Top tips to create an experiential pop-up

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By Andrew Witkin, founder and president, StickerYou

A pop-up store isn’t just a temporary place for you to sell your goods. It’s a chance for you to create buzz around your business and to spread your brand’s message far and wide. That’s why you need to create an experience that visitors – your potential customers – will remember and tell their friends about. 

Here are a few tips to make it happen:

Engage the senses

It’s not just about the visuals. Try to engage all of your visitors’ five senses. Curate a really thoughtful playlist to give them something great to listen to. Sell or give away drinks or non-messy food, ideally in colours that match your pop-up store, to engage their senses of taste and smell. Have some comfy chairs or something to play with, to engage their sense of touch and to encourage them to linger. 

Pantone’s creative pop-up cafe

A great example of a company doing this in a surprising way is the colour company Pantone. For several years they have set up a pop-up cafe in Monaco. A cafe with a tiny food and drink menu may not seem to have much to do with the iconic colour brand, but here’s the hook: each item the cafe sells is colour-coded and is served with a label corresponding to its Pantone colour. 

Mastermind the layout

There is a tonne of science that goes into store design to help customers have the most enjoyable experience possible — and also increase their desire to buy. Even though you’re working in a much smaller space with a pop-up, many of the same design principles apply.

One key concept is the decompression zone. This is a few feet of space that allow customers to leave the chaos of the world outside your pop-up, and have a moment to calm and acclimatize once they enter your store. You don’t want to have any products or big flashy signs in this space — it’s a space to slow down and get grounded. In a full-sized store this might be 10 or 15 feet, but in your little pop up it might be five feet or less. 

Get creative with the decoration

Think outside the box about how you decorate your pop-up. Creative decoration is what will make people talk about your pop-up and remember it after they leave, cementing your brand in their minds.

One amazing example of this is the mossy hills Glossier created inside their Seattle pop-up. The cosmetics company worked with landscape designer Lily Kwong to create a rolling, living landscape inside the store — mossy hills dotted with bright pink and purple flowers fill the space. It’s a startling and beautiful idea that is enjoyable to be in, and it makes people remember the experience.

Glossier’s mossy hills inside the brand’s Seattle pop-up

At StickerYou, we are opening up a retail space that borrows heavily on elements of successful experiential marketing tactics of pop up stores. At StickerYou: The Store we are creating a three-storey tall vinyl exterior graphic for the outside of the building, as well as a stickerbombed interior filled with unique use-cases for our product (custom stickers, custom labels, iron-ons, decals, etc.) that is not only aimed at getting people talking, but snapping on their phones and sharing the images as well..

StickerYou’s three-storey tall vinyl exterior graphic

On the lower-budget end, the Australian clothing company Arnsdorf made creative use of 154 pairs of nylons to bring their pop-up shop to life. They stretched and tied the tights all over the walls, giving the space surprising new angles and texture. It doesn’t cost much but it makes the space memorable and alive.

Nylons brings Arnsdorf’s pop-up to life

Guide people around the space 

Now that you’ve carefully planned the layout and decoration, make sure it all gets noticed. Use custom floor decals to actually instruct people what direction to move around the space. You can reward them with something fun and interesting to see or do in each spot where they stop. It makes it a more fun, active experience.

Have fun

If you and your staff are relaxed and having a good time, you’ll create an energy in the space that visitors feed off of. Don’t worry too much about selling as much product as you can — that’s important, but it’s secondary to using the pop-up opportunity to give people good feelings about your brand. If you’re having a good time, they will too.

Andrew Witkin

As the founder and president of StickerYou, Andrew Witkin believes in the enormous power of customization. With over a decade of StickerYou success, he is one of Canada’s leading experts in e-commerce, customization, startups, marketing and the tech economy. He is a graduate of Dalhousie University and holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business, York University. Witkin has previously served as VP North American Licensing for Nelvana/Corus Entertainment and Director of Marketing for MegaBrands/Mattel.