Bringing Your Ecommerce Brand to Life: Lessons from the First Brandless Pop-Up Store
It all started with an Instagram post.
Last week, as I was scrolling through the app, I came across this post from @instagramforbusiness Instagram’s official account that’s aimed at brands, agencies, and SMBs).
It was about a pop-up store in LA by Brandless, a direct-to-consumer online retailer that sells food, household, and personal care products. Everything on the Brandless website (including their membership fee) is $3, and all of their products match the values and preferences of many consumers today. As Brandless sells merchandise that “are non-GMO, sometimes organic, fair trade, kosher, gluten free, no added sugar and more.”
I first came across Brandless at the 2018 NRF Big Show, and I remember being intrigued. I found their business model interesting, and I made a mental note to keep an eye out of for them.
That’s why when I came across that Instagram post for the first Brandless pop-up store, I knew I had to visit them.
In this article, I’ll recount my experience at the Brandless shop and share the interesting takeaways you can apply to your own pop-up initiatives.
Using a pop-up store to showcase your story and values
The idea of an online business launching a pop-up store isn’t new. Many ecommerce brands have realized that physical retail can establish a connection with shoppers that digital channels can’t match.
Having a pop-up store gives you the opportunity to tell your story in immersive and exciting ways. It allows you to tell AND show people what you’re all about.
Brandless’ popup store did this incredibly well. The brand’s values — i.e., ethical product sourcing, safety, and integrity — were constantly promoted in the store, through signage, wall decor, and other fixtures.
The people involved in the effort also embodied these values. In addition having in-store staff who were quick to tell me about the brand, the company also invited experts and influencers who educated guests about wellness, food, entrepreneurship, and social impact. (More on this in a bit.)
Key takeaway: A pop-up store is more than a space in which to display your merchandise. It’s an opportunity to show and tell your brand’s story and values. When launching your pop-up, figure out how you’re going to communicate your story and what you can do to reinforce your key messages in the store.
How will you merchandise the space? What types of signage or fixtures will you use? Who are the experts and influencers that you can invite to help spread your message?
These are just the questions you should be asking when conceptualizing your pop-up.
What about sales?
In addition to helping you forge stronger connections with your customers and uplevel brand perception, a pop-up shop can also drive sales — and in the case of Brandless — signups.
Having a pop-up can bridge the “touch-feel gap” that many consumers experience when shopping online. This is one of the reasons why the concept is so attractive to ecommerce merchants. It gives shoppers the opportunity to sample your products, which can then lead to sales.
Again, Brandless did this quite well. They used their pop-up to showcase their offerings, allowing guests to touch, feel, and in some cases, taste their products.
Brandless coffee and tea were served for free, and they had various food products around the shop that I could sample. Even the restrooms were equipped with the company’s merch. Everything from the toilet paper to the hand soap were — you guessed it — Brandless.
And to top everything off? A day after visiting their store, I received a post-event email along with a $9 credit towards my first Brandless purchase. They even removed all the friction by creating an account for me. All I had to do was activate my account and start shopping — which I did.
Key takeaway: Think about your main objectives for your pop-up. Is it just a brand play or do you want to drive sales out of the effort? If it’s the latter, carefully map out the shopping journey of your guests, then remove any friction they might encounter.
Ask yourself: how will someone go from pop-up visitor to paying customer?
In the case of the Brandless pop-up store, they crafted a great follow-up email that gave shoppers store credit plus, they created an account for the customer.
What can YOU do to make the customer journey easier?
Making the pop-up experience more memorable
In addition to a well-merchandised store, the Brandless pop-up had a number of things up its sleeve that made the event more memorable. Here are my favorites:
Instagrammable moments – The Brandless pop-up store offered plenty of opportunities for shoppers to get some nice shots for the ‘gram. Aside from the great-looking displays, the store had a couple of Instagram walls that guests can pose in front of.
In-store events – The Brandless pop-up store was truly experiential through in-store panel discussions, workshops, and classes hosted by industry experts and influencers. These events, were all in line with the company’s values around health, wellness, community, and social responsibility.
I personally attended the Finding Your Truth:Yoga Workshop Infused with Sufi Remembrance Techniques, a yoga session that incorporated lesser-know spiritual attunement practices. It was a great class that took me away from the bustling LA world for an hour and it was an experience I won’t soon forget.
Goodie bags – What better way to cap off an event than with goodie bags? Brandless gave out tote bags filled with their products, allowing event attendees to try even more Brandless pop-up store merch at home.
Key takeaway: Pop-up stores are, well, “popping up” everywhere, so you need to make sure that your shop is as memorable as possible. One of the best ways to do this is to give people something concrete to remember your store by.
How? For starters, encourage people to take photos. This won’t difficult, and you can count on your guests to post about their experiences on social if you give them opportunities to share.
Dedicate spaces in the store specifically for social media. Incentivize sharing. And if you’re teaming up with experts and influencers, give them plenty of time to interact with your guests (and take photos while they’re at it.)
Another way to make people’s pop-up experience more concrete is through take-home samples. Put together goodie bags and stuff them with products that people can try at home.
Room for improvement
The Brandless pop-up store was executed well, but I think they could have done more to boost the shop’s curb appeal. From the outside, it looked like any other shop and nothing gave passers-by any indication that so many cool things were happening inside.
The store would have benefited from having more attention-grabbing signage and curbside elements (perhaps a simple sandwich board out front).
Key takeaway: Having a strong digital marketing strategy is essential, but don’t forget about the offline side of things — particularly when it comes to the outside of your store. As an online retailer, it’s not every day that you get a chance to get in front of offline shoppers. Capitalize on this opportunity and find ways to draw people into your store.
Ask yourself, how can you make your store “pop” for passers-by who may not be familiar with your brand? In addition to your digital marketing efforts, is there anything else you can do offline to draw in local traffic?
All in all, the Brandless pop-up store did a great job with their first go. The shop felt like the physical embodiment of the brand, and it did a solid job in showcasing their products, educating the community, and even converting people to new members.
If you’re trying to come up with ideas for your first (or next) pop-up store, look back at the efforts of Brandless. I guarantee that you’ll find something to inspire you.
Francesca Nicasio is MR Pop-up‘s Guest Blogger this week and the Content Marketing Manager for Vend Point of Sale. She writes about trends, tips, and best practices that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and run amazing stores. To get additional retail advice, check out the Vend Retail Blog.