Pop-Up Stores Represent Opportunity for Printers
All businesses are eager to find and exploit new markets as the world of communications continues to shift. The market for print across all segments and verticals is evolving, but one that is seeing a lot of change in particular is retail. The recent growth of pop-up stores — temporary exhibits or displays, sometimes in vacant urban storefronts, sometimes in underused shopping malls — is presenting new opportunities for savvy wide-format printers.
“This is an exciting time in retail because it provides a new opportunity to engage with customers,” says Jamie Sabat, director of trends and consumer forecasting at design and retail strategy firm Streetsense. Sabat notes that the entire experience of pop-up stores lends itself particularly well to a graphic printed experience.
“It’s all about the senses,” she says. “Signage is hugely important. These little stores and nooks, or an A-frame outside a store with Instagram handles printed on the signage, are essential to give consumers a more engaging experience.”
What is it about pop-up retail spaces that people love, that can give printers an edge in leveraging this new opportunity? What should printers know about pop-up retailing that makes it different from other retail signage experiences? And, where are the pain points and challenges in working with pop-up store clients?
Excitement, Engagement, Loyalty
According to a report by the real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield, 2019 was the year that the pop-up store “popped out.” The company notes that this reinvention of retail is still in its early stages, but it represents where retail is going in what the company calls “the age of experience.”
“Graphics is at the top of the list when it comes to pop-ups,” says Garrick Brown, VP retail research at Cushman & Wakefield. “One of the key things we’ve found is that it’s all about being ‘Instagrammable,’ for consumers to go and take pictures of themselves in front of brilliant graphics.”
The temporary, or pop-up, store is nothing new in retail, with well-known temporary locations serving seasonal shoppers (think Christmas and Halloween). Recently, however, pop-up stores have become a vital marketing experience by retailers, where they open an “experiential” environment — typically for one or two months — and market these spaces as cool and different, with social media driving the experience.
It’s a new marketing play, geared to today’s socially plugged-in consumer, requiring bold wide-format imaging, says Toni Thompson, president, retail solutions at R.R. Donnelley.
“Pop-ups are centered on customer engagement and loyalty,” Thompson says. “These are momentary experiences, only a month or so in duration, and printers need to provide dramatic materials to create this kind of excitement in a short span of time.”
Thompson stresses that for printers to take advantage of the new pop-up store phenomenon, they need to liaise with the clients’ marketing efforts to make the experience a dynamic and memorable one. “It’s about segmentation, location, imagery, ideas, and concepts, and creating a photo opportunity as part of all this,” she says.
A prime example is R.R. Donnelley’s pop-up solution on behalf of crystal retailer Swarovski. For the company’s Los Angeles pop-up, Donnelley created photo walls, a branded ice cream cart, and a customer DJ booth, with the print shop managing and sourcing the production of the entire event.
In this arena, wide-format printers can expand their marketing talents along with their printing expertise, Thompson notes.
“Rarely does the conversation concern print alone,” she says. “When working with an experience, it’s about colors, materials, design, and the layering of different materials to create dimension and excitement.
“We don’t show up as a printer, but rather as a marketing team concerned with imagery, ideas, and concepts,” she continues. That, she notes, offers opportunities for printers who can provide powerful background images that convey marketing messages.
Playing Well with Others
With pop-up and other retail environments, print increasingly has to contend with other marketing elements, including lighting, 3D graphics, video, and interactive digital displays. Kaitlyn Krepela, enterprise sales executive at content distribution and printing company Mimeo, says the teaming of lighting with graphics can make or break the pop-up store experience.
“Lighting can change the entire tone of color, and printers should be aware of that,” Krepela says. “It’s about uniqueness, colors, and what is different in the display and signage. There might be branding with neon letters, for example, which is a big trend. We’re also seeing three-dimensional items on print, such as block letters to make things stand out. These are elements that prompt people to pose and take selfies, and printers must be aware of these trends to make sure their graphics, colors, and designs play well with other elements.”
