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4 ways grocers can create successful pop-up shops

Flash retailing gives grocers the opportunity to showcase products and learn more about shoppers

From Dunkin’ Donuts to Nike, brands are using pop-up shops to engage fans in a unique way, whether through the chance to preview new items or the ability to connect with a brand in an entirely different setting. As the holiday season rapidly approaches, this trend continues to gain momentum.

However, branded pop-ups aren’t just reserved for restaurant chains and clothing retailers. Pop-ups have given food retailers the ability to diversify their marketing tactics, showcase their products and create a one-of-a-kind experience that paves the way for future digital engagement with customers.

Highlight your private label

Pop-up shops are a great way for food retailers to make their private label goods stand out. Consider hosting a taste testing that features both dishes made with store-brand ingredients and those made with name-brand items, or create a pop-up store that exclusively sells private label items. Food retailers looking for an extra splash of fun can create a pop-up that invites visitors to compete in a digital package design contest for their private label product lines.

To reintroduce its grocery offerings, Walmart’s set up a pop-up grocery store that not only brought the e-commerce site to a brick-and-mortar store, but also achieved its chief goal of showcasing Jet’s produce and cookware. While this pop-up wasn’t established to highlight a private label line, it was created with the intention of featuring a distinct set of products, and did so successfully. Food retailers can follow a similar strategy by designing experiences that elevate their private labels, effectively driving product education and brand consideration.

Think beyond the farmers' market

Food retailers that carry locally-sourced goods can use pop-up shops to offer fresh items in a new and exciting manner, paving the way for greater flexibility when it comes to timing, location and partnerships.

While farmers’ markets typically run on set days of the week and during specific seasons, pop-ups can be developed anytime, anywhere. Food retailers can encourage visitors to taste seasonal recipes made with organic ingredients at a holiday-themed pop-up shop, or build experiences around popular events such as food festivals. Creating pop-ups with timing in mind allows food retailers and consumers to connect on a more personal level.

As far as location goes, pop-ups give food retailers the freedom to test new markets. Those interested in regional expansion can set up temporary spaces to conduct local market research and determine where to invest next. Flexible locations will also allow food retailers to engage with a wider audience and attract new customers through unique experiences.

Make the experience count

Regardless of your pop-up’s goals, prioritize unforgettable designs and shareable moments that translate well on social media. Honey Nut Cheerios left its mark by setting up an interactive, educational grocery store of the future in Toronto. However bold your design, it’s essential to create experiences that stimulate consumers without overwhelming them. Having a space that's easy to navigate and helpful staff are incredibly important for ensuring visitors have positive experiences.

READ: Marketing roundup: pop-ups, pop-ups, everywhere

Extend the conversation

When it comes to consumer engagement, pop-up shops are just step one. To leverage these newfound relationships, food retailers must continue the conversation with consumers once they’ve left the pop-up.

Promotional campaigns stemming from pop-ups can keep the experience alive while driving consumer engagement. For example, a sensory pop-up featuring a variety of smells and tastes or a branded photo booth motivates visitors to share experiences across social media, creating an invaluable cache of user-generated content. Incentives, like the chance to win a holiday shopping spree by sharing photos with a branded hashtag, will drive engagement.

Today’s consumers are eager to engage digitally with brands, with 57% likely to download a mobile app to earn loyalty rewards, and 45% preferring to access promotional offers via text/SMS while in-store. Therefore, food retailers should prioritize engagement through incentives and app integrations. Looking to build brand loyalty, measure retention or capture consumer data that could customize future outreach? Consider organizing a digital scavenger hunt housed on your store’s app and performed on-site, or present pop-up attendees with a digital coupon they can redeem the next time they shop. Such tactics allow food retailers to meet customers where they want to be reached: online.

From driving customer loyalty to helping your store stand out, pop-ups have many benefits – and there’s no better time to leverage this trend than the holiday season. But before you begin creating a memorable pop-up experience, set clear intentions and find a way to keep consumers engaged long term. With a little careful planning, your branded pop-up will truly pop!

Meghan Holmes is VP, strategy and insights at Detroit-based HelloWorld, which provides digital, social and mobile marketing to enable brands to create interactions, drive consumer demand and accelerate growth.

A version of this article appeared at

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