From Pop-up to Permanent

Image by Unsplash


Pop-up stores are used by digital natives and traditional retailers for a host of reasons. Some retailers use pop-ups to break into or test new markets. Some want to test a new merchandising concept. It’s also a new customer acquisition channel. No matter the reason, a store is a way to bring your brand story to life for the people buying your product.

For example, Warby Parker, which started as an online retailer but now has 65 physical stores and counting, took its store on the road across America in a big yellow bus. The retailer temporarily popped up in select cities and even has kiosks in hotels called “The Readery.”


Image by @warbyparker

Traditional online retailers like Target and Ikea are getting in on the action, too. Target has done pop-ups in New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where they leased empty subway stalls. IKEA is honing in on the brand message “affordable furniture to get you through college” by placing pop-ups on college campuses across the country. The Swedish furniture behemoth showcases the delightfully temporary nature of its merchandise, and tells the story of how its products align with various transitional times in our lives. Pop-ups can also be leveraged like campaigns to launch a new product line or product.

It’s true that pop-ups may create buzz and introduce your brand to a new market, but placing a stake in the ground with a longer-term store can prompt deeper relationships with your customers.

It’s true that pop-ups may create buzz and introduce your brand to a new market, but placing a stake in the ground with a longer-term store can prompt deeper relationships with your customers.

“Going permanent” shows your commitment to the community and establishes you as a neighbor, not a visitor. Your brand can transform into a routine destination and not just a temporary stop-over.

What began as a marketing opportunity to create buzz for a brand and introduce it to new markets is becoming a permanent state of being for many retailers. Now some digitally native brands such as Bonobos, Monica + Andy, Allbirds and Marine Layer are finding success in staying put. Just like in a relationship, a permanent location shows ‘em that you’re there to stay.


Image by @marinelayer

Online retailers have keyed into all the benefits of expanding to permanent brick and mortar, like:

  • Being a brand mecca —Brands like Apple understand this and position their stores as a place where consumers go to learn, play, and purchase.
  • Taking up space — Instead of just hoping consumers seek you out online, meet them where they are in real life, opening your brand up to be discovered.
  • Giving instant gratification — Give consumers the gratification they crave, letting them walk out of store with purchase in hand.
  • Standing out from the crowd —The saturated e-commerce market is causing online retailers to go physical to stand out among competition according to
  • Driving up sales — 85% of retail sales are made in physical stores, according to a CNBC report.
  • Inviting them into your product process — Brands like Willams Sonoma offer cooking classes in store, giving consumers on-brand experiences to touch, feel, and use the products.
  • Having a place to party — Use your store to host events—grand openings, holiday events, sales, etc.

Now that you know the benefits of a physical space, should you go with a pop-up or a permanent location? Pop-ups are a popular way to test the waters since they can offer a staged space at a lower risk, letting online retailers effectively try before they buy. It’s a non-committal way to get a feel for physical before committing to a longer-term situation. Short-term leases can also get you out of complicated rental agreements. On the other hand, permanent retail is an investment in your brand that may have higher and longer-term returns.

Whatever you decide, remember that there are new ways of doing business, and immersing customers in your brand requires new ways of thinking. It’s critical that you tie experiential elements seamlessly from digital to the physical space and consider the kind of impact you want to have on consumers and the community. Are you popping in and just passing through, or are you there to stay? Bring your consumers along for the brick and mortar ride, sharing your journey on your social channels to build anticipation for your grand opening!