• Transform magazine
  • April 16, 2024

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Why pop-ups are a crucial marketing tool for D2C brands

Backlash Jamesbarnes Headshot01

James Barnes, co-founder and business director of Backlash, discusses why pop-ups are a crucial marketing tool for D2C brands, exploring the reasons for their meteoric rise in popularity and the tips for making a pop-up successful.

We are seeing an ever-increasing rise in the popularity of pop-ups which started around 10 years ago, with popularity surging post Covid – we don’t have hard data on what is behind this recent demand; most people cite consumer and brand desires to connect post-Covid. I personally believe marketeers, especially at D2C brands, are realising that it offers a unique solution to the challenges that many of them are facing…

  1. Cutting through the noise of traditional marketing
  2. Engaging and growing a passionate brand community
  3. Recruiting new customers and driving sales
  4. Bringing the brand to life in a more immersive way

If you are a brand considering a pop-up, the most important success factor is the strength of the creative concept which acts as a multiplier effect to the ROI of the project. If the pop-up concept is newsworthy, then consumer press will cover it and drive mass awareness. If the experience is exciting and generous then guests will share their experiences online and drive deeper brand love. Consumers will also go out of their way to attend a ‘must see’ pop-up, so location is not as important as you think to ensure footfall is strong.

Other considerations are:

  • Simplicity - If you have a new product launch, then celebrate the product and all aspects of it. Your existing range can be bought in any number of retailers, it’s your new product shoppers are coming for.
  • Generosity - If a customer has travelled an hour or more with their friends to attend the pop-up, then you need to reward them with free samples, exclusive products, sharable content generating experiences and promotional offers to drive sales on the day.
  • Content creation hub - It is rare for a D2C brand to have a space that celebrates their brand world, so make the most of it. Having dedicated influencer days to create content and features that excite consumers to capture authentic UGC drives great awareness.
  • Pre-awareness - Harness PR and social channels to ensure the pop-up is busy from the get-go. Additionally, local media buys around the pop-up such as tube station takeovers drives unplanned visits from shoppers in the vicinity.
  • Duration and Timings - We often see pop-ups being live for one weekend, so for most people it has gone before they can plan their visit. Being live for at least two weekends near payday massively increases results.

One of the key draws to pop-ups for D2C brands is the opportunity to engage with their brand fans and capture the power of their community. The direct and in-direct effect this has is hugely important to the success of the pop-up – what does your community want from the brand? Meet the founders, exclusive product access, a special programme of events that celebrate niche aspects of the brand and the chance to feed into new product developments. Your community often wants to spend longer with the brand so having food or beverage offerings (often through a symbiotic brand partnership) further rewards your guests' attendance.

When it comes to measuring success we often find that sales is the primary focus and the goal being that the pop-up pays for itself. Commercially this is important for brands, but where pop-ups excel is if the campaign and experience is planned correctly by delivering against the other challenges brands face. The core strategy of a pop-up is a value-exchange between the consumer and brands; if done well it will deepen brand loyalty, win over new audiences and drive mass awareness through PR, social content and physical visibility on the busy high street (think of the pop-up as large interactive billboard in a busy shopping environment). Sales is of course important and should be seen as a secondary result created by the excitement consumers feel from attending an amazing experience.

As an example, we created an immersive pop-up experience for the D2C beauty brand Beauty Pie called the ‘Warehouse of Dreams’. Consumers took on the role of warehouse operatives, donning pink hard hats and hi-vis vests to ‘do a shift’, picking through their favourite products and collecting them from the warehouse stockroom at the end. This unique ‘must attend’ experience for beauty fans resulted in large footfalls and an average of £20k sales a day over a 10-day period.

Finally, if you are a D2C brand looking to explore pop-ups then my top-tip is to be brave and embrace the core principle behind pop-ups. They are temporary spaces in which your customers expect the unexpected. Successful pop-ups are playful and creatively explore the elements of the product and brand that are unique to you and push the creative boundaries of the pop-up category. If you are true to this, then you will likely deliver a successful pop-up campaign!