These days, shopping and advertising are more indistinguishable in the modern world of transient retail, which calls for a different approach.
It wasn’t so long ago that the mall was a thriving social hub as well as a shopper’s utopia. On the other hand, more and more people choose to conduct their social lives and shop for goods online. While brick-and-mortar stores are far from defunct, they sure don’t look busy when pitted against the ubiquitous and convenient nature of online shopping.
But, in the midst of the depressing landscape that is traditional retail, there is a glimmer of hope. Customers have flocked to the trend of shopping at pop-up stores because of the unexpectedness it brings to the industry. Consumers’ preferences are shifting, which helps explain the success of pop-up shops. New experiences are especially appealing to the sought-after millennial group if they offer attractive photo and video opportunities that can be easily shared on social media. Pop-ups, with their emphasis on speed over durability, are well adapted to capitalizing on the adolescent market’s insatiable need for the unexpected.
In all honesty, the idea of temporary stores is not novel at all. Halloween emporia, a well-known type of seasonal store, appear each year when the weather starts to turn and disappear again when the holidays are over in November. Popular pop-up shops of the present, however, serve a different purpose. In general, their purpose is to serve as an extension of a brand’s marketing strategy rather than to sell things directly. The most intriguing modern pop-ups aim to build intangible brand currency, i.e. buzz, as I and Thomas S. Robertson of the Wharton School and Ludovica Cesareo of Lehigh University recently discussed in an article for the Journal of the Association for Consumer Research. Pop-up shops have been utilized by high-end companies to attract attention from customers who may not otherwise enter a permanent location. As a result, our article contends, pop-ups should not stick rigidly to the rules and best practices developed for stores whose primary goal is to generate income.
What buzz is – and isn’t
We need to separate buzz from the more general term “word of mouth” before proceeding. Word-of-mouth, as defined by the academic literature, is the dissemination of product information among consumers with the goal of lowering their level of uncertainty and risk prior to making a purchase. When an internet post gains widespread attention, this phenomenon is an example of buzz, which is similar to word of mouth but on a much larger scale. Buzz’s fundamental component is still word-of-mouth conversations, but the volume and diversity of buzz’s conversations distinguish it as a distinct phenomenon. Buzz may be thought of as a generalized feeling, while word-of-mouth focuses more on the rational aspects of communication and how people think about and talk about things.
Social network positioning
Existing studies on word-of-mouth and buzz are mined in our article for insights that may be useful for companies taking part in or contemplating joining the pop-up craze. If you’re interested in customer segmentation, you may find some of the things we discuss useful.
A recent study found that not every member of a social system contributed equally to the creation of a buzz. Those on the periphery of a group, or “marginals,” are more likely to bring novel ideas and unfamiliar items to the table. Nonetheless, long-term members tend to have more conventional interests and behaviors. The less a pop-brand up’s profile naturally overlaps with a targeted consumer category, the more crucial it is to nurture influencers on the fringes of that segment, rather than at the center.
Other studies have also shown that when buzz develops, it undergoes a series of distinct transformations. If the rumor mill keeps turning, eventually others outside of the brand’s core audience and their immediate social circles will hear about it, and the general tone will turn unfavorable. This is because first-hand users of a product are more likely to provide favorable feedback, whereas those who have just heard good things about it from others are more likely to be critical. Pop-ups should have incredibly limited runs if businesses are serious about keeping the buzz-cycle short and sweet.
Aspiration for prominence and individuality
To target wealthy customers who don’t necessarily fit the traditional upper-crust profile, established luxury businesses are adopting pop-ups, as described above. It’s important for marketers to keep in mind a key distinction made by academics within the luxury client base.
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Both the Need and the need for originality motivate luxury purchases (NFU). There is an incompatibility between the two requirements. If you want to increase your status, you need to shout it from the rooftops, but if you want to preserve your originality, you need to keep it under wraps lest you unleash a tide of copycats. Those with a high NFS are the ones who will spread the word about a pop-up, giving the impression that they are informed and trendy to their social circles. As customers who are motivated by NFU prefer to maintain a low profile on their purchases, they are not likely to spark a conversation. While they are attracted to anything that might give them an edge over the rest of the crowd, they are much more likely to frequent pop-ups than those who are only seeking status.
Defeating the effects of overexposure to pop-ups
Brands looking to make waves might consider hosting pop-up shops. Yet when the fad gets more popular, it becomes tougher to strike up a discussion. No one knows how many pop-ups the public can tolerate before they get sick of them.
For example, in the early 2000s, fashion label Comme des Garçons helped usher in the pop-up renaissance with a series of high-profile “guerrilla” boutiques, but the company eventually abandoned the model because its leaders considered it passe. The “Hermèsmatic” pop-up shop, which sold Hermès’ signature dip-dyed scarves, was only in four U.S. cities before it closed. Pop-ups will likely require even more ingenuity in the future, but consumers’ willingness to pay attention to advertisements will likely decrease. Managers’ agility and attention to detail will be tested by the constant novelty of the pop-up paradigm.
To add to this, brands should keep in mind that the adage “All publicity is good PR” does not work for buzz. The credibility of consumer-to-consumer communication is higher than that of commercial media because of its inherent genuineness. Without management’s oversight, negative voices can quickly take over the buzz-cycle and cause significant harm to the brand’s reputation. Companies must take preventative measures by tracking down the origins of any unfavorable chatter that may arise regarding their pop-ups.