Online Brands and Pop-Ups: Crossing the Divide and Taking it Worldwide

Online Brands and Pop-Ups: Crossing the Divide and Taking it Worldwide

Ever since the idea of POPertee was hatched almost 12 months ago, one of the most burgeoning trends over this period has been the emergence of physical presences for both large and small online retailers.

This blog has reported on the big guns of Amazon, Google, and Kanye West’s Life Of Pablo’s journey into the physical world. Others who have jumped on this fruitful bandwagon include home furniture retailer with locations in both Brighton and Amsterdam, Etsy atop the John Lewis Rooftop in Oxford Street of all places! and smaller brands such as Inayah, a women’s online fashion brand who earlier this year tested the waters to great effect with a 5 month pop-up in London’s Westfield Shopping Centre.

What’s noticeable about all of these brands is that their latest pop-up venture’s are not the first time they have delved into this space. For some, such as,the success of their maiden voyage has prompted them to replicate the feet in new markets, whereas for others, such as Kanye West’s Life of Pablo fashion line, it’s been an all or nothing approach, as 21 shops, across 21 major cities in 5 continents over 3 days, attests too. So what is it exactly about the pop-up phenomenon that makes them so appealing to online retailers, and how exactly do they find a location and space that’s going to maximise ROI, however they decide to measure it?

Rapha Clubhouse London

1.Bridge the gap & tell the real story behind your brand

Having a short term physical presence is the perfect opportunity to bring your brand to life and tell the story behind it. A great example of this is the high end cycling apparel brand Rapha. Founded in 2004, the company sold its high end clad exclusively online for the first 9 years of it’s existence, until it opened its first pop-up store or ‘Cycle Club’ in London in 2013. The Clubhouse is far more than just a shop though, it serves as a meeting spot for road riders where they can kick back and enjoy a cuppa and munch, watch the tour de France on a big screen, and immerse themselves in the latest exhibition or event the Clubhouse serves up. According to Rapha, these stores act as more of a ‘brand ambassador’ than a shop, adding a physical touchpoint to the whole equation.

2. Product Launches & Testing New Markets


Ever since Steve Jobs took to the stage of Apple HQ in Pal Alto in 1984 to tell the world about Apple’s new Macintosh, product launches have become an acutal thing, and glitzy events surrouding these occassions are now the norm. ‘Showrooming’ is a technique used by many online brands who wish to bring a physical presence to their offering. This is the practice of allowing customers to examine merchandise in traditional brick and mortar stores, guiding them in their use of the merchandise through workshops and tutorials, with the aim of driving them to buy online. The online fashion brand’s recent autumn/winter season launch in our Dame Lane space was a great example of this. The space provided a physical touchpoint for the brand’s customers, and enabled them to continue their user journey online.

Pop-Ups are also a great way for online brands to gauge user interest in new markets. As part of its European growth strategy,, the online designer furniture retailer, launched a showroom in Amsterdam at the beginning of the year. The showrooms presented a carefully curated selection of the site’s products and customers were able to take away fabric samples and create wish lists using CloudTags tables. According to a spokesperson, the pop-up showed there was ‘significant demand’ for a permanent physical presence in the region. Low risk, high reward, not a bad strategy!

Crossing the chasm – I just want to be cool!

Back in July, we discussed how event curation has become the holy grail for brands in recent times as they seek to add a sense of magic and surprise to their offering. The House of Peroni event held in our Dame Lane space was a perfect example of this. By identifying the sources of authentic coolness in the cultural sphere, and crafting an event and space to showcase these, Peroni were able to reaffirm their position as the ‘coolest drinks brand’ in the minds of consumers.

Pop-Ups and activation events are a great way to reaffirm ones online positioning, or indeed re-position your brand.


Don’t worry Kanye, the POPertee crew never doubted you!

Following the success of his online fashion brand ‘Life of Pablo’s first pop-up in New York earlier this year, Kanye and his entourage decided it was time to go global. Spread across 21 cities worldwide over the course of 3 days, Kanye adopted the principal of ‘go hard or go home’, and all we can say is hats off to the logistics team for making this one happen.
By applying some of the following techniques Kanye was able to generate an incredible amount of media hype and cemented the brands position at the cool end of the spectrum.



