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Business  17, Mar 2014

Your click-to-brick strategy: Pop-up stores are here to stay

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What on earth is a pop-up store? Have they got anything to do with being popular? Read more to find out

Pop-up stores are getting increasingly popular amongst e-commerce businesses. These short-term outlets that take the form of brick-and-mortar stores act as a way for customers to feel online goods in its tangible glory. They are usually organised in conjunction with new releases, sales events and anniversaries, and last from a day to a weekend.

However, the phenomenon is not new. According to a white paper published by Cradlepoint, the trend had been showing itself around Europe since 2003. Some of the brands who laid the groundwork includes Target, Gap, and MTV with Adidas, Levi’s and Sony Ericsson.

Recently, the trend has been rising in Asia as well. For example, Japanese chat app LINE which introduced its shopping account for e-commerce businesses had also launched a pop-up store event in Thailand and Indonesia. In addition, Rocket Internet-backed online fashion marketplace Zalora organised pop-up stores in both, Thailand and Singapore.

Core online strategies
But before e-commerce business owners consider resources-oriented ideas like pop-up stores, they should always focus on their core online strategies, says Wong Chaw Kung (better known as Wong CK) who runs E-commerce Milo, a website that discusses e-commerce trends.

He adds, “However, if there is any strategic opportunity to increase publicity and sales, you should grab the chance! If you need to do it, find a good and niche spot (for example, focus crowd with the same vertical as your business) and conduct (a) flash sale.”

“E-commerce needs to be multi-channeled,” says Wong, who expresses that brick and mortar stores are more worried about shoppers going online rather than the other way around. Having multiple channels could include selling through an online store, a storefront on various marketplaces and brick-and-mortar stores.

What’s next?
Co-founder of peer-to-peer mobile marketplace Duriana, Amanda Ernst notes that the now Malaysia-based startup sees pop-up stores as more than just a trend. It is part of a good strategy that will help e-commerce sites counter some of the drawbacks of online retailing and address the question of ‘What’s next?’, she adds.

She also shares her experience with BBQ Bazaar 2014 and Kuala Lumpur Vintage Festival 2013. “We curated our vendors for the market in order to show users the unique selling point of Duriana – how the app helps with discoverability of amazing items that you may not know otherwise,” she says.

Read Also: Japan’s e-commerce giant Rakuten to acquire chat app Viber for US$900M

A vendor at an event Duriana was involved in

In April 2014, Duriana will be co-launching 360 Kuala Lumpur, a two-day social selling event with PINTUmERAH at MaTiC Lanai, Malaysia.

Ernst shares her thoughts on Zalora’s recent pop-up store in Singapore. She says, “For a brand like Zalora, which is well-positioned and has killed it so far online, it’s a great way to add another sales channel and convert offline shoppers.”

But this way of becoming multi-channeled isn’t just for matured startups, says Ernst. She explains, “For earlier-stage businesses, it’s a great way to engage face-to-face with customers and get feedback on your product. With pop-up shops and events, e-commerce players can ‘have it all’ by being able to address some of the downsides of online shopping.” Some of these disadvantages to merchants include the tediousness of building trust, and putting a face to the name online.

When Duriana planned its offline pop-up event, it had a few objectives in mind. Firstly, the duo – Amanda Ernst and her Co-founder Camilo Parades – wanted to create a better relationship with sellers. Secondly, they hoped that buyers and sellers could get more acquainted. Lastly, the mobile marketplace could use the opportunity to re-educate users on its value proposition.

“We think the most important thing is to stay focused on your business model and tie everything back to your core product,” says Ernst. She adds, “Allow users to see the items but make sure they order online.”

By encouraging consumers to make purchases through the app, Duriana reaffirms its value proposition, and how m-commerce can complement the offline world.

Online pop-up stores
Thailand-based e-commerce provider aCommerce refers to pop-up stores as a part of ‘click-to-brick’ shopping. Tom Srivorakul, CEO, aCommerce Thailand tells e27 that such a strategy is “massively beneficial” especially when conducted in emerging markets.

The firm had launched its online pop-up store platform PopShop, which allows brands to sell directly on content sites, social networks or mobile apps. It has collaborated with Japanese chat app LINE and cosmetics brand L’Oreal in the Southeast Asian country.

He adds, “It fosters consumer trust by creating a before-purchase touch point that makes consumers feel more comfortable knowing that they see online is both credible and tangible.” This counters a common fear that certain online stores are shams and scams waiting to be uncovered. In addition, traditional shoppers are now introduced to online shopping. The bridge helps online stores acquire new users, and go build multiple channels.

Read Also: The ultimate guide to e-commerce statistics of Malaysia and SEA

“Also, we have data that shows synergies between online and offline popshops,” says Sheji Ho, Regional Chief Marketing Officer, aCommerce. Through aCommerce’s campaign for LINE in Thailand, the firm has generated relevant insights with regard to a physical pop-up store and an online flash sales event.

For example, sales see a visible increase in both, online and offline channels when promotional events are held on both mediums at the same time. Ho adds, “This is another reason as to why brick-and-mortar retailers in this region are quickly moving to e-commerce because an online channel generates spillover effects for their offline channels.”

Pop-up stores are not just a passing fad, says Ho, who says that it is the perfect way to complement online shopping for both, clients and consumers. He notes, “There is an appeal about the spontaneous and temporary nature of buying from (pop-up stores) for consumers.”

aCommerce also claims that it had launched over 15 LINE Flash Sales with over 100 million impressions and three million page views on its PopShop platform.

Here to stay
“Where did you find this wallet?” I asked a friend who was practically flaunting his new purchase. He first saw the item on HipVan, an online store for curated and well-designed goods. However, he did not buy it off the website. Instead, he took the train to town, checked out his new wallet in a physical store and paid for it on the spot.

People still want to touch and feel physical goods before they key in their credit card details on a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. While the same time cannot be said for digital goods like virtual items, a pop-up store for niche fashion accessories, furniture, or even bicycles would serve the needs of consumers. These goods are often not readily available in brick-and-mortar outlets, and have been made exclusive on certain online stores.

Perhaps one day we will be able to feel the texture of satin or silk through our computers, but until then, let’s make do with heading down to a temporal store.

Disclaimer: aCommerce is a portfolio company of Ardent Capital, an investor in Optimatic Private Limited, parent company of e27 

Elaine Huang

Elaine Huang

Elaine is a fervent believer that if there ever is a zombie apocalypse, we will all be snapping away at them with our phones and posting them onto Instagram. A Mass Communication graduate of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's School of Film and Media Studies, she enjoys writing about technology and entrepreneurs. When not hashtagging her way through all sorts of trouble, Elaine is probably contemplating how to write in the third person.

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