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How Pop-Up Shops Are Increasing Social Media Engagement

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By Leslie Licano, Co-Founder of Beyond Fifteen Communications

Pop-up shops are taking the world by storm and creating some truly incredible social media opportunities. With spaces that can be designed not only to sell, but to “like, click and share,” pop-up shops are increasing social media engagement and becoming the poster children for user-generated content (UGC). Guests to pop-ups are posting about their visits and adding to, or in some cases creating and shaping, the buzz for a product or retail experience.

Here are a few ways pop-up shops are increasing social media engagement.

Tailored for Instagram
The Museum of Ice Cream (MoIC) was one of the first pop-ups to truly embrace the idea that an experience should look just as good on social media as it does in real life. If you haven’t heard about MoIC, get ready for a sweet encounter. MoIC hosts several interactive rooms, all ice cream-themed, where guests can explore and pose in colorful settings, the most famous being the sprinkle pool. What started as a pop-up has become a phenomenon, now with a permanent location coming to NYC and its own actual ice cream brand, a makeup line with Sephora and a children’s clothing line at Target.

Instagrammers are eating it up. Posts to date on Instagram tagged #museumoficecream are over 193,000. A scroll through the feed will show a visually compelling array of highly-curated shots. The experience gives attendees the perfect backdrop for social media content. It allows them to control their image in surroundings that are visually interesting and also add a certain level of exclusivity. Grammers must be able to get to a MoIC pop-up location, battle for entry tickets and pay for entry. The cherry on top is that celebrities have also taken and posted shots in various MoIC rooms adding further appeal for social media shares and engagement.

Creates brand recognition and buzz
Brands don’t have to have their own pop-ups to take advantage of the buzz, engaging instead in partnerships to get on the social media craze. Candytopia and Toys ‘R’ Us are a perfect example. Candytopia is taking sweet treats and transforming them into an experience. While MoIC uses ice cream as a theme, Candytopia uses actual candy to create artwork and immersive experiences. CNN Travel shows a deep-sea scene made from gummy bears, licorice, jellybeans and gumdrops. Visitors can also check out a candy sphinx, a portrait of Prince, a recreation of the Mona Lisa and there’s even a room where giant candy pigs in tutus “fart” confetti.

The candy crafters at Candytopia partnered with Toys ‘R’ Us for a traveling pop-up exhibit. As the ousted toy retailer tries to make a comeback, this type of experiential pop-up will help spread excitement, boost brand recognition and help reimagine the brand. Retail Dive shares that one room of the candy and toy mashup houses a candy Toys ‘R’ Us mascot Geoffrey the Giraffe, while others feature Melissa & Doug and Paw Patrol creations. A partnership like this allows Toys ‘R’ Us to get in on the Instagram and social media craze and take advantage of the engagement without having to create the experience themselves.

Low levels of commitment and a real estate win-win
Pop-ups that fill empty retail spaces for a short amount of time are beneficial to both the retailer and the shopping center. While most retail contracts are long-term and require a substantial time and monetary commitment, a retailer can take advantage of a pop-up location for a shorter timeframe, reducing commitment levels and allowing them to see how things play out. Meanwhile, the shopping center is able to fill an empty storefront and also take advantage of the customer draw that something like a short-term pop-up will generate. Companies such as CS Hudson specialize in creating these temporary spaces, ensuring that they look good and attract shoppers.

Kim Kardashian West’s beauty brand, KKW, has been tapping into the pop-up strategy. Instead of taking on the large expense and risk of opening permanent stores of her own, the KKW brand launched several new items from pop-up shops. As reported by the LA Times, the shops also had custom installations that highlighted oversized KKW beauty brand items with luxurious seating areas, and even a crystal maze with holographic oversized crystals to promote her fragrance line. These types of additions provide picture perfect social media engagement, while taking advantage of the low commitment and risk of a pop-up shop.

Pop-ups to give back
In addition to creating unique spaces for retailers, CS Hudson launched Pop-Ups for Good, an innovative corporate social responsibility (CSR) program that leverages the company’s retail experience, strategic partnerships and national reach to help support socially-charged initiatives. During the holiday season, CS Hudson hosted Live.Love.Laugh., an immersive experience for children from HELP Suffolk, a homeless housing facility. Full of interactive elements including e-games, a hands-on sensory table, selfie station, the ability to choose their own gift and so much more, the event gave children a happiness overload. This is a fantastic example of how pop-ups can be used in unconventional ways. 

Engagement continuation
With pop-up shops providing the opportunity for social media-tailored experiences, building brand recognition and buzz while offering a low barrier to entry with little commitment, it’s easy to see how they will continue to be an integral part of a brand’s social media strategy. The addition of pop-ups being used for CSR initiatives in another way in which they are pushing the bounds of what retail space is meant to be. The more unique and tailored the experience, the more engagement the brand will see. It will be interesting to see what becomes the next pop-up craze!