By Greg Swistak
Our company, Ikoniq, loves to help retailers provide dramatic customer experiences with portable carts and kiosks, but of late we're seeing additional interest in pop-up style stores fashioned from recycled shipping containers.
In January, we delivered a container project to Gameday Merchandising, a retailer of sports-related clothes, hats and other goods. They wanted what amounted to a "pop-up store" to place in the infield of a race at the legendary Daytona International Speedway, one that could be used over 13 more races throughout 2014. Our contact, Jeff Newman, requested that we help design and craft something that would standout among the myriad tents and other ordinary set-ups used by his competitors and other vendors. Based on customer reaction and the increase in year-over-year sales, he was thrilled with what we gave him.
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Pop-up stores like that one are becoming more common. According to a white paper by mobile-connectivity provider CradlePoint, there are many examples of them being deployed by major brands. Quoting from the white paper:
- Target, a pop-up pioneer, showcased designer Isaac Mizrahi's women's clothing line with a 1500-square-foot store in Rockefeller Center.
- Gap furnished a school bus with '60s themed apparel and accessories, using the bus as a traveling pop-up store.
- MTV partnered with Adidas, Levi's and Sony Ericsson, taking their pop-up stores all over Germany, stopping at cities for a week at a time and purveying limited edition apparel and high-tech items.
- Nike's Runner's Lounge in Vancouver lured runners with free massages, snacks, drinks and the opportunity to test-drive a new line of running shoes.
But selling goods is just one way to leverage the power of a pop-up location, which can be constructed quite affordably with a customized container.
Target a niche audience. In essence, this was the core of the Gameday Merchandising strategy. What better way to appeal to a group of customers than to bring theme-related goods to where they are gathered to share their passion?
Showcase new products and concepts. Microsoft's Xbox team did a spectacular job rolling out the new Xbox One. The success was attributed to the omnipresent Xbox One marketing. One of their tools was to place pop-up play centers in malls, where shoppers could grab a controller and pilot cars, soldiers or spaceships across giant digital displays. In a container, Microsoft could have taken the games and the great experience of playing them to universities, parks, holiday festivals and more.
Generate buzz and create a memorable visual spectacle. Few things are as dramatic in the automotive industry as the debut of a new Corvette. The adaptability of a container and its portability is perfectly suited for helping Chevrolet or other manufacturers of other high-interest products generate hype. Trek could load up its new line of mountain bikes, say, and take them to partner bike stores for demonstrations to generate enthusiasm.
Unload old inventory. One of our team lives where every couple of months, a reseller of books and video games sets up a half-dozen tables under a large circus tent to move products that haven't moved in too long a time. A container would allow the retailer to combine products from multiple stores and move them from location to location.
Create a learning center for customers. In 2012 we worked with Keurig to build a fun remote-controlled, interactive small billboard. (See a video of it below.) The goal was to draw attention to a tent where the brewer showcased its machines and taught people how to use them. The environment offered a comfortable space where potential customers could experiment and become part of the growing Keurig culture. A container would have been even a better setting, given the Portland and Seattle rains drizzling on the browsers as well as the additional branding opportunities.
Price doesn't cut it anymore as a competitive tool. And given the rise of online shopping, location matters less and less. Providing a great, unique experience is the way to a shopper's heart. Dramatic, utilitarian, portable containers are an excellent tool for that very purpose.