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Why pop-up stores are turning up on Gen Z’s radar

by Joni Sweet
    Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19

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    Gen Z first-years are storming the back-to-campus retail scene with shopping carts at the ready. Be it homeware, tech, or beauty, they’re gearing up to out-buy...

    Pop-up stores transform shopping into an experience that gets Gen Zs talking (and buying). Plus, temporary spaces create a sense of urgency to visit now—or suffer some serious FOMO.


    Strong digital marketing is a major focus for brands trying to build relationships with Gen Z. As a marketer, you may spend endless hours strategizing your social media, optimizing your website and creating thoughtful storytelling.

    But when it comes to getting Gen Zs to pull the trigger on a purchase, brands still need to focus on IRL to seal the deal. Almost all Gen Zs say they make purchases in a store at least some (if not most) of the time.

    So how do you satiate Gen Z’s inclination to shop in person if your brand only sells online? A pop-up store might be the answer. These temporary spaces allow you to have a physical presence in key locations without the anchor of a permanent brick and mortar.

    Plus, pop-ups have special appeal to Gen Z—here’s why. 

    Pop-ups allow Gen Z to connect with online brands IRL

    The cost of opening up a brick-and-mortar shop doesn’t always align with the business strategy of a direct-to-consumer brand. However, staying exclusively behind a screen limits your ability to build deeper connections with Gen Z shoppers. Research shows that Gen Zs rely on social media for shopping inspiration, but when it comes to taking the plunge on a purchase, they want to “see, feel and try” a product first.

    The beauty of a pop-up is that it allows an online brand to have a physical presence on a scrappy budget. According to Shopify, you can launch a temporary store for as little as $1,500. That’s a low barrier to entry for start-up brands who want face time with Gen Z. And businesses with a little more room in the budget can create an even splashier pop-up that will linger in Gen Z shoppers’ minds for months to come.

    Pop-ups create a sense of urgency

    Stores that are only around for a limited time create a sense of urgency within shoppers—they know that if they want to check out a pop-up, they better do it soon or risk missing out entirely. This scarcity helps pop-up stores bustle with enthusiastic customers from the moment they open until it’s time to close up shop.

    The excitement around an online brand having a limited time-only physical presence can create buzz both online and in real life. When LINE FRIENDS announced its Los Angeles pop-up store on social media last summer, it earned a serious boost in social media followers and saw a line of 1,500 shoppers waiting to get in on the first day. The pop-up went on to attract another 15,000 customers shortly after.

    Fear of missing out (FOMO) is a very real emotion to always-connected Gen Z. Playing into it with a can’t-miss-it retail experience can be a win for marketers.

    Pop-ups transform shopping into social media-worthy experiences

    Knowing that a pop-up won’t be around forever isn’t the only reason Gen Z gets excited; these customers have also come to expect highly creative pop-ups that transform shopping from a mundane activity into an experience they can’t wait to share on social media. 

    A pop-up gives brands the chance to immerse customers in their worlds. Direct-to-consumer mattress company Casper brought its dreamy brand to life at its NYC pop-up. The store offered peaceful, starry-ceiling nap pods customers could rent out to get a first-hand experience with the mattresses (and catch a few Zs in the city that never sleeps).

    Pop-ups also appeal to Gen Z’s sense of aesthetics. YSL Beauté, in attempt to attract Gen Z, launched a pop-up “Beauty Station” at Coachella. The glamorous activation featured pink gas pumps, open-topped cars, a tour bus and a field of heart-shaped balloons in the desert—talk about Instagram gold.

    Some brands have also leveraged pop-ups to show Gen Z their commitment to social causes. Penguin Living, a division of Penguin Random House, launched a pop-up feminist bookstore in London on International Women’s Day. It lined its shelves with books by women writers, offered workshops and engagements with authors and donated proceeds from ticket sales to Solace Women’s Aid, a non-profit organization that helps survivors of domestic violence.

    Every pop-up is completely unique. But the one thing they all have in common is their ability to drive young customers to shop now—and share the experience with everyone they know.

      Download the report: Gen Z spending habits before and during COVID-19


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