Pop-up Retail: 5 Ways to Be Cool at Back to School

Pop-up Retail

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”  – Robert Frost

This Fall, when school is back in session, many students will dissect this stanza and others from Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken,” and seek to understand its meaning. Many will be surprised to learn that the poem’s intention was as a joke for a fellow poet. Yet, the irony is, Frost’s peer, and most everyone else who reads it, believes the poem to be a serious commentary on the impact of our decisions.

Likewise, a look at the current state of the retail industry puts a heightened importance on marketers’ decisions. This is due to the massive numbers of brick and mortar closures and the heated competition among all retailers, in-store and online. Yet, few are doing anything extraordinary to stand out. Few are taking the road less traveled to make a difference. But, there are ways for retailers to take a new route to increase sales and brand awareness for back-to-school, the second largest shopping season of the year. A smart combination of pop-up retail and experiential marketing trends can make all the difference to help retail brands succeed. 

Why Choose Pop-up Retail for Back to School

A New York Times article claims, “Pop-Up Stores Thrive in a World of Failing Retailers.” The reasons are evident. First, pop-ups require little commitment, such as permanent lease space, and fewer resources, including large-scale inventory. Second, they provide a great means to get personal with consumers. This is especially true for online-only retailers and those with little to no presence in a target area.

Another reason, and the most important as it relates to true success, surrounds shoppers. The article tells us that, while pop-ups have been around for decades, their revitalization has made them “fun.” This is important “since consumers crave these experiences.” It’s why some retailers will take their pop-up retail space a bit further by using experiential marketing techniques.

[Tweet “Pop-up retail provides the fun experience consumers crave. #retailmarketing”]

The Power of Experiential Marketing for Back-to-School Shoppers

When it comes to purchasing for back-to-school and beyond, decisions are no longer made in the parent silo. Instead, they’re shared within a family. In fact, Social Media Today reports “parents with a kid under age 13 tend to feel more pressured to buy what their kid suggests than other parents.” Times have changed, with teens and school-age kids driving parents’ decisions at 62% and 54% respectively. In addition, Retail TouchPoints says around half of Gen Z members will spend their own money. So, what is it that our youngest shoppers need from retailers?

Despite their attachment to technology, 67% of Gen Z prefer to shop in-store versus online. This is great news for brick-and-mortar and pop-up retailers since these shoppers have “access to $44 billion in buying power.” Now, brands only need to show their authentic self so that these consumers can trust them. An experience is the solution, and Gen Z “demands highly personalized interactions.” Without them, retailers and brands “risk falling behind.” And, as we’ve recently seen, the fall is too far to risk. 

[Tweet “Parents look to Gen Z kids for guidance in purchasing. Is your brand targeting the right audience?”]

5 Ways to Create an Experience in Pop-Up Retail

Back-to-school and college spending estimates were $75.8 billion in 2016. With the anticipated 3.8% rise in total retail sales this year, we can expect the 2017 shopping season to be even bigger. Here are five ways to get shoppers to choose your pop-up shop.

1. Show, don’t tell.

A proven means to attract consumers time and again is to let them get hands-on with a product and see what it can do. In fact, an EventTrack 2015 study reported this tactic made 78% of people “more inclined to purchase.” No matter if it’s electronics or makeup, put your products on display for consumers to try. Gen Z is most interested in utility and quality, according to Business Insider. So, be sure to have product specialists on staff to show capabilities, assist with use, and seal the deal.

2. Offer extracurriculars.

There are so many fun activities retailers can offer shoppers to draw them in. Yet, pop-up retail may limit your choices due to available floor space. One option, great for school-related supplies, is to set up a small table of crafts to entertain kids, while parents shop nearby. If you’ll offer discounts, make a game out of it with a small spinning wheel or drawing. It may come as a surprise to learn this will appeal to Gen Z, who is “more conservative” with their money than prior generations. 

event games

3. Go high tech.

The National Retail Federation (NRF) discloses “the largest portion of back-to-school shopping budgets goes toward apparel and electronics.” And, these two categories shine when applying technology. For small pop-up shops with clothing and accessories, a digital mirror can make all the difference when inventory is slim. These mirrors can allow shoppers to change the color of a product or virtually try on items. Pop-up retailers can fulfill their final picks when they offer free shipping of items not in-store.

4. Major in “social” studies.

Social media is engrained in Gen Z. And, that makes it wise for retailers to always create opportunities for social sharing. Yet, Forbes labels these users “choosier when it comes to where and how” they share content. They choose Instagram and Snapchat because they allow them to be more selective about how much they share or who sees their posts. This mindset means retailers’ photo opps must be authentic and not gimmicky. Setting the stage for Gen Z shoppers to share their buys or choices with their friends is a great way to stay true to the cause.

5. Invite the head of the class.

Influencer marketing is the new word of mouth. Whether social media stars or celebrities, followers take these role models’ product recommendations seriously. But, Gen Z is taking their relationships with influencers to another level. A HuffPost article informs, “Gen Z doesn’t just want passive messages from influencers – they want full experiential immersion into the influencer’s world.” A great way to deliver on this is to host an influencer and let Gen Z hear how great your products are, right from their idol at your pop-up experience.

Last year, almost 75% of consumers began back-to-school shopping a month or two before school’s start. This year is already off and running, too. Fashion magazines have named their picks for apparel and accessories, and states are publishing tax-free holidays. This means it’s time to make critical decisions for your marketing plan. It’s time to decide which road you’ll travel on to meet shoppers’ demands.

As the leading staffing provider for retailers and brands, EPS can supply the professionals you need for back-to-school events, from in-store to pop-ups. Our teams can assist with sampling, product demos, point of sale, and much more, helping you reach your event goals. 
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About JESSICA STACKPOOLE

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