected items. Let’s say you need to give all 50,000 employees in a big company a t-shirt for a company-wide promotion. An online order form is often the best way to collect delivery and size information. A pop-up store is usually a bit more full-featured, with multiple products and a shopping cart.

What a Popup Store is

Pop-up or flash stores can be built for a variety of purposes, but they tend to share these characteristics:

  • Temporary: Ok, this is obvious, but the purpose of a popup store is to “pop up” and then go away. Note that this doesn’t mean it can’t come back; many popup stores are seasonal. But they’re generally around for anywhere from a few days to a couple months.
  • Built for a specific purpose: Popup stores should never be general purpose. For example, even though a garage sale is by definition a temporary store, you’re probably not going to put your old socks and blenders up online (or if you do, you’ll use the online garage sale company – eBay). Instead, a popup is geared toward a specific purpose, event, charity, team or need. All those mask and hand sanitizer web sites appearing during the COVID-19 pandemic? Popup stores! (At least, we _hope_ they’re temporary!)
  • Cheap!: A popup store shouldn’t cost you a fortune. They do take time to set up the first time, so don’t expect to get one for nothing. But they should be cheaper to run than a year-round store.
  • Fast and Easy: A popup store should be quick to navigate and checkout. Product options should be minimal – sizes and colors are fine, but don’t get users bogged down in complicated product configurations. The shopping cart should be fast and simple, and should allow for guest checkout.

 What are popup stores for?

The list is nearly endless, but here are some of the most popular uses for online popup stores:

  • Events: Car races, marathons, concerts, tradeshows – you name it. Imagine anything with a merchandise table. Put it online and it’s a popup store.
  • Fundraisers: There are roughly 14 trillion of these every year.
  • Holiday programs: Many companies have annual programs with special gifts or promotions for employees. These programs often have different rules from a regular company store, like free goods or non-standard redemption methods. Other companies have no regular company store but want to offer gifts or other goods only for only a month or two out of the year. Popup stores handle these with ease.
  • Employee programs: Companies often use popup stores for big internal events or changes. For instance, a massive branding change might necessitate that most employees get new uniforms, hats and other branded gear. A popup store can be a quick way to roll out these massive efforts.
  • Team uniform signups: From your kid’s soccer team to the town’s beer-guzzling adult kickball league, teams need a quick way to take uniform orders over a short period of time. Popup stores can be brought up for a few weeks every year to handle these.
Custom team jerseys

How do I market them to my clients?

Pretty much the same way you sell them any program, with an additional focus on the benefit of them being inexpensive, temporary and purpose-built.

Many distributors sell popup stores as the result of a direct inquiry, as opposed to the other way around. Most customers can’t get their head around the purpose of popup stores until they actually need one. You need to make sure they have your name on the tip of their tongue when the time comes to find a vendor for the store.

Thus, this becomes a matter of education and repeated inquiries (we won’t call it “pestering”, but hey) to make sure that your offering is top-of-mind when the need arises.

That said, popup stores are a fantastic “back pocket” option for you when visiting with customers that are very price sensitive or unsure about the viability of a program. Some distributors even use popup stores as a “trial” for a longer-term program.

We recommend having a demo popup store on tap to show to your customer whenever you’re talking about them. A real demo shows what the pop-up store will look like and how it will work, which is always going to be more effective than you describing it to them.

This sounds like a pain. Why would I do it?

Pop-up or flash stores can be a little bit of a hassle. You’re setting up something that’s not every different from a year-round store, but for a much shorter period of time. The amount of work is similar, and the payoff may not be as good as a year-round store. That said, popup stores have some advantages:

Quick Win

Unlike a big year-round store with lots of products, a popup will often generate substantial revenue in a short window. If you can bring it up for your customer quickly and get a quick win, you’re the hero. It’s a fast way to build trust and set yourself up for more business.

Volume Cost Savings

Since popup stores don’t generate a bunch of long-term money for the service providers, they often offer beneficial licensing terms, like allowing you to have a certain number of stores up at any time. This can save you money in setup costs.

No Complicated Sales Process

Regular company stores with all their payment methods, user access models and product configurations can be tough to explain to customers, making the sales process more complicated and extended. Because their purpose is limited, pop-up stores are easy to sell once the need has been identified.

Ready to get started or need more info? You can head over to our Popup Stores signup page and we’ll be happy to walk you through the options and set up a custom demo for you that you can use with your customers and prospects.

Ready for more?

Here are some resources you might find helpful:

  • ABCs of Company Stores: All the knowledge and training you need to get started with company stores.
  • ABCs of Reward Stores: The lowdown on points, rewards and incentive programs.
  • eBlox Blog: 10+ years of Identity Marketing magazine articles, in-depth feature discussions and more.
  • SAGE Blog: Great general resources on promotional products and technology.
  • Counselor: ASI’s online magazine for ad specialty industry professionals.
  • PromoCorner: Articles, videos and news for the industry.
  • Resource Center: Lots of educational materials, presentations, videos and general training stuff to help you sell and manage company stores.