In addition, the signage in these spaces often has to accommodate audiovisual elements, as well as digital signage with interactive elements for customers to play with. Krepela adds that she’s seeing “huge trends” toward matte finishes and muted colors and tones, in keeping with customer demand, so printers would do well to emphasize that in their pitches.
She also acknowledges that there are a host of challenges for printers in accommodating this varied and complex pop-up phenomenon.
“Installation can always be tricky, because sometimes pop-ups don’t have full staff on board equipped to install what we’ve printed,” she says. “Also, print is often the last thing that retailers think about when contemplating a pop-up. They think about the space and the product, but only at the last moment does it occur to them to think about signs and posters. So sometimes the timelines are tight.”
Expanding the Footprint
While challenges exist in every market, there are opportunities abound for wide-format printers willing and able to work with other marketing elements and channels.
In pop-up stores, it’s critical for signage to complement social pages like Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest, designed to spread the word throughout the social sphere. What starts out as local signage at one pop-up experience can go viral as visitors “pin” products and repost their selfies. The key for both retailers and printers to remember about the pop-up retail space is that the consumer is not actually shopping, but is instead immersed in a conversation with the brand. The printed image is about the experience, not the sale.
“The conversation is never about the print, but about the execution,” Thompson says. “Print is just one part of that.”
The opportunities extend beyond wide-format print, with cross-selling opportunities including applications, such as flyers with coupons or developing business cards and branded merchandise to hand out. And sometimes the larger printed materials can be quite non-traditional.
StickerYou, an e-commerce company that lets customers design their own stickers and other products online, has been experimenting with pop-ups to complement its physical store in Toronto. Vivian Choi, StickerYou’s director of design, says the company is looking at several malls in the area. And the company’s pop-ups feature — what else? — big, bold, colorful stickers.
“We really push the envelope with our print and signage, and we can go crazy with it,” Choi says. “So, in our pop-ups we put up what we think are the largest sticker collages you’ll see, to really capture people’s attention. We’ve also used floor decal materials that are meant to be walked on. We call it the ‘sticker bomb’ experience.”
Choi notes that printers should be aware that their signage is anything but permanent. Pop-up campaigns are not only temporary installations, but they must also be mobile — able to break down easily and be transported to the next location.
Exploring the Opportunities
Cushman & Wakefield notes that vendors like wide-format printers can participate in “some of the greatest innovation space activation” in today’s retail world. The consultancy says pop-ups represent an explosion of local entrepreneurism, the rise of upstart brands, a return of showmanship to the retail arena, and the convergence of art and commerce, among many other features.
Printers would do well to focus on the various types of pop-ups, which include seasonal pop-ups that focus on holidays; media and entertainment pop-ups that promote popular television shows, and the worlds of film and music; and hotel, restaurant, and bar pop-ups that take over a formerly vacant space on a temporary basis.
For those shops looking to start capturing this innovative and growing sub-segment of the retail print market, shopping mall landlords are a great way to get started, as they are often able to provide leads to penetrate these types of industries, says Brown.
“Printers should reach out to these landlords and mall owners,” he says. “They’re the ones looking for multiple tenants that need space. It’s a partnership that can be fruitful for everyone.”
The pop-up retail environment is a testament to the changing consumer attitudes about shopping. They want to form relationships with the brands they love, and they want to find ways to connect on a more personal level — which is what the pop-up is tailor-made to facilitate. Wide-format printers have an opportunity to bring innovative ideas and creative uses of print and multi-media experiences to the table, becoming an invaluable resource and partner for these retail brands.
Christopher Hosford, editor-in-chief, head writer for the Hosford Group, previously was East Coast Bureau Chief of Crain’s BtoB magazine, where he spearheaded the company’s content marketing services for such clients as Oracle Eloqua, Marketo, Aprimo, Act-On and Adobe. Previously he was editor-in-chief of the VNU/Nielsen publication Sales & Marketing Management magazine, and has covered marketing, business operations, finance, and law for more than 20 years.