BRAND EXPERIENCES

4 Ways Brands Can Adjust Offline Marketing Strategies During and After the Pandemic

By Amber Zhong

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The pandemic has been an extremely complicated time for retailers, yet even today, the pandemic isn't over.  
 
In fact, we're now in the third year of the coronavirus health crisis. It is undeniable that the epidemic will be normal for quite a long time in the future, and corresponding to this, in China, various localities will issue control measures such as "suspension of outdoor performances, no holding of large-scale events, shutdown of commercial gathering activities, flow restrictions in entertainment and business circles, and non-approval of large-scale cultural and recreational activities."
 
If a store is closed by an epidemic as soon as it opens, you may think the timing is too bad. But for shopkeepers who choose to open pop-up stores, the epidemic does not pose much of a problem. 
 
Pop-up stores are not a new concept. What differentiates pop-up stores from traditional stores is by design, a pop-up store is intentionally temporary. Pop-up stores originally refers to the establishment of temporary stores in commercially developed areas for retailers to promote brands and sell products. At present, it has become the "new business type" of the retail industry. 
 
Although some retail stores have opened back up, the rise of the COVID virus is bringing new restrictions in some areas. Some brands realized that pop-up stores are an effective way to expand their physical presence which could be the difference between being closed completely and being partially open.  
 
Brands are trying to reprioritize their marketing strategies in both the short and long terms and follow the regulations that are changing rapidly. Pop-ups can still be relevant both during this crisis and after in the following 4 ways:
 
High economic benefits
The core of the pop-up store is "short and fast”. Pop-up stores tend to be open for only a few weeks or months, the rental cost is much lower than that of traditional stores. Due to the influence of e-commerce, the idle rate of shopping malls remains high.  
 
Pop-up stores have become a perfect solution as they have strong social attributes- fresh products, designs and immersive experiences which will motivate their audiences, especially young generations ready to share spontaneously on social media. This is a cost-effective way to create buzz and build brand awareness. 
 
Pop-up stores make use of the "small and sophisticated" brand advantages to build exhibition areas in shopping centers, which can not only gather popularity for shopping centers, but also provide certain conditions for shopping centers to adjust their brand strategy in the future. Although its lease term is not long, it can bring popularity, which is favored by various shopping malls. 
 
Test things out
Historically, pop-up shops have been a good way for retailers to test things out – things like new products/services, packaging strategies, technology and markets, and their brevity itself has the appeal of the “limited time offer.”  
 
For ecommerce brands, this business model provides the opportunity to trial a location. If the brand is launching a new product, customers will get the opportunity to interact with the product and the brand can get real-time feedback from them before making any major business decision.  
 
Immersive brand experience
Following the pandemic-driven e-commerce boom, the purpose of a pop-up has moved beyond just testing out a new place to sell products. Now brands are elevating their physical presence by creating a more immersive brand experiences that engage all the senses with digital follow-ups to reach a new audience and make them excited about shopping in person again.
 
Technology facilitates the development of hyper customized pop-up store experiences. With the development of digital technology and the onset of 5G, pop-up stores are able to create customized brand experiences for their target customers by the extensive data analytics capability.  
 
Pop-up store owners can quickly and easily create pop-up activities to suit a range of situations and configurations. The experiential stunt and immersive brand experience will be shared on social channels by brands, influencers and customers, which help generate massive media exposure. 
 
Mobility to go where the customers go
One of the most incredible things that pop-up stores have is flexibility over the location. on. Pop-up stores amplify the opportunity for mobility to go where the customers go. Brand owners can be agile in this approach with where they’d like to locate the pop-up. But still, they need to make sure their pop-up travels stay within physical COVID-19 guideline compliance. 
 
Mobile popups, which are known as showroom vehicles, are getting popular nowadays. The mobile vehicle is like an integrated mini store. The vehicle goes where the marketing activity is. Mobile popups allow brands, especially for ecommerce businesses, to build brand awareness and interact with customers face to face. These pop-up stores on wheels are lockdown-friendly and provide on-demand brand experience to customers.
 
Pop-ups were already experiencing strong growth before the pandemic and have fueled customized pop-up store experiences. Pop-up stores are still relevant now for many brands.  
 
Overall, pop-ups allow brands to interact with their existing and potential customers in a variety of innovative ways. The pandemic will have a lasting impact on consumers’ shopping behavior, and some retailers have considered offering a safer, more convenient pop-up experience by offering curbside pickup, contactless payment, QR code shopping, and ship to home services. 
 
The way pop-up stores operate is also evolving over time. In China, Swisse, Loreal Pro, Nestle, Maison Margiela and Kohler have partnered with the e-commerce giant Tmall to operate pop-up stores.   
 
What different them from the traditional pop-up stores we have seen in the past, is they applied a new marketing concept which is “Business-driven” and “Long-term Design”. “Business-driven” is to combine the consumer pain points of offline stores with consumer online shopping behavior to run an experiential marketing activity. “Long-term Design” means the theme stores will be opening for at least 1 year.  
 
For example, when consumers are waiting at the Loreal pop-up store, they can interact with Tmall Elf (an interactive device) so they won’ be bored. They can also try to see what color suits them better through the AR color test mirror. When sitting in the chair, the AR technology allows them to try diverse kinds of makeup to generate sales revenue. The intuitive and interesting experience of the AR color trial mirror can help Loreal win potential consumers.