Fans were left second guessing as to where the exact location of the pop-up’s would be right up until a couple of days before the launch. Information was drip fed about the locations on Kanye’s own twitter feed. Within the stores themselves, only a select few garments were made available to the general public, again adding to the brands mystique.

Difficult Consumption


The ephemeral nature of pop-ups, in this case lasting just 3 days, creates a barrier to entry for the masses or those without ‘insider knowledge’. This coupled with having to pre-register for the event, and in some cases queue up to 15 hours just to get inside the doors! brought on a media frenzy and global eyes to the event.



Each store was tailored to the specific city it was located in, as the style of the city was incorporated in both the apparel on display and the in-store decor. For brands like Life Of Pablo, the connection to the ‘street’ is the source of authentication and central to its market appeal.

This quote from Bravado; the merchandising agency in charge of the Life of Pablo Pop-Up’s, really sums up the benefits Pop-Ups can generate:

‘I think it was a great way for fans of Kanye West to experience his music, his style, his creative energy, in a space that he curated and the ability to buy into his world.
there’s something about the cadence of call to action and response. [Kanye] called to action with his post on Twitter and fans responded. How do you do that every day in a permanent location?’

These elements in combination, ultimately act as a mark of quality for the brand, inducing a higher price point.

Discovering who your customers really are


Beyond demographics, pop-ups are great way for online retailers to reaffirm or figure out who their customers really are. They afford e-tailers the opportunity to meet their customers in person, learn about product fit, and take these valuable insights away to build future marketing and merchandising strategies.

The online ladies fashion label Nora Gardner are a great example of a company who went back to the drawing board after their first pop-Up. After opening her first pop-up in 2013, Nora learned that her target customer was not the 22-25 year old young professional straight out of college,she had thought, rather , it was an older woman, 35-plus and more established in her career.
With the insights from this first pop-up, she re-modelled her marketing efforts and came back 9 months later for her second installment in a much better position. By taking the time to observe, listen and learn from her pop-up customers, she was able to discover a new target market, and make the necessary strategic adjustments.

In Store Data Collection

Pop-Ups are a great way to figure out three essentials:

  • Are we located in the right place and space?
  • Who is our customer?
  • Which of our products are gaining the most traction and why?

Below are a couple of very effective strategies to ensure that these questions are being answered.

Right Place, Right Space?
Profiling your biggest followers on your social media platforms is a good way to figure out who you should be targeting and which areas these people often frequent.
Once this is done, and you’ve found your perfect space, in-store and out-store sensors and counters are both a cheap and great way to put numbers to key performance indicators such as footfall, no.of in-store visitors, and busiest times of day.

Create a Social Media Storm
In addition to in-store research and profiling, social media has a key part to play in understanding consumer behaviour and engagement. The online ladies fashion brand INAYAH, held a pop-up in London’s Westfield S.C. to showcase their summer 2016 collection. Using the hashtag #INAYAHWestfield, the brand ran a competition on Instagram for its 340,000 followers, which resulted in 6,000 shoppers pre-registering to visit the store in the first week alone.

Always Be Closing!
Point of sales systems such as SumUp are a great way too keep track of inventory and find out important stats such as your most popular items, average spend and busiest sales times. In addition, e-receipts are a great way to keep your customer engaged with promotions and offers post-purchase.

Preperation Prevents Poor Performance

Taking the decision to move from an online to offline world can be quite daunting for online retailers. Not everyone has the budget of a Kanye West, but as the examples of both and Nora Gardner show, baby steps can lead to great success. The right combination of a well planned physical retail strategy, finding the perfect space to match, and collecting the necessary in-store data will maximise ROI and ensure you take actionable learnings away from your Pop-Up.

Check out our previous Blog post on top 5 considerations for planning your-Pop-Up for more insights on how to make the most out of your pop-up experience, and as always drop us a line if you have any questions or queries!

October 2016 . Daniel McCarthy