What Consumers Expect from a Pop-Up Shop, and How You Can Deliver It


There was a time when the idea of a pop-up shop was an anomaly, an unexpected event in a shopper’s day.

That is no longer the case – not exactly, anyway. Pop-up shops are increasingly prevalent because more and more businesses are making them a part of their business plan.

Pop-up shops work. They work by attracting attention to a brand. They work by helping retailers move inventory. They work by generating buzz about specific products and services. They work by building consumer interest.

But – you knew there was a “but,” right? But it’s not enough to simply set up a kiosk and send out a few tweets. Consumers have an expectation when they think of a pop up. They want to be wowed.

People don’t have expectations when they walk into a mall other than the desire to buy things. If there’s something experiential going on, it’s a genuine surprise and a real thrill. That is not the case with pop ups. People expect pop ups to be a show. If someone walks in a pop up and there’s not some interactive element, they are going to be disappointed.

For most retailers, both brick-and-mortar and ecommerce, including a pop up as part of the business strategy is a wise investment. However, it is not something that can be entered into thoughtlessly. A pop up needs to complement and enhance a brand’s relationship with its consumers.

Let’s take a look at some brands and how they’re utilizing pop ups to engage and energize their customer base.



littleBits is a New York City-based company that ships electronic kits with modular components that snap together using small magnets, no soldering or programming skills required. With littleBits, kids can build cars, instruments, smart home devices, and superhero gloves. The products were only available online until the retailers opened a pop-up store in the SoHo neighborhood.

The pop up embraced the magic of littleBits by making the entire inventory available for visitors to play. The store was divided into a shop for purchases, a demonstration area, and a workshop. Activities that the visitors could attempt included creating a robotic drawing machine and a Keytar. littleBits made sure to have plenty of experts on hand to provide assistance to visitors of all ages and skill levels.

By allowing visitors to play and build with their product, the true fun and inventing power of the brand was made clear.


Dyson has opened a number of pop-up stores across the world, and they all shared one main feature: hands-on interactivity.

For example, at the pop up in Kent, England, Dyson simulated four household areas where its products would commonly be utilized. The areas had flooring that replicated a garage, kitchen, living room, and children’s room. Visitors could make a mess then test out the Dyson products on the floors and furniture.

Spills and messes are things that everyone can understand. By watching the disarray quickly disappear, the effectiveness of a Dyson was clearly illustrated.


Photo Credit: Choo Yut Sing Flickr


Tesco is a British grocery chain, but in South Korea it’s known as Homeplus. It was also known as number two to the massively successful E-Mart.

So, to make headway in the market, Homeplus began opening stores in subway stations and bus stops in Seoul. The store looks like an actual grocery store, with shelves lined with products, except that everything is just a picture on a wall. Every picture is accompanied by a QR code. Shoppers scan the code using the Homeplus app, everything is stored in their virtual cart, and money is automatically deducted from their bank account.

The selected goods are delivered right to the buyer’s address. In fact, if the purchases are made before midday, they arrive before the commuters get home from work. These surprise stores have become so popular that Homeplus overtook E-Mart to become number one in the online market.

John Lewis

British retailer John Lewis used a similar tactic as Homeplus for its holiday pop up in Brighton, England. The pop-up store was one large window display. From end to end, the display featured images of the top 30 favorite things for Christmas, accompanied by a QR code. Since the shop was just a window display it never closed. The items were available 24 hours.

Folks browsing the display only had to scan the code and then visit the John Lewis site to complete the purchase. Shoppers just had to swing by the nearby store to pick up their items, which were available as early as the following day. It was a service that the retailer referred to as “click and collect.”

Both the Homeplus and John Lewis pop ups showcase the true power of QR Codes in tying multiple items to a single consumer. This technology can be used for much more than purchasing products.

Southern Comfort

Several music fests across the United Kingdom played host to this fun Southern Comfort activation: a mini golf course themed around Southern Comfort and education of its respective cocktails. Players would make their way through the creation of a cocktail using Southern Comfort.

Of course, the mini golf course ended at a 19th hole that featured Southern Comfort on tap. This area also featured a bar, dance floor, and chill out area for festival goers to relax.

By letting visitors play while simultaneously educating them about the product (and then letting them sample it), Southern Comfort reinforced their brand identity in an engaging way.


Photo Credit: Elevate Staffing

Magnum Ice Cream

Buying a Magnum ice cream is usually a pretty straightforward task of going to the store and grabbing a box. The brand’s Bryant Park pop up enabled customers to get a little more hands-on.

Visitors were given a plain vanilla ice cream bar. They could then choose between dipping it in milk or dark chocolate and then covering it in up to three of nine topping choices. The final product was similar to the boxed product, but with more engagement from the consumer.

By ultimately not straying too far from the product people are acquainted with, Magnum enabled visitors to become a little more familiar with their brand by taking them on a journey of its creation.


Tesla wanted to bring a laid-back, beach atmosphere to its showrooms, so the brand decided that the best way was to take a showroom to the beach.

Tesla’s mobile showroom made a stop in the Santa Barbara sand before traveling to the Hamptons. The showroom was set directly on the beach and featured educational material, interactive displays, and consultations with knowledgeable employees. Visitors could also take the Model S electric car that was on display out for a test drive.

In addition to being relaxed and easygoing locations, these were areas where Tesla did not have a physical presence. By being able to quickly pack and unpack this showroom, Tesla added some whimsy and fun to what can normally be a stressful experience.

People visit pop ups for an experience that is beyond a day-to-day shopping experience. As these examples illustrate, that can mean many things: an innovative journey through the creation of a product, a new method of purchasing everyday items, or bringing the ordinary into an extraordinary setting.

For help coming up with the “wow” factor to bring to your pop ups or to learn more about our versatile modular event structures, reach out to Event Architecture at 972-323-9433.