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Using a pop-up shop as an alternative to your eCommerce store to test markets
Many people think of taking their stores online to generate more revenue, but not many think of going offline to bring in foot traffic to boost their sales, but it's definitely something you should do if you really want to test your market. Now, you can't just go anywhere and think you're going to get a good test going and be profitable, you have to do plenty of research prior to going into a physical location and selling your inventory. You need to know who you're targeting, where they usually go shopping, and how much it will cost to advertise to them and get them into your store. The advertising part you likely have touched on since you already have an eCommerce store, but you need to understand that getting foot traffic to your store through online advertisements is done slightly different because you need to entice them more
I'm sure you've seen these little pop-up shops in your town or a town near you that's busy because they'll be there for a few months and then they vanish. You likely think the same as me and assume they couldn't cut it, which usually is true, but sometimes those stores are just signing a short-term lease and testing the area before committing to a long-term contract with the building owner
In this discussion, I'll be going over a few things about why you should think of using a pop-up shop to boost your sales if you're solely selling online.
Get a mall kiosk for a few months
This type of pop up shop is pretty common around the holidays because this is when most people are shopping, especially around Christmas, but it could be more expensive to do a test around that time. The mall can charge you a premium around Christmas time because they know you'll make more money, but this wouldn't be a good time for you to test the market anyway since it will be a peak time for sales.
What you want to do is focus on a slower time for foot traffic, maybe between March and May would be a good time to do your test, because the weather tends to be better and you won't see a lot of holiday shoppers.
Sign a month to month lease on a popular street
A lot of buildings will ask you to sign at least a 6-month lease, but it's usually a 1-year lease, in order to move your shop into their location. This is a pretty common thing, so don't get discouraged if you run into people who only want to sign long-term contracts.
The upside to this is you can sometimes negotiate a contract that goes month to month for maybe 6 months and then you are locked into signing a 2-year contract. The building owners usually like something like this, because you're testing the area and if you like it you will sign a 24 month contract, which means they have 2 years of payments going into their bank accounts Now, if the building owner thinks you're not going to profit, then you're going to leave, they might not negotiate at all and stay firm with their contracts. Just be patient, look for a building owner that will do a month to month contract, and hopefully, it's in an area that has decent foot traffic
Geo advertising is key for this to work
If you don't know what this is, I'm about to blow your mind, because this is key to getting people into your physical location. GEO targeting your ads will only show your discount codes, coupons, deals, etc. to people within a certain area. You could do a 10 or 15 mile radius of your store, pay for everyone that clicks on your ad or pay per 1,000 impressions, and get people into your store that same day
Now, this sometimes backfires and the person will just buy from your online store, but that's still a sale and will keep your doors open. The nice thing about this is that they know they can go directly to your store if they have a problem with your product, which will always increase your sales
Do flash deals to walk in customers
A flash deal is something that is only available for the next hour or 6 hours, the timing depends on how long you really want to have it. People will watch for these types of deals and run to your store when the item they had their eyes on goes on sale. You can do a marketing tactic which uses scarcity that shows the customers how many items you have to sell and when you hit 0 they're gone until you get more. People won't want to miss out on these deals they can only get in your store, and they will come on their lunch breaks or after they're off of work to get what you have
Build a social following who eagerly waits for your next location
A hot business style right now is a pop-up shop that is only available for a day or two. These businesses tend to build a large following on social media and post their next location the day they open the doors. Now, these locations are there for a limited time, so this will increase the need for someone to get into the store if they want to purchase something.
Think of a food truck and how they use social media to promote where they'll be next. People follow these trucks and will drive out of their way to get the food they sell, usually because it's top notch and cheap, and this wouldn't happen without social media.
If you can build a following over time, you can do a sort of pop up shop that is available for a day or two and sell out of your inventory, then post again when your next location is open. You'll, of course, be collecting information from people who want to follow you as you sell them your products or food
Use your products to advertise online purchasing opportunities
It doesn't matter if you're selling food or physical products, you can always slip your business card into the packaging in order to push your business even more. You can also add in something like "Follow us on facebook or twitter to find out where we'll be next, and you'll even get a discount code for your next purchase" and they will likely follow you as soon as they get home or they sit down to eat
Pop up shops are becoming more of a common trend than they were just 5 years ago. People are able to sign short-term leases so they don't have to worry about a full year worth of payments, which means they are less stressed and can test out areas easier than investing a lot of money. You can do various marketing techniques in order to boost your sales, one of them is building a massive social following through GEO targeting and advertising in the form of business cards to anyone that does come in. If you can do all of this right, you can take your online business to a short-term offline physical business that might eventually make you more money than your flagship website
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