Making ideas travel: a pop-up is the passport for DTC brands

1 Nov 2019

When scaling, it’s too tempting to launch into plans for world domination without assessing the demand of a new market. Before assuming that a new location is ready for your brand, it’s vital to start with on-the-ground experimenting. Thanks to flexible retail, DTC brands no longer need to rely on wholesale and a temporary residence allows you to measure the local business climate more accurately. According to Business Insider, 80% of global retail companies claimed their pop-up was successful, helping them build a global presence and drum up better connections. We’ve broken down the benefits:

Dollar Shave Club, London ©Appear Here

Avoid the financial burden of a full-time store
Unlike the eye-watering costs of a long-term store, temporary retail spaces can quickly test a new market, whilst presenting minor risks and low upfront costs. If you fail, you can move on swiftly, and there’s no overshadowing fear of bankruptcy from expensive long-term leases.
Such financial freedom allowed the founder of luxury workwear brand LF Markey, Louise Markey, to launch spaces in London and New York and focus her budget on design: “Creating an exciting and immersive shop fit might seem like a wasted investment but it is the interior design that really tells people what your brand is all about.” If you’re looking for a ballpark figure, 44% of businesses that opened a pop-up spent less than $5,000, according to Business Insider.

LF Markey, Paris ©Appear Here

Tease overseas markets with a global tour
When pushing into new countries, pop-ups result in a sharp, sudden wave of attention because they are just ‘passing through’ for a limited time. For a growing DTC brand, a global tour is a great way to build hype and user-generated content across multiple markets. This summer, cult fashion brand Paloma Wool decided it was time to embark on their first global tour: “We wanted to reach out to our followers, meet them face-to-face and transform everything we’ve built online into something tangible, which meant experimenting with art and photography,” explains Tana Latorre, Aritst and Paloma Wool Collaborator.

Paloma Wool, NYC ©Appear Here

Try out a new area before committing
For DTC brands, overseas expansion is best preceded by a number of temporary stores. These can serve as testing grounds before committing to major logistical changes, such as offering shipping to a new country. As Louise Markey, founder of LF Markey, explains: “Locations are based on demand and we look for spaces where we have the largest eCommerce following.” Similarly, DTC superstars Glossier and Away launched successful temporary stores in London before offering online delivery to the UK.

Away, London ©Appear Here

Engage your community with an IRL experience
An outlandish PR stunt or Instagram-ready storefront will engage existing communities on a far deeper level than a landing page. DTC brands that already hold a global audience through online platforms (such as Instagram) need to find different ways to connect to their fans in real life. Likes and comments aren’t enough in the long run; DTC brands need to get in front of people, which, in turn, will boost web traffic and result in a surge of social following. On average, brands report seeing a 40% increase in traffic online following the opening of a store in the same area.

Glossier, Seattle ©Glossier

Analyse results to refine your next move
DTC brands know the retail idyll involves invasion across multiple touchpoints. The biggest success stories cover a combination of brick-and-mortar allure with a strategic online push. Whether a DTC temporary retail space serves as a meetup venue or a place where customers can actually feel products, a physical space is the next logical step for a soaring online brand with an eager fanbase. Just take a look at New York’s SoHo neighborhood, where formerly online-only brands like Casper and Warby Parker have set up stores. As Tana Latorre from Paloma Wool puts it: “There is nothing more authentic than having the real thing personified by ourselves.”

Casper, London ©Appear Here

Words by @annabelherrick