This Year’s Pop-Up Crazes That Move the Needle


No two pop-ups are the same; at least, that’s the goal. Retailers can use a pop-up shop to promote a new item, move sale pieces, or to experiment and play. Brands can use pop-ups to provide experiences that deliver something special and, in turn, engender consumer loyalty. It’s a way to showcase a brand’s flexibility and creativeness.

Pop-ups provide consumers with a sense of fun and whimsy, something that they can share on social media. There’s also a sense of urgency because, by the pop-ups’ very nature, they are temporary, transient experiences.

Let’s take a look at some of the pop-up trends you can look forward to in 2018, and how you can incorporate them into your pop-up plans.

Mobile Activations Take the Experience on the Road

Part of the fun of a pop-up is that it isn’t built to last. This feeling is taken to the limit with mobile pop-ups. Think converted vans, refurbished shipping containers, and structures that can easily be set up and taken down. With a mobile pop-up, brands can take their experience to the customer instead of waiting on them to arrive.

Part of the thrill of a mobile activation is the surprise that it presents to an audience. You can deliver a spectacular and surprising experience in an easily mobile space. This ability to thrill, in combination with a pop-up suddenly appearing down the street, will excite and entice prospective visitors – and nudge them to share this find on their social channels.

Going App

Printed programs and handouts are a thing of the past. Not only are they a hassle to deal with, all that extra paper is wasteful, and those that don’t wind up in the trash are usually blowing across the lawn. Instead, provide visitors with an app they can download. This way they can easily glance at their phone to comprehend the layout, be alerted about special events you have planned, and be notified of any promotions.

In addition to your brand on the app, you can partner with a vendor or provider to co-brand and offset some of the cost (which will likely be the same or less than your anticipated printing costs). Finally, use the app to deliver relevant content to your visitors – and make it easy for them to share.

The primary benefit of this app, however, is the vast amount of data about your visitors that it will enable you to gather. You may even want to set up some proximity sensors that will work with the app, so you can monitor visitor behavior in an extremely granular way. These metrics will allow you to determine the success of your pop-up better than ever.

Provide a Premium Twist

“Exclusive” will be a buzzword throughout the year.

In terms of pop-up events, this may mean setting aside a few hours of the day to cater to your VIPs. This window of time will provide premium access to your displays and goods in a less crowded environment. You may also want to include an exclusive gift for those who attend this special event.

Another option is to provide an exclusive activity, something that will only be available during the VIP hours. Recent research found that 72 percent of millennial women find that spending on experiences makes them the happiest, and 54 percent say experiences will drive their biggest purchases in the next year.

Or maybe you want to lend an air of exclusivity to an otherwise conventional experience, like shopping for Fruit of the Loom underwear. For example, Früt was a pop-up designed to look like an “upscale” boutique. It enticed shoppers with an elegant look and storefront windows that featured trees decorated with hanging underwear. The store was a surprising way to introduce a high-end clientele to the Fruit of the Loom brand.

This surprising new take on an old favorite delivered value to attendees in ways that they certainty did not expect. It’s a fun way to build loyalty.

Child’s Play

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Perhaps your attendees would prefer to act a little juvenile. Childlike activities geared toward adults will be a major draw for pop-ups throughout 2018.

For many people, there are few things more timeless and evocative of their childhood than an Easter egg hunt. London’s Time Run takes this concept and literally makes it timeless by combining the hunt with cinematic sets and interactive performances where visitors hunt for ancient artifacts (and golden Easter eggs) across time and space.

Another example is the fantastically named Ballie Ballerson, a pop-up in London where the main attraction is a massive ball pit with one million balls. Of course, this is accompanied by UV lights and thumping music while featuring a variety of food and retro candy cocktails.

An attractive option is that you could always make these events dual purpose family events, where the children get to enjoy the activities for a period of time and then the adults get a turn.

Streeeeeeetch The Timeframe of Your Pop-Up’s Lifespan

Initially, the idea behind every successful pop-up was to leave the attendees wanting more. These are pop-ups, after all, fleeting apparitions of enjoyment and consumerism. Lately, however, the thinking has been more along the line of why mess with something if it is working.

Take the aforementioned Ballie Ballerson. (That name, though. I didn’t know it was possible to love a name this much – and I have a child…who I helped name.) Although still a temporary installation, the ball pit themed venue has been triggering childhood memories for two years now. It has also moved from its original location to a larger spot where it is able to offer more amenities, like a VIP pit that’s extra deep and a private ball pit where two sides are windows that look directly onto the street. 

Remember, however, that this idea began with an end date in mind. Yes, it is successful now, but what are its chances to withstand the test of time? You will likely need some solid metrics to determine if this is the right move. Analyze your sales and/or attendance volume. Has traffic increased, decreased, stayed the same? Does the concept need a tweak to remain viable over the coming months?

Avoid Those Old, Bad Habits

While many of the folks establishing today’s pop-ups maintain the same amount of the guerrilla spirt that was behind the initial wave, there is some reason to worry that pop-ups are becoming too institutionalized.

In order to generate the buzz you are seeking, your pop-up needs to be innovative and original. The concept must grab people and make them want to share their experience with others. Simply establishing a series of retail stores in a temporary space that mimic the old-school model will not move the needle. It’s fine to have a retail store – it’s great, actually – but you need a story around it. What is it about your establishment that sets it apart? What makes it special? What makes it a destination?

Pop-ups remain an exciting avenue for you to promote your brand and goods. If you want some help in standing out from the crowd, call one of the pop-up shop experts at Event Architecture: 972-323-9433.